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linda_centralokzn6

Soapberry trees S/A Chinaberries

17 years ago

I got a lil native plant education the other day. There are Soapberry hairstreaks listed in my County, but I had never seen one in my yard. I had asked several of the oldtimers if they had ever heard of a "Soapberry" tree, but none of them had ever heard of it. All that they were aware of were the Chinaberries, and that they are everywhere.

So, I did a couple of searches the other day, and the Soapberry and Chinaberry trees are synonymous! Come this spring, I'm going to be checking out them ther Chinaberries for me some Soapberry hairstreak pics, and possibly some caterpillars. :)

Most of the hairstreaks make "slug-like" crysali and lie in the leaf litter? I have never raised any hairstreaks.

Comments (27)

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I have a number of Sapindus drummondii or Western Soapberry on the property. They are also known as Wild Chinatree and Wild Chinaberry. I know honey bees and other insects love them when in bloom.

    randy

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Welcome to the Butterfly Garden, Randy. If you're interested in attracting more butterflies to your garden, and getting lots of pics of butterflies and caterpillars, then you've come to the right place. We've got a great group of friendly, helpful butterfly gardeners with a wealth of knowledge from all over the world. Be sure to check out our FAQs which may answer some of your questions.

    Butterflies are very "host specific" concerning what they lay their eggs on. If you have or plant some of their host plants and the butterflies are in your area, then it almost increases your odds of having that particular butterfly around, as the males are always patrolling the host plants looking for females, and the females are always looking for their host plant to lay their eggs on.

    I noticed from your website that you are into photography. Great pics of the hummingbird sphinx moth. And, you have a beautiful daughter. You must be very proud of her. I'll bet that she would enjoy having some butterfly caterpillars around.

    With some fennel and parsley, you could have some Black swallowtail caterpillars. With some tropical or native milkweed, you could have some Monarch caterpillars, as well as attracting Monarchs to nectar, and helping their habitat.

    Here's a pic of a Soapberry hairstreak. I'll bet that you've seen them around if you have alot of Chinaberries. If you have a native area in your backyard, then you may already have some native wildflowers to attract the butterflies.

    Thanks for sharing. If you have any questions, just ask. I'm always on the lookout for fellow Oklahomans to be interested in promoting butterfly and wildlife habitat.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Soapberry hairstreak

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  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi Linda

    Thanks for the welcome. We live on a acreage surrounded by pasture, so we do see a lot of moths and butterflies. I'm interested in adding more host and nectar plants closer to the house.

    We are proud of my little girl. She works hard and is very dedicated to a dream.

    I thought I had a photo of the soapberry hairstreak, but it's not a match. Would you now what this one is? It was moving up and down on a stem of my Mediterranean Fan Palm.
    {{gwi:451384}}
    randy

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Welcome Randy!
    That's an absolutely fabulous picture of an American snout butterfly. They use hackberries as host plants.
    Chinaberry trees aren't native, so apparently it's another case of the Asian representative of the family being easier to grow and more aggressive than our native counterpart - still, if soapberry hairstreaks use them, they're valuable!
    MissSherry

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Randy, I'm so glad you came over to the Butterfly Forum. Randy has been planting extra tomato plants for the hornworm sphinx cats! Isn't that great? E-mail me Randy and I'll get a package of seeds ready to send to you. I have milkweed and other butterfly host plant seeds, for the Black Swallowtails, Buckeyes, Painted Ladies, etc. Do you have passion vine? I kind of figured you might already have that one. Passiflora incarnata and its hybrids and Passiflora ceurulea will get you tons of Gulf Fritillaries. I also have some seeds of senna alata (candlestick tree) and senna bicapsularis (Christmas cassia) for the Sulphur butterflies as well.

    I'm just so thrilled you see you here! Great photo, BTW, of the Snout.

    Randy also raises adenas (that right?) and needs the sphinx moths for pollination. We'd love to see photos of your beautiful garden, too.

    Susan

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Randy, that is an American Snout. They are cute lil buggers, that are pretty friendly, and usually allow you get to get up close to photograph. If you are lucky to catch them with their wings open, their upperside is orange with wide blackish borders, and white subapical spots.

    Their host plants are in the hackberry family- hackberry, sugarberry, and netleaf hackberry. So, if you live near a wooded area, I'm sure that you have hackberry trees around.

