En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - July 23, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Shrubs
Title: Soapberry suckers in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Western Soapberry. Cut it down many months ago. Now I have baby trees all over the lawn. Are these the berries or are they coming from roots even though some sprouts are quite a distance away. I pull and have dug some, getting roots, it seems there is no end. Should I use Round Up on them? Thanks, Linda

ANSWER:

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii (Western soapberry)  often suckers and forms groves. Tolerant of drought, wind, heat, poor soil, air pollution and other city conditions. Not affected by disease or insects. Currently difficult to find in the nursery trade.

We really don't know if your sprouts are the product of berries that have lain in the soil since you cut the tree down, but we're betting that most, if not all, are adventitious sprouts from the still-living roots beneath the ground. As far as those roots are concerned, that tree is still alive. It puts out those sprouts not just to propagate itself into a grove, but to grow leaves to provide nutrition to the roots. Theoretically, if you cut off the sprouts long enough, the roots would eventually starve. Theoretically. Spraying herbicides will kill plants you didn't want killed, but won't affect the roots. We would recommend close mowing, if the sprouts are in grass. If you can find what we call a lopping shear at your hardware store, with heavy duty pruning blades and a handle long enough that you don't have to stoop, you can cut those sprouts as far down in the ground as you can get. If you encounter a root that you can cut, you could then try painting the cut surface with an undiluted wide spectrum herbicide, quickly, before the root heals over to protect itself. A disposable sponge brush is the best for this operation. Patience and persistence is the key. Don't ever let those "baby" trees get big enough to produce seed, that will just double your trouble.

 

From the Image Gallery


Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

More Shrubs Questions

Philadelphus ernestii under live oak in Pflugerville TX
April 05, 2010 - Will Philadelphus ernestii thrive in the root zone of live oak, or would the oak inhibit its growth? I'd like to plant it just at the edge of the canopy.
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of wild plums (Prunus angustifolia)
July 28, 2008 - When I bought my land, there was a humongous thicket of wild plums (Prunus angustifolia) approx 10 ft high and covering 5-10 acres. I raise goats, and have known that wild plums (the leaves) can cause...
view the full question and answer

Native deer-resistant plants for Virginia
September 26, 2012 - I live in Roanoke/Salem Virginia and want to plant a few plants native to the area along the front yard rock wall. I would prefer they be the same, deer resistant, around 5-6 feet tall max and flower...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for a Sunny, Steep Slope in Maryland
April 29, 2013 - I need a groundcover for a sunny dry steep slope in Towson, Maryland. The slope goes from the parking lot down to a deck area.
view the full question and answer

Landscaping for slope in Kansas City
October 08, 2008 - We have a down sloping back yard and patio on the lower area. We need some water absorbing plants near the foundation and some in the front of the house, where water isn't a problem. We are allergic ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center