The Aussie soap tree

Wave Man

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[video=youtube;ze7FVL3FRRE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ze7FVL3FRRE[/video]

here's a great vid showing the Aussie soap tree, handy to know how to identify this tree.
 

ozbladefan

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Hygiene is always important in the bush when having a proper wash may not be a regular thing, easiest way to stay healthy is to stay clean.

Great post Wave
 

ozbladefan

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[video=youtube;ZRLVpa0xTUU]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRLVpa0xTUU[/video]
 

AussiePreppers

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Damn i've seen that tree so much it's not funny - he's right it's always getting eaten by something. I've always wanted to ID a soap tree. How many times have ya'll seen Les Hiddens or Malcolm Douglas catch fish with this tree? Cool stuff.
 

Jacko

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A piece of secondary Info that may prove helpfull to someone.

Red Ash / Soap Wood is also an excellent timber for making durable Selfbows. It is not suitable for D Cross section Bows [ English Longbow ] generally but makes excellent Flat Bows.

A similar looking Tree Alphitonia petriei http://biolinfo.org/cmkb/view.php?comname=cmkb_public&scid=374 is also a good Selfbow Timber but it is not as dence. Best suited to Flat Bows also

regards Jacko
 

Cam

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Hi folks,

I gather the Red Ash soap tree is common from top of NSW up through Northern WA, NT, Queensland. Does it also show up down south? Or is there a tree with similar properties down south? I'm really keen to find a soap tree (or plant) that grows in South Eastern Australia. I guess there is that Wattle the other guy mentions, but... not all Wattles provide Saponin do they? They also don't provide as much Saponin?

Thanks,

--Cam
 
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Aussie123

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Hi folks,

I gather the Red Ash soap tree is common from top of NSW up through Northern WA, NT, Queensland. Does it also show up down south? Or is there a tree with similar properties down south? I'm really keen to find a soap tree (or plant) that grows in South Eastern Australia. I guess there is that Wattle the other guy mentions, but... not all Wattles provide Saponin do they? They also don't provide as much Saponin?

Thanks,

--Cam
Many, many years ago a chap did show me a leafy shrub (in Vic) which soaped up really nicely, but I don't have a clue what it was and I've never encountered it since.
I'll try and check in a book at home for a clue.

Apparently "some" wattles can be used, not sure exactly which ones.

I picked a sprig from a local wattle (not sure exactly which one it is), but I thought I’d give it a go to see what happened:
IMAG0003 (Small).jpg

I stripped the leaves, added water and rubbed it
IMAG0004 (Small).jpg

No soaping action, but it did give a nice scrub !
 

speedy

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saponins from Paraserianthes lophantha

I oftern used Alphitonia as a soap substitute while living in SE Qld and NNSW

Paraserianthes lophantha (syn. Albizia lophantha) works well. I have planted it as a fast growing, temporary shelter tree in my garden
and often use it for it's saponins in the lvs.

Aussie123, that could've been the one you were shown... it has Acacia-like bipinnate lvs.
one of it's common names is 'Cape Leeuwin Wattle'
my son calls it 'soap tree' and reckons we never need to buy soap again :_sii:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraserianthes_lophantha
 
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Aussie Forager CQ

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I oftern used Alphitonia as a soap substitute while living in SE Qld and NNSW

Paraserianthes lophantha (syn. Albizia lophantha) works well. I have planted it as a fast growing, temporary shelter tree in my garden
and often use it for it's saponins in the lvs.

Aussie123, that could've been the one you were shown... it has Acacia-like bipinnate lvs.
one of it's common names is 'Cape Leeuwin Wattle'
my son calls it 'soap tree' and reckons we never need to buy soap again :_sii:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraserianthes_lophantha
Turns out my oldies have Paraserianthes lophantha in the garden at home, have been calling it Albizia. It looks simmilar to Leaucaena spp. I don't spose you know an easy way to differentiate it from Leaucaena spp?
 

speedy

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Turns out my oldies have Paraserianthes lophantha in the garden at home, have been calling it Albizia. It looks simmilar to Leaucaena spp. I don't spose you know an easy way to differentiate it from Leaucaena spp?
Leuceana (L.leucocephala) has flatter, longer pods than Paraserianthes
and it's flowers are little round ones like wattle , whereas P.lophantha has bumpy, twisty, shorter pod and sort of loose bottlebrush shaped flowers.
Leuceana is less frost hardy than Paraseriantes too.
 

Aussie Forager CQ

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Ahhaaa cool thanks, That's a great help. Have you ever eaten any Leaucaena before? I am yet to try it, I have read a bit about it......as well, Cornucopia 2 says 'Pods are eaten when very young and tender. The immature seeds are stripped from their pods and eaten alone or with tortillas......'
 

Aussie123

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I oftern used Alphitonia as a soap substitute while living in SE Qld and NNSW

Paraserianthes lophantha (syn. Albizia lophantha) works well. I have planted it as a fast growing, temporary shelter tree in my garden
and often use it for it's saponins in the lvs.

Aussie123, that could've been the one you were shown... it has Acacia-like bipinnate lvs.
one of it's common names is 'Cape Leeuwin Wattle'
my son calls it 'soap tree' and reckons we never need to buy soap again :_sii:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraserianthes_lophantha
Thanks Speedie.

I reckon I have seen Paraserianthes lophantha growing (somewhere, probably as an ornamental, it is very familiar looking),
but I don't think thats what I picked today because the one I picked is indigenous to Vic (from a local indigenous planting) and Paraserianthes is from WA.

My recollection of being shown a plant was out in the bush and a broad leaved plant, not a “feathery” one - so not really narrowing the field much ! Yet !
 