    They are pretty common, and usually found from late May to Sept. When resting, they tend to look like a dead leaf!

    In Texas, when they get some rain after a drought period, the hackberries put out new growth, and the Hackberry butterflies lay lots of eggs. When they start emerging (coming out of their crysalis), there are usually hundreds of them migrating north together. It causes quite a spectacle. I've not got to see hundreds of them flying, but usually see a few all summer.

    It helps to have some field guides to help Id the butterflies. One of my favorites is "Butterflies of Okla., Kansas, and North Texas" by John M. Dole, Walter B. Gerald, and John M. Nelson. While it is not inclusive of every butterfly in Okla., I still usually pick up this book first. It has most of the common butterflies that you will see. It is also dear to my heart because John Nelson helped to write it. John is the most knowledgeable about butterflies in the state of Okla. He is a retired Biologist at ORU in Tulsa, and has spent the last 35 years documenting butterflies and moths in all of Okla.'s counties. I just started getting involved in documenting new records for my county the last 4 years. It has been quite rewarding. They had 936 new butterfly records, and 111 new moth records recorded last year. Really a phenomenol year! This is the info that will update the latest field guide maps with. Were they new to the area, probably not. But are finally getting documented.

    For the most up to date list of Oklahoma Butterfly Checklist by County, go to
    http://www.oklanature.com/jfisher/oklahoma_butterfly_species_by_county.pdf

    Back to butterfly guides, another good one is "Butterflies of North America" by Jim P. Brock and Kenn Kaufman. And "Butterflies through Binoculars The East" by Jeffrey Glassberg. Look for them in your local bookstore, or check out Amazon.com

    A good place to look online at pics is
    http://www.dallasbutterflies.com/
    Then click on Butterflies of Dallas County. We have most of the butterflies listed here.

    If you click on Butterfly Gardening, and then Host plants listed by butterfly, it will give you a pretty general Id of all of the host plants documented in Dallas to have been used by butterflies.

    If you are interested in Native Plants, Marilyn has a native plant nursery, loves butterfly gardening, is very reasonable on her plants, and happens to set up at the Norman Farmer's Market every spring. Her schedule is not out yet, but I believe that she said that she plans to be there on the 1st Saturday in April. How cool can that be? Native plants are sure more adaptable to Okla.'s extreme weather. Here's her website:
    http://www.wildthingsnursery.com/
    Click on her 2006 Plant List.

    Well, Randy, this is probably more than you ever wanted to know about Okla. Butterflies. Hope that this helps some. And, we all love to share seed. I'd be happy to send you some Tropical milkweed seeds for the Monarchs. We are right in their migration pathway, and they need our help.
    :)

    Here is a link that might be useful: Butterfly Id

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks MissSherry

    Hackberries are a tree that are abundant around here. Cool!

    I've read where soapberries are a good wood for basket making because it is a heavy, close grained wood that splits easily into thin strips.

    randy

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi Susan

    Yours and Linda's post snuck in while I was typing a reply to MissSherry. I will email you.

    Adeniums are the plant I grow that they pollinate for me.

    Thanks for the info Linda. We are basically surrounded by pasture, but located in a low area with a creek running through it so there are wooded areas on the property and along the creek.

    randy

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Update: I found out that there is a difference.

    Western soapberry trees are-Sapindus drummondii
    And they are indeed "native" trees.

    Chinaberry trees are- Melia azedarach
    Common Names: Chinaberry, bead tree, Persian lilac, pride-of-India
    Family: Meliaceae (mahogany family)
    This is the non-native invasive tree introduced from China- as Miss Sherry stated.

    From what I understand, they are hard to distinguish. But the Soapberries are supposed to have white blooms, and the Chinaberries are supposed to have fragrant pink blooms. I do not know if the Soapberry blossoms are fragrant or not.

    This spring, I am going to be checking out the blooms to see what is around in my area. Since they are in ditches, and not planted, I hope that they are Soapberries.

    Randy, does yours bloom white in the spring? Do they have any fragrance? Your property sounds like an ideal Butterfly haven for butterflies. Do you get hummers, also?

    Perhaps we could entice you to put in a few beds of native plants???? Some things just do better in the ground, than in pots.

    Your adenium pics are beautiful. What introduced you to them?

