Tree, up to 25 m high, dbh up to 56 cm. Branchlets terete, up to 7 mm thick, often conspicuously lenticellate, ashy grey to brown, glabrous to rather densely fulvous-hairy and glabrescent. Leaves 1-5-jugate, up to 40 cm long; Inflorescences up to 25 cm long, densely shortly fulvous-tomentose. Flowers regular, cream. Sepals orbicular to broad-ovate, concave, mostly with a broad petaloid margin, ciliola-te and with some appressed hairs near the base, outer 1-1.2 mm in diam., inner 2 by 1.5-2 mm. Petals 5, oblong-ovate to ovate, 1.5-2.5 by 1-1.2 mm, short-clawed, woolly-ciliate and outside at least at the base long hairy, inside above the claw either with a hairy ridge or with two involute, hairy auricles. Stamens: Fruits: parts subglob-ular, 0.8-1.2 cm in diam., not carinate, glabrous. Seeds subglobular, 0.8-1 cm diam.
Asia present, Asia-Tropical: India present; Lesser Sunda Is. present; Philippines (Philippines present), Central China present, Central Japan present, Central Prov., around Rigo only present, N Argentine present, Northern America: Florida (Florida present), Papua New Guinea present, Quelpaert I. near Korea present, Tropics and subtropics, tropical and subtropical America present
Apparently originating from tropical and subtropical America (from Florida to N Argentine), widely cultivated and naturalized in the Tropics and Subtropics; in Asia distributed from Central Japan, Quelpaert I. near Korea, and Central China to India, partly at least under cultivation; in Malesia known from Philippines, Lesser Sunda Islands, and Papua New Guinea (Central Prov., around Rigo only), possibly always introduced by man.
Ornamental tree. Fibres of inner bark used for ropes. Roots, bark, leaves, but especially fruits used as a substitute for soap because of the high amount of saponin; for the same reason the fruits are used as a fish poison. Seeds formerly used as buttons and beads. Several parts used in medicine. See .
The delimitation of Sapindus saponaria as given here is wider than Radlkofer's by the inclusion of S. balicus, mukorossi, oocarpus, and vitiensis. The distinction between these 'species' was very vague. The continental Asian forms — S. mukorossi and allies — are closely related to the American ones. The Malesian and Pacific forms were distinguished by Radlkofer as f. microcar-pus, characterized only by the slightly smaller fruits. There are three distinguishable Malesian races, each rather uniform. In 'S. balicus' the petiole and rachis are never winged; the leaflets are rather thin, obtuse and often emarginate at the apex, with 10-12 pairs of nerves, the upper ones joined at some distance from the margin, and intercalary veins not strongly developed; the flowers are small with petaloid sepals and only partly hairy petals. In the Philippine race the petiole and rachis are often winged; the leaflets are thicker, often acute to acuminate at apex, with 12-15 pairs of nerves, the upper ones of which are joined quite near the margin, and with often 3 intermediate veins strongly developed between every pair; the flowers are slightly bigger, with petaloid sepals and nearly glabrous petals. The New Guinea race is characterized mainly by elliptic, hardly oblique and not falcate leaflets, by hardly petaloid sepals, and by petals which are outside entirely and rather densely hairy.
Radlk. 1887 – In: Sitzungsber. Math.-Phys. Cl. Königl. Bayer. Akad. Wiss. München: 399
Corner 1940: Wayside Trees: 595: f. 212
Radlk. 1932: p. 639. – In: Engl., Pflanzenr. 98: f. 14
Radlk. 1932 – In: Engl., Pflanzenr. 98: 655
Radlk. 1879: Sapind. Holl.-Ind.: 7, 20, 67
Radlk. 1878 – In: Sitzungsber. Math.-Phys. Cl. Königl Bayer. Akad. Wiss. Munchen: 364
Radlk. 1932 – In: Engl., Pflanzenr. 98: 654
Gagnep. 1950: Fl. Indo-Chine: 939
1878: t. 388
P. Royen 1964 – In: Man. For. Trees Papua & New Guinea: f. 19
Merr. 1923 – In: Enum. Philipp. Flow. Pl.: 498
Radlk. 1932 – In: Engl, Pflanzenr. 98: 655
Radlk. 1932 – In: Engl., Pflanzenr. 98: 651