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Trees, monoecious. Leaves paripinnate (in young specimens sometimes imparipinnate), in Malesian species up to 13-jugate; Inflorescences terminal, thyrsoid, widely branched. Flowers regular or zygomorphic. Petals 4 or 5, imbricate, equal, as long as to slightly longer than the calyx, short-clawed, with a scale which may be nearly as long as the petal itself, reduced to a transverse ridge, or represented by a pair of auricles. Stamens 8, free, all about equal, not or hardly exserted; Ovary 3-lobed, 3-celled; Ovules 1 per cell, sessile on a thickened angular placenta. Fruits 3-parted, often 1 or 2 parts abortive, breaking up into globular to obovoid drupes, pulp containing much saponin, endocarp pergamentaceous, hairy around the placenta. Seeds without arillode or sarcotesta, globular or ellipsoid, smooth, black, testa bony, hilum linear, slightly impressed.


Central and southern North America present, Pacific: Hawaii present, S and SE Asia present, Tropics (and Subtropics) of Africa present, Tropics (and Subtropics) of Asia present, Tropics (and Subtropics) of the Pacific present, tropical America present, western Malesia present
10 species, 2 of which restricted to Central and southern North America, a third one throughout tropical America and (autochthonous?) in the Tropics (and Subtropics) of Africa, Tropics (and Subtropics) of Asia, and the Tropics (and Subtropics) of the Pacific; 6 species in continental S and SE Asia, one of these also in western Malesia, one species endemic in Hawaii. — .


The fruits of some species are widely used as a substitute for soap ('Soap nuts').


1. Apparently closest related to the African genera Deinbollia Schum. & Thorn. and Hornea Baker.
2. Radlkofer subdivided the genus into four sections. Of these, the following three are represented in Malesia: sect. Sapindus (S. saponaria L.), sect. Dasysapindus Radlk. (S. trifoliatus L., sometimes planted) and sect. Dittelasma (Hook. f.) Radlk. (S. rarak DC).


L. 1753: Sp. Pl. p 367
Radlk. 1932: pp. 630-668. – In: Engl., Pflanzenr. 98