Growing on the High Plains: Desperately Seeking Soapberry

Jun 28, 2018

The Western Soapberry thrives in our arid climate and alkaline soil.

How might have Native Americans and early settlers washed up after a day in the Dust Bowl, in an age before shower gels and laundry detergent pods? The answer probably won’t surprise you, as the aptly-named native tree is the subject of today’s Growing on the High Plains.

A garden tour first introduced me to the spectacular Western Soapberry Tree and led me on a years-long quest to secure a few of the stunning saplings (“soaplings?”) of my own. A midsize tree with glossy green leaves and white spring blossoms, it’s actually the shiny clusters of winter berries which, when crushed, create a great quantity of suds which helped coin the common name “soapberry.” 

Native to central Oklahoma and western Texas, this tree grows well in our dry, alkaline soils and stands resilient against our punishing High Plains winds and bitter winters. 

So, did I succeed in my search? Lather up and listen in.