Sapindaceae (soapberry) family

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Example species (Sapindus emarginatus)

Common Name and Type Genus: Soapberry family, derived from the Sapindus genus

Distribution: Worldwide in a wide variety of climates

Family Size: About 140 genera and 1800 species

Notable Genera: The two primary genera that are of interest to woodworkers in North America are Acer and Aesculus—yielding maple and buckeye wood, respectively.

Comments: The soapberry family yields a number of fruit-bearing trees that are more common in tropical climates, such as lychee (Litchi chinensis), rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), and longan (Dimocarpus longan). The connection between these tropical species and those of the aforementioned temperate genera may seem unusual, and indeed both Acer and Aesculus were formerly both placed in their own families—Aceraceae and Hippocastanaceae, respectively. But more recent DNA testing has verified their connection, concluding “Support for a broadly defined Sapindaceae incorporating Aceraceae, Hippocastanaceae, and Xanthoceras is very robust.”

  Genera listing

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