Sapindus is a genus of the Lychee family, Sapindaceae, native to the warm and tropical temperate regions of the Old World and the New World. The genus includes both deciduous and evergreen species. Members of the genus are generally known as soapberries or soaps because the fruit is used to make soap. The Latin words sapo, which means “soap”, and indicus, which means “of India”. The leaves are alternate, 15-40 cm (5.9-15.7 in) long, pinnate (except in S. oahuensis, which has simple leaves), with 14-30 leaflets, the terminal leaflet often absent. Large panicles flowers, each flower small, creamy white. The fruit is a small, leathery-skinned drupe 1-2 cm in diameter, blackish ripening yellow, containing one to three seeds.
Drupes (soap nuts) contain saponins, which have surfactant properties, having been used for washing by ancient Asian and Native American peoples. Folk medicine ‘Soaps’ have historically been used in folk remedies, but, as the effectiveness of such treatments has not come under scientific scrutiny, there are no confirmed health benefits of using ‘soaps’ to treat any disease. Human. The soap nut contains saponins. Insecticide Sapindus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some lepidopteran species (moths and butterflies) including Endoclita malabaricus. Soap nut kernel extracts disrupt the enzyme activity of larvae and pupae and inhibit the growth of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, an important vector of viral diseases. Dyeing agent The soap tree is used as a coloring agent to color Tussar silk and cotton yarn.
- Exposure and climate: it is a tree that loves places exposed to full sun for many hours a day and suitable for growing in areas characterized by a warm-temperate climate such as those of southern Italy including the islands. It tolerates high temperatures but fears the cold in particular frost and therefore it is difficult to grow where the climate is particularly harsh. Soil: Sapindus mukorossi, even if it is a tree that adapts to any type of soil, even the not very fertile and stony one, prefers the fresh, calcareous and well drained one. Watering: the soap tree is a plant that requires continuous water supplies in the first years of life. Later it is satisfied with rainwater even if it does not disdain regular watering during periods of prolonged drought and in summer. Irrigation must be reduced or suspended during the dormant period from November to March.
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