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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Propagation of blackberry from Williamsport PA
January 18, 2014 - I have been told that if you cut a branch off of a black berry bush and stick it in water for a few days, and then put it in the ground it will grow into another bush. Please tell me if this is true a...
view the full question and answer

When does Ziziphus obtusifolia leaf and flower in Austin?
March 22, 2010 - Hello Mr. S.P., Do you know when the Texas buckthorn, Ziziphus obtusifolia (I believe), flowers (and leafs out) in Austin? Is there one at the Wildflower Center?
view the full question and answer

Plants for shade, poor soil in Park Ridge NJ
June 17, 2010 - Hello! I live in far northeast New Jersey, by the New York state border. I am looking for plants for areas of my lawn that nothing currently grows in - due to shade and poor soil quality - very rocky,...
view the full question and answer

Failure of hybridized red hollies to grow
April 17, 2008 - I have 2 red hollies planted in my yard about 20' apart, 3 years now. They won't grow. Do I need to have a male with them?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on bio-security
June 11, 2005 - Hello, My friend and I are summer interns at the Bryan Mound Strategic Petroleum Reserve Site in Freeport, Texas. Our jobs as the interns is to find a plant that is friendly to the animals around our...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center