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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - June 03, 2013

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Trees
Title: Western soapberry dropping leaves in San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My Western Soapberry tree (China berry?) Suddenly started dropping full, perfectly healthy green, leaf units. Now half the tree is turning yellow. There is a second tree in the yard not far from this tree and it is not affected. Same kind of tree.

ANSWER:

We hope that what you have is Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii (Western soapberry), which is in our Native Plant Database. Melia Azerdrach (chinaberry) is native to Pakistan, India and other Middle East locations. Not only that, but according to this Plant Conservation Alliance article Least Wanted it is an undesirable invasive non-native.

Therefore, we will talk about Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii (Western soapberry)  which, according to this USDA Plant Profile Map grows naturally in Comal County right next to Bexar County, so we can safely assume that you have the appropriate soils and climate for the plant.

From SF Gate, we found this article on Diseases of the Western Soapberry. Please note this paragraph:

"Though generally disease-free and not susceptible to root rot, soapberry can occasionally suffer from fungal diseases, including powdery mildew, leaf spot and leaf blight. Though these ailments can affect appearance and cause leaves to drop, they are not fatal to healthy trees. All can be prevented or controlled with good pruning to encourage air circulation. When you remove affected branches or leaves, destroy them rather than adding them to compost piles or using them elsewhere in the garden."

From the Texas Chapter of the International Society of Arborculture Soapberry Borers.

From our webpage on this plant:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rich, limestone soils.
Conditions Comments: An attractive and hardy tree, useful as a specimen or in groves. Can become a large tree in deep soil. In shallow soil it often remains a small tree. The fruits are considered to be poisonous to humans although they produce a good lather in water and are used in Mexico as a laundry soap. Both females and males have fruits; males are showier"

We suggest you compare these Growing Conditions with those of your "sick" plant and the healthy plant, considering amount of sunlight, over or underwatering and presence of insects.

 

From the Image Gallery


Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

More Pests Questions

Controlling scale insects on hollies
July 10, 2005 - I have a number of holly shrubs at the side of my house. Recently I noticed that they have tiny white spots on them. I looked at several native Texas gardening books, but can't find what I need to t...
view the full question and answer

Removing grassy weeds from cactus garden in Corpus Christi TX
May 07, 2013 - How do you get grassy weeds out of a cactus garden? I don't want to use roundup around the cacti? Can you recommend a herbicide that won't harm the cactus?
view the full question and answer

Clicking heard under an Oak in near Bandera, TX
May 06, 2014 - Hi, I live on a ranch in TX outside of Bandera. We're covered with live oaks, spanish oak and cedar. Last week,as I stood under an oak, I heard a constant fairly loud clicking sound under and around ...
view the full question and answer

Hibiscus plants being attacked by powdery mildew, or maybe mealy bugs in Austin, TX.
August 10, 2011 - I have three hibiscus plants planted outside about a foot apart from each other. The one that gets most of the sunlight is the worse off of the three. However, all three of them have white powdery stu...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating wood roaches from hardwood mulch from San Antonio TX
February 05, 2013 - How can I eliminate the numerous wood roaches in my hardwood mulch that I get for free from the city of San Antonio?
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center