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Family: Sapindaceae

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Family Parent: Sapindales Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • SOAPBERRY FAMILY - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Family Recognition in the Field: Trees, shrubs, or vines with alternate compound leaves; stamen number variable, but often 8; fruit a berry or capsule, sometimes inflated.

Diagnosis: Shrubs, trees, or climbing vines; leaves alternate, compound; leaflets entire, toothed, or lobed; ours with flowers in lateral fascicles or in terminal panicles, radially symmetrical or bilaterally symmetrical, perfect or unisexual; sepals 4-5; petals 4-5, white to pink or purplish pink; stamens 7-10; ovary superior; fruit a capsule or berry.


Notes: A medium-large (1,450 species in 131 genera) family of tropical and warm areas with a few in temperate regions; it includes trees, shrubs, lianas, and herbaceous climbers; [a PLANT OF TOXIC/ POISONOUS NATURE]. toxic saponins are usually present. Several are important for their fruits (e.g., Nephelium (RAMBUTAN) and Litchi (LYCHEE)) or for timber; the family also includes ornamentals such as the frequently cultivated, Koelreuteria paniculata Lam., GOLDENRAIN-TREE or CHINATREE, with odd-pinnate leaves, coarsely toothed leaflets, bright yellow flowers, and an inflated, membranous capsule. While the nc TX species of this family (including the cultivated Koelreuteria ) are morphologically very dissimilar (e.g., annual vines to large trees), their biochemical similarity and evolutionary relationship is reflected in the fact that the soapberry bug (Jadera haematoloma) utilizes seeds of all the species (except possibly Ungnadia-no information available) as a food source (K. Walker, pers. comm.). The Sapindaceae are closely related to the Hippocastanaceae and Aceraceae and are probably paraphyletic when treated separately. The genus Aesculus, here treated in the Hippocastanaceae, is often included in the Sapindaceae. From a cladistic standpoint these families should be lumped to form a more inclusive monophyletic Sapindaceae (Judd et al. 1994). (subclass Rosidae).