Family: Sapindaceae
Common Name: Soap Berry

There are about 18 species of these evergreen trees valued for their hardwood. Oil is also derived from the fleshy fruit of some of the species. Native to Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and the Pacific Islands, several species can be found in the rainforests of north-eastern Queensland and New South Wales. Most of the species have pinnate leaves and red four-lobed fruits.


It is unlikely that all species are available in the UK.

A. coriaceus grows to 4-8 m (13-26 ft) in height, with dense bushy growth, and is thus suitable for shelter belts or hedges. The greenish spring flowers are followed by pretty red fruits which contain the shiny black seeds.

A. excelsus, titoki or New Zealand ash, zone 8, grows to 10-15 m (33-50 ft) high. It has large compound leaves and dull red flowers, followed by scarlet fruits with shiny black seeds.

A. forsythii is a small tree, often with a twisted form, that grows to 6-8 m (20-26 ft). the dark red flowers from late spring to early summer are followed by fruits similar to the other species.

A. subcinereus, smooth rambutan, is usually 4-6 m (13-20 ft) high and 2-4 m (6-13 ft) wide, with either a single trunk or as a multi-branched shrub. Tolerant of some coastal exposure and some frost, and a good sand binder, it is a useful plant. The fruits which follow the summer flowers are quite leathery.

A. tomentosus, red jacket or woolly rambutan, is much larger than the other species, reaching 10-18 m (33-60 ft) under good conditions. The foliage gets its woolly description from the masses of rust hairs appearing on the young shoots. The flowers are borne from winter to spring, followed by fruits ripening during autumn and early winter. It is a good shade tree and tolerates some frost, but size restricts its use to large gardens or parks.


These trees can be grown from seed or cuttings. In frost-prone areas, grow tender species under glass. Outdoors, they grow best in deep, rich soils, in semi-shade when young. All species like a reliable water supply in dry conditions.


Zone 10 for most species.

Alchemilla      Aleurites