seed with fleshy aril




pronounced: sap-in-DAY-see-eye

the lychee or soapberry family


The name comes from two Latin words, sapo, soap, and indicus, Indian. The aril of Sapindus saponaria was used as a soap by North American Indians. The glycoside saponin forms as a soapy substance in leaves, roots and seeds of several plants of this family. Sapindus is the type genus. Several members of the family contain saponin in their bark, twigs, leaves and pericarp; the bark of Jagera pseudorhus contains large amounts, and is used as a foaming agent and a fish poison. Most members are trees, shrubs or tendril-bearing vines, with leaves that are alternate, simple, or more commonly pinnately compound. Only the climbing forms have stipules. The flowers are small, and commonly functionally unisexual, though plants may be dioecious or monoecious. The flowers are usually grouped in cymes or panicles. Most often there are 4 or 5 petals and sepals. There are 4 – 10 stamens, usually on a nectary disk between the petals and stamen. The pistil usually contains 2 or 3 carpels, but there may be up to 6. There is usually only one style with a lobed stigma. The flowers are mostly pollinated by birds and insects, though a few are wind-pollinated. The fruits may be of almost any type; the seeds frequently have an aril, which is sometimes very fleshy.