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi Linda

    "Wild" Chinatree or "Wild" Chinaberry are common names of the soapberry and it is a different species of tree than the Chinaberry or Chinatree, Melia azedarach. I'm personally not too fond of the chinatree. It may be showy, but it's short lived.

    There are a few differences between the two that will help you id them. Soapberry has pinnately compound leaves like a sumac. A leaf stem with opposing leafets down each side.

    The chinatree has bipinnately compound leaves. A main leaf stem that then has smaller stems coming off that with opposing leaflets running down each side like a kentucky coffeetree or a mesquite.

    Bark on the chinaberry is dark or reddish brown. Bark on the soapberry is yellow gray and scaly with age that sometimes defoliates or peels off easily in the wind.

    My soapberry doesn't have a fragrant bloom, but I can hear the honey bees and other insects working the blooms from 30 feet away.

    My USDA Forestry Service handbook says the soapberry was introduced into cultivation in 1900. From where I don't know.

    Yes, we see a lot of butterflies and moths. The property backs up to R.R. right of way which I think funnels many migrating insects north and south.

    Since we've moved here the seasonal hummingbird population has been on a steady rise.

    I would love to put some native plants in some beds I have around the back porch.

    A mentor some years ago that encouraged me to build greenhouse and grow tropicals had a few large Adeniums. I couldn't live without them after that.

    If you are wanting a soapberry, I'm sure I can dig one up around here somewhere. I may still have a few around here in one gallon pots. I need to check.

    randy

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Wow Randy! I am impressed!!! Thanks so much for the indepth differences between the Soapberry and Chinaberry trees. Since I live in Kingfisher Co., and the Soapberries are supposed to be indigenous to the area, I'm hoping that all of the trees that I've been seeing in the ditches with the golden fruit are Soapberries. I am going to print out your descriptions to have with me when the leaves start coming on in the spring. Did you get most of your information from the U.S.D.A. Forestry Service handbook? Is it a pretty good reference book?

    Though I grew up in this area, there's still an awful lot about native plants that I'm learning, particularly, when reading about butterfly host plants being trees and shrubs that I am unfamiliar with. I believe that the trees that I've seen with the golden fruit have had a greyish, peeling bark. So, I'm really excited that they may be Soapberries. :)

    I appreciate the generous offer for a Soapberry seedling, but I would like to hold off until I find out if there are already several in the area. I would take you up on a Black Willow seedling. I saw your post in the Okla. Gardening Forum to Susan. I would even pick one up for Susan. Black Willow seems to be the preferred host over alot of the other willows. I know that there are willows all over by the river, but don't know which kind. Guess that it would help for me to get a tree book, huh? I'll bet that I could talk my Dh into taking a scenic tour to Norman sometime this spring to pick them up.

    Have you thought about joining the Okla. Native Plant Society? We meet occasionally in the winter with a speaker, and then try to take several field trips during the spring, summer, and fall. We have a wildlife photographer coming to speak on Monday, if you can come. See post Local Butterfly photographer to speak.

    Railroad right of ways are wonderful places for finding native plants, and butterflies. Hopefully, there is some native milkweed for the Monarchs. And, native passionvine for the Gulf frits?

    Glad to hear that your seeing an increase in the hummer population. They are my favorite bird.

    I'll let you know when Marilyn sets up at the Norman Farmer's Market this spring. She may be able to help you with some native plants for your flowerbed.

    Thanks for all of your help, Randy. I believe that I'll finally be able to tell the difference between a native western Soapberry and a non-native Chinaberry. :)
    Hope to find alot of Soapberry hairstreaks this spring!

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Howdy All...and welcome Randy.

    See you got a nice photo of a Snout there...you should be in south Texas when the hackberries are in bloom. We get Snouts by the millions!!! ABC came down and took video of them last year. Hate to say it but hundreds met their maker on my windshield every time I'd drive out to the ranch. You can't avoid them - they fly by in waves. We also had a large amount of lysides in the mix.

    Gotta agree with the feeling about the chinaberry (melia azedarach). It's quite invasive and messy. When I bought this house there was one growing in the front flowerbed. I had it removed back in 2002. I also made the mistake of sweeping the berries that had accumulated in the gutters and on my roof onto the ground...to this day I am still pulling out seedlings! UGH!!!

    Am thinking we have native soapberry trees (locals call it jaboncillo) at the ranch but I haven't made the time to trek around with native tree identification books in hand.

