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 Trees Questions

Source for Ashe Juniper seeds from Blanco Co., TX
March 10, 2014 - I'm trying to find Ashe Juniper seeds to plant in bare areas of my property in central Texas. I understand they grow well in rockier soil and have many other benefits for native animal species. Unfo...
view the full question and answer

No acorns on mature live oak in Little Rock AR
April 18, 2010 - Why does my very large mature live oak have no acorns?
view the full question and answer

Frost protection for non-native citrus trees from Austin
November 24, 2013 - With ice predicted, should I pick citrus, lemons, limes, satsumas that are not quite ready?
view the full question and answer

Survivors of a Cedar Elm thicket thinning.
April 12, 2013 - I thinned a thicket of cedar elm saplings, but a few are now leaning excessively. Will they straighten up over time or should I go ahead and cut them too? Thanks!!
view the full question and answer

Growing Dwarf Yaupon Holly in Texas
December 04, 2013 - We planted 10 extra dwarf yaupons in our Austin front yard. They were identified as 'Gremici' dwarf yaupon. I googled them to get more information about them in order to determine why five have di...
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