Dusty Miller

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May have seen it as a screeing or graden tree A123. Eden seeds was selling it under Albizia for a long time, very popular in the permaculture community as a pioneer. When you soak the seeds, they get a horrible smell too. Gives it one of the common names stinkbean. I grew some but they got cut down in the frost. There are related trees in se asia that get bigger and are used as fast growing timber.
 

Enigma1

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many European and Nth American species also contain Saponins. It is not unique to Australian plants..

Many plants contain substances called saponins - these are toxic glycosides and can be found, usually in low concentrations, in many of our foods, especially in beans and some leaves. Fortunately saponins are destroyed by prolonged heat and are also very poorly absorbed by the body, so most of what we ingest passes straight through us. These saponins, however, are not without their uses and one of their properties is to form a lather in water that is a gentle but effective cleaner. A number of plants contain quite high concentrations of saponins and have been used as an alternative soap. One of the best known examples of this, at least in Europe, is our native wild flower Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis). This is a perennial plant usually found in damper soils in woods, hedgerows, by streams, etc. It is still used nowadays particularly for cleaning delicate fabrics, including the Bayeaux Tapestry! The saponins are extracted by boiling for a short time and then infusing the whole plant. It can also be used as a hair and body wash. Closely related to Soapwort are a number of other native plants that contain useful quantities of saponins, including Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) and many of the Campions (Silene spp).

Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is another native plant that has a report of being rich in saponins, the rhizome is used. This is just one of a number of uses for this ubiquitous weed; a glue can be made from the rootstock, the fronds are used as a packing material - it is excellent for lining fruit baskets where it repels insects and helps prevent rotting, a compost made from the fronds is excellent for tree seedlings. The root and young fronds have been eaten but there is some evidence to suggest that they are carcinogenic.

The Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is a native of S. Europe but has been grown in Britain for so long that you would be forgiven for thinking it was native. Its seeds are rich in saponins and will lather well in cold, preferably soft, water when rubbed between the hands like a bar of soap. A fairly effective cleanser though it does leave its smell behind! The seed is a good source of edible starch if the saponins are first removed by leeching in water and then by thorough cooking. Since this process also removes most of the vitamins and minerals (and the starch is less than exquisite), we'll leave this to more dedicated wild food enthusiasts. Other members of the genus have similar uses.

North America provides quite a number of 'soap plants'. One very interesting plant is the Soap Lily (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) - a bulbous plant from California where it grows on dry, open hills and plains and occasionally in woods. Although not often seen in Britain it grows quite well here if given a reasonably rich, well drained soil. The bulb, stripped of its outer covering, is very rich in saponins and can as be dried and grated up as required to be used as soap flakes. This bulb, if given a long slow baking, can be eaten and is said to be very nice - we've not tried it yet and have some reservations, particularly having read that a fibre from the bulb is used as a stuffing for mattresses and to make small brushes. The sap that exudes from a baking bulb can be used as a glue and the young spring growth can be eaten - it is said to be sweet when baked. Altogether a very useful plant.

Ceanothus cuneatus is another Californian growing on dry slopes. An evergreen shrub, it requires a sunny position in a light soil - it does not like chalk nor does it like being transplanted - so should be pot grown prior to being put in its final position. Probably not hardy away from southern Britain. The flowers are used and these impart a pleasant aroma. Indeed the N. American Indians often used them when bathing and a bride would traditionally use them on her wedding night. Most other members of the genus could be similarly used.

There are many species of Yucca growing in the more arid areas of southern N. America and a surprising number of them are hardy in most areas of Britain if given a free draining soil and a sunny position. These plants were a vital part of the local economy, providing food (fruits, flowers, and flowering stems), fibres for ropes etc, leaves for basketry and as brooms, plus a soap from the root. This soap is said to be a particularly good hair wash. Species to try include Y. baccata, Y. filamentosa, Y. glauca, Y. gloriosa and Y. whipplei.

Philadelphus lewisii comes from western N. America where it grows in gullies, along water courses and on rocky cliffs and hillsides. In Britain it prefers a loamy soil, and full sun or partial shade. The leaves and flowers lather well in cold water, an infusion of the bark can also be used.
 

thejungleisneutral

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The soap tree easiest to find on the east coast is acacia longifolia.

You've all seen it millions of times out bush. It's the wattle species that Jake Cassar was using in that youtube video on the previous page.
 

Radagast the Brown

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Hi folks,

I gather the Red Ash soap tree is common from top of NSW up through Northern WA, NT, Queensland. Does it also show up down south? Or is there a tree with similar properties down south? I'm really keen to find a soap tree (or plant) that grows in South Eastern Australia. I guess there is that Wattle the other guy mentions, but... not all Wattles provide Saponin do they? They also don't provide as much Saponin?

Thanks,

--Cam
Here in Wollongong Alphitonia Excelsa is fairly common. Its quite easily distinguished by its leathery top leaf surface and whitish underside. It also usually has a lot of insect damage on the leaves and the young shoots smell like sarsparilla when crushed.

Perhaps one of the most useful properties of this tree is that it can be used to "stun" fish. Like any plant high in saponin content, it will temporarily block oxygen availability to any aquatic life. You can take a whole bunch of leaves, pound them up well and submerge them in a small pool. Then you just collect the fish that float to the top.

The soap can also be used to treat skin conditions and to remove the human scent when hunting.
 

Randall

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There is one in the Kimberly ranges. It is a wattle. It's a long time ago for me, but the leaves were strappy and curly and in bunches I think. I often see similar trees (well they're small) here that are similar. I have no need to go pulling them apart to test though. I usually carry a tiny container with about 10 wet ones stuffed in, and rarely use those (usually an injury or after fixing a puncture :rolleyes:)
 
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