En EspaÑol

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

Small evergreen shrubs for horse barn in North Carolina
September 26, 2009 - I want to plant some low growing evergreen shrubs in pots in my paddock around my barn. The horses can occasionally be in this are but not for an extended time. I am in NC. Any suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Winter- and drought-resistant plant for North Central Texas
April 11, 2012 - I would like to know is there a good winter and drought resistant flowering bush for my area. I would like something with bigger flowers like azaleas or roses maybe bigger, that will not grow anymore...
view the full question and answer

Shade Tolerant, Deer Resistant, Evergreen Hedge Suggestions for CT
April 30, 2013 - I think I am asking for a lot, but here we go… Is there a deer tolerant evergreen that can grow in the shade and create a hedge of 5 feet tall here in CT? I am not opposed to ivy covering a fence if t...
view the full question and answer

Using a brush hog on acreage on Bear Creek in Austin, TX.
July 25, 2012 - We have 8 acres off 1826 situated on Bear Creek. It has open areas with scattered large trees (cedar elm, live oak, white oak). Cedars or junipers only along the the lot lines. We've been told we...
view the full question and answer

Possibility of invasiveness of blackberry bush
March 27, 2008 - I bought a blackberry bush from Home Depot last year. My sister said if I planted it in the ground it would take over my lawn. So I put it in a big planter up against my fence, but I'd like to put it...
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