Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Sapindus saponaria, Western Soapberry

Western Soapberry has small flowers in clusters that bloom from May to August in Arizona; May through early June in Texas. Sapindus saponariaWestern Soapberry is a native perennial with lanceolate leaves. Sapindus saponariaWestern Soapberry is found between 2,500 and 5,000 feet elevation, usually along perennial streams and other moist areas. Sapindus saponariaWestern Soapberry or Tropical Soapberry grows up to 20 feet or so in Arizona, much taller (50 feet) elsewhere. Sapindus saponariaWestern Soapberry has round fleshy
fruit that turns yellowish when mature and may remain on the tree until the next fruiting season. Sapindus saponariaWestern Soapberry has bright green leaves, pinnate and narrowly lanceolate. Leaves have a very light pubescence. Sapindus saponaria

Scientific Name: Sapindus saponaria
Common Name: Western Soapberry
Also Called: Manele, Soapberry, Tropical Soapberry, Wingleaf Soapberry (Spanish: Amolillo, Abolillo, Jaboncillo, Boliche, Chirrión, Amole, Guayul, Palo Blanco, Mata Muchacho)
Family: Sapindaceae Soapberry Family
Synonyms: ()
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Up to 20 feet in Arizona; up to 50 feet elsewhere.
Growth Form: Shrub, tree; rough furrowed gray bark.
Leaves: Green; pinnate, leaflets lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate
Flower Color: Whitish; flowers small, inflorescence a clusters of flowers in panicles; sepals and petals 4 or 5; fruits globose or globular with translucent fleshy pulp, turns yellowish when mature, persists on tree.
Flowering Season: May to August; May and early June in Texas.
Elevation: 2,500 to 5,000 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Along streams.

Recorded Range: Sapindus saponaria is found in the south central and southwestern United States; AR, AZ, CO, KS, LA, MO, NM, OK, TX. It is also native to all of Mexico southward to South America.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Sapindus saponaria.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.

Wetland Indicator: In North America Sapindus saponaria, Western Soapberry has the following wetland designations: North America; Arid West, FACU; Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain, FACU; Eastern Mountains and Piedmont, FACU; Great Plains, FACU; Midwest, UPL; Western Mountains, Valleys, and Coast, FACU.
FACU = Facultative Upland, usually occur in non-wetlands, but may occur in wetlands
UPL = Obligate Upland, almost never occur in wetlands.

Threatened/Endangered Information: No information available.

Genus Information: In North America there are 4 species and 6 accepted taxa overall for Sapindus. World wide, The Plant List includes 12 accepted species names and includes a further 6 infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States, Arizona and New Mexico each have 1 species of Sapindus, California, Nevada, Texas and Utah have 0 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

There are 2 varieties in Sapindus saponaria, Western Soapberry;
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii, Western Soapberry, (AR, AZ, CO, KS, LA, MO, NM, OK, TX);
Sapindus saponaria var. saponaria, Wingleaf Soapberry, (AL, GA, MS, SC, TX).

Comments: The Arizona variety is "drummondii" named in honer of Thomas Drummond (1790-1835). Mr. Drummond, from Scotland, made a trip to the United States to collect western and southern species.

With bright green pinnate leaves, in Arizona, Western Soapberry may be superficially confused with Arizona Walnut, Juglans major and Tree-of-Heaven, Ailanthus altissima. Both Arizona Walnut and Western Soapberry grow along perennial streams.

Sapindus saponaria, Western Soapberry has been used to make arrows and other uses by North American indigenous peoples.
Seminole Other, Jewelry, Plant used to make beads.
Comanche Other, Toys & Games, Stems used to make arrows for aratsi game.
Kiowa Drug, Dermatological Aid, Poultice of sap applied to wounds.
Papago Other, Hunting & Fishing Item, Wood used to make stone-tipped hunting arrows.
Papago Other, Weapon, Wood used to make stone-tipped hunting arrows.
See ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

Date Profile Completed: 08/09/2016, updated format 10/03/2017
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 08/09/2016)
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 08/09/2016).
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet [accessed: 08/09/2016]. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
SEINet for synonyms, scientific names, recorded geographic locations and general information 08/09/2016).