by Tammy Taylor
You’ll remember a few weeks ago I was delighted to find a very beneficial tree at an old abandoned homestead sight on property we had recently obtained. It was identified as a Jujube Tree and I picked much of the fruit from those trees and dehydrated them for use in my granola. They are absolutely delicious. But recently RancherMan & I were checking on the cows in that remote pasture & I happened to look up and see what looked like the golden berries of a Soapberry Tree.
Now I had researched this tree several years ago when I was using soapnuts in my washing machine as a more environmentally-friendly laundry option. I loved the soapnuts, they were effective at cleaning our clothes and they kept me from buying commercial laundry detergent along with all the packaging that generally comes along with it. In researching about soapnuts I read that there is a tree indigenous to the southwest called a Western Soapberry Tree (or Sapindus saponaria ssp. drummondii ) and I thought it would be so cool to run across one of these trees here on our ranch. But alas, no such trees could be found.
Do I Spy A Western Soapberry Tree??
But on this day as RancherMan & I were standing at the pond of our remote pasture property talking to customers about animals they were about to purchase, I looked up and saw those golden orbs and they looked just like the berries I had seen in my research years ago.
I’m sure our new customers must have thought I’d lost my mind! I excitedly secured some of those berries for further identification. I took close-up pictures of the bark, the berries, the seed inside the berries and close-ups of the alternate leaf pattern both from the top & the underside and sent them to my extension agent who has been invaluable to me in identifying trees in the past.
Bark of Western Soapberry Tree
Alternate leaves from the top view – Western Soapberry Tree
Alternate leaves from the underside view – Western Soapberry Tree
Photos To Extension Agent For Identification
I was excited when I received this response from my local extension agent:
“Several years ago we did some studies with one of the specialists on soapberry trees. So I have sent this to the Master Gardeners that were involved at that time. We all agree this is the soapberry tree.”
WOO HOO! It’s said that soapberries contain about 37% saponin & were used by native Americans and early settlers for cleaners and soaps. So I’ve picked some of the berries and am in the process of drying them, then I’ll use them in the small muslin bag that came with the soapnuts I purchased awhile back & I’ll give them a spin in my washing machine with a load of laundry soon – I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ve read that it can cause skin irritations to those ‘susceptible to them’ so I’ll test it slowly at first. But how very cool that a tree on our property could be providing our laundry detergent!
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