Western Soapnut
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Western Soapnut
P Introduced Photo: Amber Srivastava
Common name: Western Soapnut, Wingleaf soapberry, Western soapberry, Jaboncillo, Sulluku[
Botanical name: Sapindus saponaria    Family: Sapindaceae (Soapberry family)
Synonyms: Sapindus indica Poir., Sapindus peruvianus

Western Soapnut often grows in clumps or thickets reaching about 6 m in height in the western part of its range. Solitary trees though can grow as tall as 15.2 m in height. In the western part of its range it is most often found growing at the head of prairie ravines, the margins of woodlands, the edges of fields or on rocky hillsides. The leaves of the soapberry are alternate, pinnately compound, thick and leathery but deciduous, 20-38 cm, made up of 6 to 20 narrow lanceshaped leaflets with smooth margins, long tapered tips, and uneven wedge-shaped bases which are 5-13 cm long and 2-4cm wide. The inflorescence are dense at branch-ends panicles of small white flowers 15-20 cm long. Flowering occurs in May-June for var. drummondii and in November for var. saponaria. The fruit occur in large pyramidal clusters at the ends of branches. Each golden colored fruit is between 3 cm to 3.6 cm in diameter and becomes translucent and wrinkled when fully mature and contains a single black seed about 9 mm in diameter. Fruits of var. drummondii ripen in October and often remain on the tree until spring, while those of var. saponaria ripen in spring. The drupes, which lather when combined with water, were once used in varnish, floor was, and soap. In some parts of Mexico, Western Sopanut is still preferred for washing hair and delicate clothing, even after the introduction of commercial soaps. Pounded fruits from the soapberry are used in Africa to poison fish without altering their taste. Western Soapnut is native to South America.

Identification credit: Amber Srivastava Photographed in Sant Asharamji Ashram, Lucknow.

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