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Comprehensive Description


Trees, shrubs or climbers, sometimes with tendrils (Cardiospermum and Paullinia). Stipules 0 (but present in Cardiospermum). Leaves alternate, mostly compound, a few simple (Dodonaea and Pappea); rhachis sometimes winged. Inflorescence usually a thyrse but flowers sometimes fasciculate. Sepals usually 4-5, often ± connate. Petals 0-5. Disk present (0 in Dodonaea). Stamens usually 5-12, reduced, rarely 0 in female flowers. Ovary of 2-8 carpels. Style 1. Fruit a capsule or fleshy and indehiscent or composed of 1 or more indehiscent cocci. Seeds often with a fleshy arillode.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:3807
Specimens with Sequences:4744
Specimens with Barcodes:2780
Species With Barcodes:745
Public Records:2288
Public Species:578
Public BINs:0
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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)


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Barcode data

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)


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Sapindaceae, also known as the soapberry family, is a family of flowering plants in the order Sapindales. There are about 140–150 genera with 1400–2000 species, including maple, horse chestnut, and lychee.

Sapindaceae members occur in temperate to tropical regions, many in laurel forest habitat, throughout the world. Many are laticiferous, i.e. they contain latex, a milky sap, and many contain mildly toxic saponins with soap-like qualities in either the foliage and/or the seeds, or roots. The largest genera are Serjania, Paullinia, Acer and Allophylus.

The largely temperate genera formerly separated in the families Aceraceae (Acer, Dipteronia) and Hippocastanaceae (Aesculus, Billia, Handeliodendron) were included within a more broadly circumscribed Sapindaceae by the APG. Recent research has confirmed the inclusion of these genera in Sapindaceae.[2][3]


Plants of this family have a variety of habits, from trees to herbaceous plants or lianas. Their leaves usually spirally alternate, sometimes (in Acer, Aesculus, and a few other genera) opposite. They are most often pinnately compound, sometimes palmately compound as in Aesculus, or just palmate as in Acer. The petiole has a swollen base and lacks stipules.[2] Some genera and species have Laurel forest foliage due to convergent evolution.

Flowers are small and unisexual, or functionally unisexual, though plants may be either dioecious or monoecious. They are usually grouped in cymes grouped in panicles. They most often have four or five petals and sepals (petals are absent in Dodonaea). The stamens range from four to ten, usually on a nectar disc between the petals and stamen, their filaments are often hairy. The most frequent number is eight, in two rings of four. The gynoecium contains two or three carpels, sometimes up to six. There is usually only one style with a lobed stigma. Most often pollinated by birds or insects, with a few species pollinated by wind.[2]

The fruits are fleshy or dry. They may be nuts, berries, drupes, schizocarps, capsules (Bridgesia), or samaras (Acer). The embryos are bent or coiled, without endosperm in the seed, but frequently with an aril.[2]


Rambutan fruits.

Sapindaceae are related to Rutaceae, and both are usually placed in an order Sapindales or Rutales, depending on whether they are kept separate and which name is used for the order.[2] The most basal member appears to be Xanthoceras. Some authors maintain some or all of Hippocastanaceae and Aceraceae, although this may result in paraphyly.[2][3] The former Ptaeroxylaceae, now placed in Rutaceae, were sometimes placed in Sapindaceae.[4] The family is divided in 5 or 6 subfamilies depending on treatment.

Notable species[edit]

Dimocarpus longan ssp. malesianus fruits.

Sapindaceae includes many species of economically valuable tropical fruit, including the lychee, longan, pitomba, guinip/mamoncillo, korlan, rambutan, pulasan and ackee. Other products include Guarana, soapberries and maple syrup.

Some species of Maple and Buckeye are valued for their wood, while several other genera, such as Koelreuteria, Cardiospermum and Ungnadia, are popular ornamentals. Schleichera trijuga is the source of Indian macassar oil. Saponins extracted from the drupe of Sapindus species are effective surfactants and are used commercially in cosmetics and detergents.[5]


  1. ^ "Sapindaceae Juss., nom. cons.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2003-01-17. Retrieved 2009-04-11. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Singh, Gurjaran (2004). Plant Systematics: An Integrated Approach. Enfield, New Hampshire: Science Publishers. pp. 438–440. ISBN 1-57808-342-7. 
  3. ^ a b Harrington, Mark G.; Karen J. Edwards, Sheila A. Johnson, Mark W. Chase & Paul A. Gadek (2005). "Phylogenetic inference in Sapindaceae sensu lato using plastid matK and rbcL DNA sequences". Syst Bot 30 (2): 366–382. doi:10.1600/0363644054223549. 
  4. ^ Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. (2007). "Sapindaceae Juss.". The families of flowering plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  5. ^ Stoffels, Karin (September 2008). "Soap Nut Saponins Create Powerful Natural Surfactant". Personal Care Magazine (Jeen International Corporation). 
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