    Have never seen a soapberry hairstreak this far south.

    ~ Cat

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi Linda

    One reference book I use a lot is "Forest Trees of Oklahoma" by the Oklahoma Forest Services State Department Of Agriculture. It makes a good field guide.

    The USDA Forest Service Handbook N. 450 is "Seeds of Woody Plants in the United States". It's more of a reference book for commercial propagation, but also has great information.

    One other thing that makes a saopberry easy to identify that I forgot. The fruit is translucent early in the winter. You can see the fruit through the skin.

    I may check the Oklahoma Native Plant Society out some time.

    Hi Cat

    Far south Texas is one of my favorite places. I used to go down to the Harlingen area 2-3 times each year and miss it.

    randy

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks Randy.

    Hello Cat.

    Good to hear from you. Are you still seeing butterflies this time of the year?

    I hear the Chinaberries are extremely hard to get rid of. I have hackberries, elms, and a pecan so, I'm always trying to dig up seedlings. They are very difficult to remove if you let them go too long. I hate it when they wind up in the flower bed, and I have to dig up a plant with the seedling. Lost a large fennel last spring that way. :(

    I feel alot better about Iding the Western soapberry now. And I'm learning alot more about the Soapberry hairstreak. They have 2 white cell end-bars on the forewing and hindwing,lacking on the Greys. They are highly localized, and seldom stray too far away from the soapberry trees their whole life. The adults will go to flowers nearby, but mainly stay around their host plant.

    They overwinter as "eggs" on the tree branches. I find that quite incredible. I would think that the survival rate would not be very high if they had to go thru a winter with alot of snow and ice! But, it makes sense to hatch when the yummy, new tender leaves just start to leaf out.

    I'm finding out more about the Coral hairstreaks. They use the native sand plums. Their season is June to July here. That is when the sand plums are usually ready to pick. I love to pick sand plums for making jelly! I will be ready with my camera next summer to get some pics of the Coral hairstreaks.

    I've had it pretty easy up to now, with Iding and photographing the butterflies attracted to my yard. Now, I plan to search out the different host plants in the area, in the months when that particular butterfly is most apt to be seen. I am always learning something new!

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Linda

    Took some photos this morning. Maybe they will help with identification of the Western Soapberry. These are clickable thumbnails.

    The fruit still on the tree.


    {{gwi:451385}}


    The bark on a 18-20 inch diameter tree.


    {{gwi:451386}}

    The bark on a 4 inch diameter tree.


    {{gwi:451387}}

    The bark on a 3/4 inch sapling.


    {{gwi:451389}}


    randy

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks you so much, Randy. That was so kind of you to post some pics for me. I will save these for future reference. :)

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    In my backyard, Linda, also known as "Hackberry Hill", I have tons of hackberry seedlings coming up all over the place. I get so darned tired of pulling the things, but if I wait too long, that tap root gets so embedded in the soil, that I can't pull it up. Then I just have to keep whacking at it until it finally gets the point (DON'T GROW HERE!). LOL!3

    Last year I didn't see one single snout, Randy. I usually have tons of them around, since they use the hackberry trees, too. I love them. Does anyone remember the NBC news story on the invasion of the Snouts in south Texas last year, and they called it a rather uninteresting butterfly? I think they have gorgeous upperwings. The people that did the story only showed images of the underwings, which are brown for camaflage. I couldn't believe it!

    Susan

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Linda

    I found myself on a 8' ladder looking over branches of my large soapberry for eggs yesterday. Picked some fruit to start a few trees in pots, so it wasn't a total waste of time. :-)

    No problem digging you up a black willow in early spring.

    There is a lot of information here on this forum to soak up. Think I'm going to have some fun with this.

    randy

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Randy, wait until spring when the butterflies begin to repopulate the states! This forum is very active even in winter, but in spring it really gets busy. So much fun and everyone loves butterflies and moths!

    Everyone here works really hard at helping others to start gardening for lepidoptera, and to share their experiences when we have problems or need suggestions.

    I've been on this forum for 3 years now and I think it is THE best on GW as far as friendly members, and I've been on one or two that weren't so friendly. Which just goes to show you that butterfly gardeners are very gracious. We believe in what we are doing, too, in order to study and provide habitat for butterflies that have lost theirs. I mean, who doesn't think a butterfly is the most beautiful creature in the world?

