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Striving for Diversity: Quillaja saponaria

Articles: Striving for Diversity: Quillaja saponaria

A still-young specimen of soapbark tree (Quillaja saponaria). Author’s photographs, except as noted

Trees native to Chile are not easily found in cultivation in the western United States, constituting less than two percent of species grown in our parks and gardens and along our streets. The most familiar Chilean species are mayten tree (Maytenus boaria), monkey puzzle (Araucaria araucana), and Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis) [see Pacific Horticulture, January 2011]. This paucity of Chilean trees is puzzling, considering the many similarities between the summer dry climates of central Chile and much of the West. Another Chilean native, soapbark tree (Quillaja saponaria), is surprisingly rare, even though it is a beautiful, drought- and cold-tolerant tree that seems to grow well in a variety of conditions.

Soapbark tree is native to central Chile’s narrow mediterranean-climate zone from the coast to above 6,000 feet elevation. As with their respective climates, the similarities in vegetation communities between California and Central Chile are striking. Soapbark is associated with varying habitats, incl...

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