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Acer campestre 002 MAIN.jpg
Scientific Classification
  • Alectryon
  • Allophylus
  • Blighia
  • Cardiospermum
  • Cupania
  • Cupaniopsis
  • Dimocarpus
  • Dodonaea
  • Exothea
  • Filicium
  • Harpullia
  • Hypelate
  • Koelreuteria
  • Litchi
  • Matayba
  • Melicoccus
  • Nephelium
  • Paullinia
  • Sapindus
  • Schleichera
  • Serjania
  • Talisia
  • Thouinia
  • Tristiropsis
  • Ungnadia
  • Urvillea
  • Xanthoceras
A cluster of Longan fruit, Dimocarpus longan, hanging on a branch

Sapindaceae is a taxonomic family of flowering plants commonly known as the Soapberry Family, consists of 27 Genera and 91 taxa total. This family is only one of ten families in the order Sapindales [1]. The family is commonly called “soapberries” because the pulp extract from many species is used to manufacture soap [2]. Species from family Sapindaceae are grown all over the world, but historical documents suggest the main species originated in China and were later transported to other regions of the world [3]. Seeds can be produced and protected by a variety of different containers: in berries, nuts, fruits, and many other forms [4].

Body Design

Cardiospermum halicacabum deep in a jungle

Most all in the family Sapindaceae are angiosperms, meaning they are vascular plants that produce seeds and flower [5]. Those in family Sapindaceae come in the forms of trees and shrubs. They produce flowers and fruit. Most leaves have a pinnate or digitate vein arrangement. As the plant ages, photosynthetic content is reduced, meaning leaves will need to fall off and grow again. Certain fungi in some species can help in increasing the amount of water a root can hold [6].

Life Cycle

The life cycle of a plant in the family Sapindaceae begins when the pollen from a male plant contacts the female structures on a different plant or even the same plant. Wind is a minor form of pollen transportation, but many animals such as bees, flies, and beetles contribute the most to pollination [7]. The result of this contact is an embryo that will develop into a seed protected by a fruit. When the seed is planted in soil, the plant emerges from the seed coat. In certain species such as Nephelium lappaceum anything but cross-pollination is impossible. This is because the anther in nonexistent in many functional female flowers [8].

The Lychee fruit, one of the most popular fruits in this family, undergoes a series of stages before more fruit is created for further reproduction. First, the Lychee plant produces flowers in bunches during early winter to about March. When a female flower is pollinated, the ovary will expand to form a fruit with a seed encased inside [9]. Some flowers have both male and female reproductive structures; these flower types are called hermaphrodite [10]. The fruit begins as a small, green berry-like composition. During spring months, the fruit will turn a more red color and become more sour. The fruits are most desirable to be picked during this stage of tartness. When finally ripened, the fruits swell with juice and sugary content [9]. Unlike fruits such as bananas, fruits that are picked from a Lychee tree (and other species as well) will cease ripening shortly after being picked. For this reason, timing is crucial when picking. To maximize flavor, Lychees should only be picked when they are ripe [11]. Otherwise the fruits will either fall to the ground naturally or be eaten and transported when an animal ingests, and later excretes, the seed.


The cross section of a Rambutan fruit

All members of family Sapindaceae are angiosperms, meaning they flower and produce seeds. The members of this family can usually be found in more tropical and temperate regions around the world, however, many of the more popular fruits are most associated with territories such as China and Australasia [12] [13]. Trees usually grow best when exposure to heavy wind is reduced and organic mulch and compost are used to nourish the plant [6].

Cultivation and Uses

Plants in family Sapindaceae are farmed in many regions of the world, especially areas such as China and other Asian nations. The fruit from these plants, such as the lychee fruit, are cultivated and sold in markets and sometimes in modern supermarkets around the world [14]. The longan fruit is typically added to Chinese dessert soups when dried, mainly because of the fruit's sweetness and juiciness [15]. Sap from the pitomba fruit can be used to poison fish, and the seeds can be used to treat diarrhea when roasted [16]. Ancient tribes used the juice of the guinip fruit to make a dye to stain clothes with [17]. Plants in the Sapindaceae family also provide food and medical care in malnourished regions of Africa [18]. Sapindaceae is prized for its economic importance; the Jamaican industry for Blighia sapida cultivation was valued at four-hunderd million dollars in 2005 [19]. Many fruits from this family are imported to areas such as the U.S.A. Orchards of certain species of Sapindaceae have begun to be directly produced in areas of the U.S. such as Florida and Texas.


How to prepare two species of Sapindaceae, Lychee and Rambutan, for consumption.



  1. . Unknown Author. Classification. USDA Plants. Web. Accessed May 24, 2012 .
  2. . Unknown Author. Sapindus. Wikipedia. Web. Accessed May 24, 2012 .
  3. . Huang , Xuming. Lychee Production in China. Fao. Web. Accessed May 24, 2012 .
  4. . Unknown Author. Sapindaceae. Absoluteastronomy. Web. Accessed May 24, 2012 .
  5. . Porch, and Batdorf. Biology with Laboratory Exercises. South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press, 2005. 340. Print.
  6. 6.0 6.1 . Folino, Krystal and Mee, Bill. Best Practices for Growing Lychee Trees. Lycheesonline. Web. Accessed May 22, 2012 .
  7. . Folino, Krystal and Mee, Bill. Lychee Flower Pollination. Lycheesonline. Web. Accessed May 10, 2012 .
  8. . Unknown Author. Rambutan. Wikipedia. Web. Accessed May 22, 2012.
  9. 9.0 9.1 . Folino, Krystal and Mee, William.5 Stages of Lychee Fruit Development. Lycheesonline. Web. Accessed May 10, 2012 .
  10. . Folino, Krystal and Mee, Bill.Lychee Flower Types and Anatomy. Lycheesonline. Web. Accessed May 10, 2012 .
  11. . Harmon, Jane. What is a Lychee?. Wisegeek. Web. Last Modified on 17 May 2012 .
  12. . Unknown Author. Sapindaceae. Wikipedia. Web. Accessed May 10, 2012 .
  13. .Watson, Leslie. Sapindaceae Juss. Delta-intkey. Web. Accessed May 10, 2012 .
  14. . Unknown Author. Lychee. Wikipedia. Web. Accessed May 22, 2012.
  15. . Unknown Author. Longan. Wikipedia. Web. Accessed May 22, 2012.
  16. . Unknown Author. Talisia esculenta. Wikipedia. Web. Accessed May 22, 2012.
  17. . Unknown Author. Melicoccus bijugatus. Wikipedia. Web. Accessed May 22, 2012.
  18. . Adeyemi, T.O. and Ogundipe, O.T. and Olowokudejo, J.D. Species Distribution Modelling of Family Sapindaceae in West Africa. ScienceAlert. Web. Accessed May 22, 2012.
  19. . Unknown Author. Ackee. Wikipedia. Web. Accessed May 22, 2012.