    I'm so glad you joined!

    Susan

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Boy is my face red! I was at the ranch today and realized there is a huge soapberry tree out behind the house next to the corral and another one next to the cattle water tank! DUH!!!

    Randy...I must thank you for the excellent description and photos!!! Have several books with good photos of native plans and trees but spend my time trekking out in the back fields that never even bothered to look right around the house and corrals!!!

    Still have never seen a soapberry hairstreak this far south.

    ~ Cat

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Cat

    I wouldn't feel so bad. This story kind of goes with yours. I'm reading here about how important it is to have milkweed to attract monarchs and I've decided I need to start growing a bunch of it. After looking at some photos on a thread here, I come in close contact with milkweed during the summer on occasion.

    I quit using pesticides years ago. When I quit, my natural predator population made a comeback and aphids and other sucking insects became minor inconveniences instead of headaches.

    When aphids show up in numbers every once in a while, I head to the pasture and collect lady beetles to turn loose on my plants. The plant I usually get them off of is milkweed.:-)

    randy

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Isn't this forum THE BEST??? I always learn something new. I've learned so much on this post about Soapberry trees. I'm glad that Cat has Id some.

    Wish I could have been watching Randy climb up his 8 ft. ladder, checking for "Soapberry hairstreak eggs". Sorry, that you did not find any. The Soapberry hairstreaks are usually seen May to July. So, keep an eye out for them.

    I am thrilled to see your interest in native milkweed. Once you get an eye for it, you will be able to easily spot it in the ditches and pastures while driving down the highway. There are about 110 species of milkweed in North America. I know of at least 8 different species in my county. You will also find that our present Governor promotes mowing from roadside to fenceline, and will experience the horrors of a once flourishing colony of milkweed with alot of activity being "mowed to the ground"!

    There is quite an interesting and unique "food chain" of insects attracted to the milkweed habitat. You will be aware of alot more activity having your milkweed patch closer to your house. They say that out of around 200 eggs that aMonarch will lay, usually only about 1-2 will survive to adulthood out in the wild. Survival of the fittest.

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Oh my, Linda, that is a stunning setback for the Monarchs - only 1 or 2 out of 200? Wow!

    I've always ascribed to the theory that if I think I've learned it all, I have a serious problem! I learn as much from our eager new members as I do from the long-timers (don't want to call them "oldtimers", ya know). Everyone has something to contribute here. That's what I've learned on this particular forum.

    Randy, your daughter (do you have other children?) will probably be fascinated by observing the life cycle of butterflies, too! I know my granddaughter, who's younger than your daughter, has had a ball! She has a greater appreciation of nature than most city-dwelling children, I would imagine. I am hoping to continue cultivating her curious nature alongside that of Mother Nature. Protecting and conserving our wildlife is of utmost importance IMHO! At 4 years old, she could tell other people the 4 stages of butterfly metamorphosis, which is more than most.

    Randy - I think you're hooked good and tight, now! LOL!

    Susan

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi Susan

    We have 4 children and 3 grandchildren. The other three are long gone from the household and are at best city kids with little to no interest in nature. Too busy trying to make ends meet. To each his own.

    Amber has always had a deep love for butterflies and nature as a whole.

    She's still young enough to be fascinated catching fire flies at night during the summer. One of those father daughter things that I hope won't fade too soon.

    randy

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    The tree I posted a photo of was covered with fruit. Today it is now bare. A large migrating flock of robins was in the yard for about a week and now they have moved on. They even stripped the mistletoe fruit off a few of the Bois d'ark. I've never had any success direct sowing and now I know why. :-)

    randy

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Ohhh! Ohhh, Randy. The mistletoes are the host plant for the most beautiful Great purple hairstreak. Do watch for them this summer. They love to nectar on the mountain mints, frostweed, and golden crownbeard. I had my first documented one in my yard last fall on golden crownbeard.

    {{gwi:451391}}

    I agree that birds make it difficult to direct sow, unless they decide to poop where you planted the seeds. :)

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Ooh, yea! I'm growing some mountain mint as a nectar plant, Linda, so would love to see a GPH. There is mistletoe all over the neighborhood!

    If one doesn't have any Soapberry trees, I am wondering if cardiospermum vine would work - same family. Although, apparently soapberry trees and cardiospermum can be considered invasive.

    Susan

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