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Sapindus saponaria (Wingleaf soapberry)
Lytle, Melody

Sapindus saponaria

Sapindus saponaria L.

Wingleaf Soapberry, Soapberry, Wild China Tree

Sapindaceae (Soapberry Family)


USDA Symbol: sasa4

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), HI (N), PR (N), VI (N)

A large shrub or tree with poisonous fruit.

The poisonous fruit, containing the alkaloid saponin, has been used as a soap substitute for washing clothes. Necklaces and buttons are made from the round dark brown seeds, and baskets are made from the wood, which splits easily. The common name, Wild China Tree, comes from the resemblance of its fruit clusters to the Chinaberry Tree (Melia azedarach), an Asian tree brought to North America for landscaping but now naturalized and considered invasive.


From the Image Gallery

1 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 50 feet tall, often much shorter.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul


USA: AL , AR , AZ , CO , FL , GA , HI , KS , LA , MO , MS , NM , OK , TX
Native Distribution: Southern United States from Arizona west to Kansas, Texas, and Florida; to 6,000' (1,829 m).
Native Habitat: Moist soils along streams and on limestone uplands, in and bordering hardwood forests; westward in plains and mountains, grassland, upper desert, and oak woodland zones.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Soapberry Hairstreak
(Phaeostrymon alcestis)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Sapindus drummondii or Rhus aromatica for Austria
May 07, 2006
Hy! I'm from Austria/Europe, and interested in some North American native plants specially. It would be great if you can help me with my two questions: Sapindus drummondii I read from different...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Nueces River Authority - Uvalde, TX
Jacob's Well Natural Area - Wimberley, TX


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 57 - Atlas of Florida Plants (2020) Institute for Systematic Botany
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Sapindus saponaria in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Sapindus saponaria in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Sapindus saponaria


Record Modified: 2022-12-14
Research By: TWC Staff

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