Plant ID forum: Can a soapberry lack berries?

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Albuquerque
ArthurPeabody
Nov 6, 2017 10:32 PM CST
I found a tree in my neighborhood, all of its leaves had turned bright red. I'm no expert, but I have a Audubon Society 'Trees of North America (western edition)'. The leaves and bark match the description of the western soapberry but there are no berries on the tree or on the ground. (There are a lot of acorns under the nearby oaks.) The book says they hold on to their berries during the winter.

I don't have a camera (no, not a 'smart'phone either) so I'm just asking whether a soapberry can lack berries and whether its leaves can turn red. I see these trees often around town, now that I've begun to look; none of them have berries. None of them are as red as this one, even on the same block.

Curiously, the median of this street has trees with ID tags. There's a 'soapberry' tag on a Chisos Red Oak
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Keeper of Poultry Farmer Roses Raises cows
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
porkpal
Nov 7, 2017 7:14 AM CST
Our Soapberries' leaves turn yellow and the berries hang on through the winter. Is the tree perhaps too young to bear fruit? The red leaves make me think on Sumac.
Porkpal
Albuquerque
ArthurPeabody
Nov 7, 2017 12:38 PM CST
The Prairie and Smooth Sumacs have the right color in autumn,
the right leaves, but the bark doesn't match and both have
fruit which should still be attached. This tree's bark is
light gray, smooth high, furrowed low.

I'm pretty sure these are mature trees. I only see them where
they'd be planted: I suspect they're ornamental.

Don't flowers need to be pollinated to produce seed? If these
are introduced and all male, wouldn't there be no seeds?
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Nov 7, 2017 1:24 PM CST
Maybe you could post some photos of this tree? Maybe its a Chinese Pistache.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost
Albuquerque
ArthurPeabody
Nov 7, 2017 2:22 PM CST
DaisyI said:Maybe you could post some photos of this tree? Maybe its a Chinese Pistache.


When I wrote that I didn't have a camera in my original message I hoped that would communicate that I couldn't provide photos. Is there some other way? google maps!

AARRGGHH!! I'm a new member: I can't use a link! Look up 301 Ash SE in Albuquerque, the corner of Silver and Ash, it's the tree on the NW corner, next to the fire hydrant.

Another tree in the median has the label Chinese Pistache, but it looks like a different tree, but the tree labeled 'Soapberry' is a Chisos Red Oak, so I can't count on them.

Now that I know that my book tells me if a tree's leaves turn red in autumn, I know it's absent from the Soapberry's description, which, combined with the fruitlessness, tips me away from Soapberry. Chinese Pistache looks like a good suggestion: thanks.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Nov 7, 2017 9:48 PM CST
ArthurPeabody said:

When I wrote that I didn't have a camera in my original message I hoped that would communicate that I couldn't provide photos.



Sorry... *Blush*

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost
Albuquerque
ArthurPeabody
Nov 8, 2017 2:40 PM CST
Here's the Google Maps picture from 2014 May
Thumb of 2017-11-08/ArthurPeabody/9b13a3

Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Keeper of Poultry Farmer Roses Raises cows
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
porkpal
Nov 8, 2017 3:05 PM CST
That tree looks rather full and dense for a soapberry.
Porkpal
Albuquerque
ArthurPeabody
Nov 9, 2017 2:04 PM CST
I've dropped the soapberry hypothesis. It *is* the closest match in the Audubon Society field guide but it turns out that's not exhaustive. @Daisyl's suggestion of Chinese Pistache, which isn't in the guide, is a better match. If I can find a description such as the guide has I could probably tell. The Wikipedia page description matches, except it says the terminal leaflet is usually absent, while most of this tree's leaves seem to have them. Also the CP has fruit, of which I see no sign. CP is dioecious, so if everybody planted only male trees (and they are all introduced), they wouldn't fruit.
Name: Mary
Lake Stevens, WA (Zone 8a)
Near Seattle
Bookworm Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Plays in the sandbox Region: Pacific Northwest Seed Starter
Winter Sowing
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Pistil
Nov 9, 2017 2:23 PM CST
Hi Arthur!
The problem with pretty much all the "Field Guides" to trees (and other things) is that they are for native plants. Frequently trees planted by a municipality or private landowner are not native.
That does look like a really nice healthy tree. If you have a spare half hour, I recommend taking a few leaves (best is a twig so the branching can be seen, and winter buds are very helpful, and taking it to a local nursery. If you cant take more than one leaf, take a look and try to understand the branching (leaves opposite or alternate). Likely someone at a nursery will recognize it- then you can buy one for your yard;-). When I moved into my home, I brought a twig with leaves from all my unknown shrubs to my local nursery, the owner needed only a glance to tell me what they were. Trees planted in medians of roads are typically rugged survivors, and there probably are not too many such trees for Albuquerque.
Name: James
Jacksonville, FL (Zone 9a)
(Heat zone - 8, Sunset zone - 28)
Region: Florida Region: Texas Enjoys or suffers hot summers Plumerias Adeniums Tropicals
Bromeliad Cactus and Succulents Container Gardener Plant Identifier Plays in the sandbox Garden Procrastinator
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JamesAcclaims
Nov 9, 2017 2:36 PM CST
I would agree with the Pistacia chinensis (Chinese Pistache). I am unable to find any such tree that would look so healthy in your area, that has that leaf and branching shape. Other than that, the City of Albuquerque does list them in their "Suggested Tree Species List for Planting in Albuquerque" list, so it would make sense that they would use them throughout the city.
I am not an early bird or a night owl--I am some form of permanently exhausted pigeon
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Nov 9, 2017 3:59 PM CST
I think the operative word from that Wikipedia article is "usually" - "the terminal leaflet is usually absent".

There are a couple reasons you are seeing no fruit. First, if it was pruned last fall, winter or spring. Chinese Pistache bloom (and fruit) on old wood. The second is that it is a male tree (so blooms but no fruit) or it is a female tree but no male tree is close by, so, once again, blooms but no fruit.

Chinese Pistache are favorite street trees in a lot of cities.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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