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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.

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

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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!

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Saturday - June 22, 2013

From: Pittsburgh, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs
Title: Source for a soapberry in Pittsburgh PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Flower box Where can I buy a soapberry tree in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania?

ANSWER:

The first two words in your question were "Flower box." If you were looking for something to grow in a small area, you should note from the third picture from our Image Gallery, below, that this is a large shrub/tree that can grow from 10 to 50 ft. tall, much larger  than could be accommodated in a flower box. If you were interested in this as a medicinal plant, please read this information from our web page on this plant:

"Warning: The root and leaves are sometimes used in herbal remedies but can be toxic and sometimes fatal in high quantities or if misused. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility."

As to finding a source for either species of this plant in our Native Plant Database, we suggest you click on the MAP link nexr to each species name:

Sapindus saponaria (Wingleaf soapberry) MAP

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii (Western soapberry) MAP

You will note that this plant is mostly native to the South and Southwest, and nowhere close to Pennsylvania. The reason for this can be seen in the growing conditions on our webpage for Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii (Western soapberry):

"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. Soapberry often suckers and form 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."

Note particularly that last line. Now, because you asked, we are going to give you a way to find a local distributor (if such exists) for this plant. Go to our National Suppliers Directory, put your town and state, or just your zipcode, in the "Enter Search Location" and click on GO. You will get lists of native plant nurseries, seed supply companies and consultants in your general area. All have contact information so you can get in touch with them before you begin shopping.

 

From the Image Gallery


Wingleaf soapberry
Sapindus saponaria

Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

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