The Sapindaceae or Soapberry Family is a medium size family undergoing taxonomic changes based on recent genetic studies. Some authorities are now including several new genera including Acer (Maples) and Aesculus (Horse Chestnuts) among others. In North America, excluding new taxonomic changes there are 27 genera and 63 accepted taxa overall. World-wide, The Plant List, which includes several new genera has more than 135 genera with over 1,700 accepted species names.
Members of the Soapberry Family include trees, shrubs and vines. Sapindaceae are distributed throughout tropical and temperate regions of the world with the greatest diversity to be found in the tropics. One of the largest genera, included in all taxonomic lists is Serjania with over 200 species. In North America there are 4 species. The genus Acer is also large world-wide but there is only 1 species in North America.
Common characteristics (includes expanded family species): plants dioecious or monecious.Leaves; alternate, seldom opposite, often pinnately compound or trifoliolate or trifoliate, some may be palmately compound, petiole with swollen bases and without stipulate. Inflorescence; flowers terminal or axillary, racemose, paniculate or unilateral cymes. Flowers; usually small, unisexual, 4 or 5 petals and sepals, flowers pollinated by insects or birds, some pollinated by wind. Fruits; variable including nuts, berries, drupes, schizocarps, capsules and samaras.