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Soap bark tree
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Family: Quillajaceae
Genus: Quillaja
Species: Q. saponaria
Binomial name
Quillaja saponaria

The Soap bark tree or Soapbark (Quillaja saponaria) is an evergreen tree in the family Quillajaceae, native to warm temperate central Chile. In Chile it occurs from 32 to 40° South Latitude approximately. Populations are found even 2000 m (6500 ft) above sea level. It can grow to 15-20 m (50-65 ft) in height. The tree has thick, dark bark, smooth, leathery, shiny, oval evergreen leaves 3-5 cm long, white flowers 15 mm diameter borne in dense corymbs, and a dry fruit with five follicles each containing 10-20 seeds.



The inner bark of Quillaja saponaria can be reduced to powder and employed as a substitute for soap, since it forms a lather with water, owing to the presence of a glucoside saponin, sometimes distinguished as quillaia saponin. It also applied as an agricultural spray adjuvant. The same, or a closely similar substance, is found in soapwort (Saponaria officinalis), in senega root (Polygala senega) and in sarsaparilla; it appears to be chemically related to digitonin, which occurs in digitalis. The wood is used cabinetry, and scents derived from the tree are used in perfumes and cosmetics.

Medicinal uses

Soap bark tree has a long history of medicinal use with the Andean people who used it especially as a treatment for various chest problems. It is the source of quillaia, the extract of which is used as a food additive and as an ingredient in pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and fire-fighting foam. It is used as additive for photographic films and foaming for drinks. The saponin content of the bark helps to stimulate the production of a more fluid mucous in the airways, thus facilitating the removal of phlegm through coughing. The saponins of this tree are also considered to have adjuvant properties for vaccine solutions.


This tree occurs at altitudes to 2000 metres.[1] The species is drought resistant, and tolerates about -12°C (10°F) in its natural habitat[2] Example specific occurrences are in central Chile in the forests of El Campana National Park and Cerro La Compana, in which locales it is associated with the Chilean Wine Palm, Jubaea chilensis.[3] It is often used for reforestation on arid soils. It has been introduced as an ornamental in California. Trees have been acclimatized in Spain but are rarely cultivated there.

See also


Line notes

  1. ^ Encyclopedia of the Chilean Flora. 2009
  2. ^ J. Taylor. 1990.
  3. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2008

External links

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Quillaja saponaria


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Fabales
Familia: Quillajaceae
Genus: Quillaja
Species: Quillaja saponaria


Quillaja saponaria Molina


  • Saggio sulla storia del Cile 175,354

Vernacular names

Deutsch: Seifenrinde
English: Panama cortex
Español: Quillay o Corteza de Pánama
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Quillaja saponaria on Wikimedia Commons.

Simple English

Soap bark tree
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Family: Quillajaceae[1]
Genus: Quillaja[1]
Species: Q. saponaria
Binomial name
Quillaja saponaria

Soap bark tree (Quillaja saponaria) is a tree of the family Quillajaceae[1]. In commerce, it is known as Panama wood. The tree grows naturally from warm temperate central Chile north to Bolivia and Peru. It can grow to 15 m (49 ft) to 20 m (66 ft) high. The Soap bark tree gets its name because the inner bark can be made into a powder which can be used as soap. Its compounds are also used as foam in beer and other drinks. The tree also has medicinal uses[2].


Quillay is an evergreen tree, with grey bark. Alternate leaves, glaber, acute apex and obtuse base, bright green, near entire margins with 4-8 teeth. Flowers light green or white, hermaphrodite, pentamer, radiate. Five petals, 5 sepals, 10 stamens and 5 pistils. Fruit: a star-shape capsule, with winged seeds.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 APG II 2003 listing notes that Quillajaceae is a part of the order Fabales and no longer a part of the family Rosaceae (order Rosales)
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