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Useful Temperate Plants

Gymnocladus chinensis

Baill.

Fabaceae

+ Synonyms

Gymnocladus guangxiensis P.C.Huang & Q.W.Yao

Common Name: Soap Tree

No Image.

General Information

Gymnocladus chinensis is a deciduous tree growing 5 - 12 metres tall[
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
].
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine, source of soap and sometimes as a food. The seedpods are sold in local markets for use as a food, medicine and a soap[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
]. The tree is sometimes grown as an ornamental.

Known Hazards

The seedpod contains saponins and has been used as a fish poison[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
].
Although poisonous, saponins also have a range of medicinal applications and many saponin-rich plants are used in herbalism (particularly as emetics, expectorants and febrifuges) or as sources of raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry. Saponins are also found in a number of common foods, such as many beans.
Saponins have a quite bitter flavour and are in general poorly absorbed by the human body, so most pass through without harm. They can be removed by carefully leaching in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of raw foods that contain saponins.
Saponins are much more toxic to many cold-blooded creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish and make them easy to catch[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Botanical References

11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.

Range

E. Asia - southeastern China (Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, ?Guizhou, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Sichuan, ?Yunnan, Zhejiang).

Habitat

Plains and foothills to 1200 metres[
109
Title
Plantae Wilsonae. Vol 1 - 3
Publication
 
Author
Wilson. E. H.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
University Press; Cambridge.
Year
1911 - 1917
ISBN
 
Description
Details of the palnts collected by the plant collector E. H. Wilson on his travels in China. Gives some habitats. Not for the casual reader. It can be downloaded from the internet.
]. Slopes, mountain sides, mixed forests, sides of rocks, near villages and beside houses; at elevations from 100 - 1,500 metres[
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *
HabitDeciduous Tree
Height12.00 m
Growth RateSlow
Self-fertileNo
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

Gymnocladus chinensis is not a very cold-hardy tree, able to tolerate occasional temperatures falling to around -5°c when it is fuly dormant. It requires hot summers if it is to thrive and rarely flowers in areas with cool summers[
11
Title
Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
Publication
 
Author
Bean. W.
Publisher
Murray
Year
1981
ISBN
-
Description
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Requires a deep rich well-drained moisture retentive soil and a sunny position[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
The plant is polygamous. Trees can bear male flowers, female flowers or hermaphrodite flowers, or a mixture. Effectively, the tree is often dioecious - both male and female forms must be grown if fruit and seed are required.
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. At least some members of this genus do not have these nitrogen-producing bacteria on the roots[
274
Title
Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas
Publication
 
Author
Diggs, Jnr. G.M.; Lipscomb. B. L. & O'Kennon. R. J
Website
http://artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/bio/gdiggs/NCTXpdf.htm
Publisher
Botanical Research Institute, Texas.
Year
1999
ISBN
1-889878-01-4
Description
An excellent flora, which is also available on-line.
].

Edible Uses

Seed - cooked[
105
Title
Tanaka's Cyclopedia of Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Tanaka. T. & Nakao S.
Publisher
Keigaku Publishing; Tokyo
Year
1976
ISBN
-
Description
The most comprehensive list of edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
,
177
Title
Plants for Human Consumption
Publication
 
Author
Kunkel. G.
Publisher
Koeltz Scientific Books
Year
1984
ISBN
3874292169
Description
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of Latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
]. They are roasted and then eaten[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
]. The yellowish to reddish-brown seedpods are 7 - 10cm long and about 3cm wide, containing 2 - 4 seeds in a bitter, strong-smelling flesh, each seed is about 2cm in diameter[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
,
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
].

Medicinal

The seedpods are used in the treatment of rheumatism, dysentery and haematuria[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
].
Applied externally, the pods are used to treat eczema, favus, venereal sores, swellings and abscesses[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
,
1483
Title
Minangmose (Gymnocladus assamicus) and Dekang (Gymnocladus Burmanicus): Culturally important and endangered trees of
Publication
Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, Vol 9(3), July 2010, pp 419-429
Author
Singh R.K.; Srivastava R.C.; Adi tribe; Monpa tribe; Khasi t
Publisher
 
Year
2010
ISBN
 
Description
 
].

The seeds are carminative[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

The tree has a light canopy so does not cast much shade and is therefore a good species for the top canopy of a woodland garden.

Other Uses

The fruit is high in saponins and is used as a soap for washing fabrics and the body[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
61
Title
A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Publication
 
Author
Usher. G.
Publisher
Constable
Year
1974
ISBN
0094579202
Description
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
]. The pods are roasted, then pounded into a pulp, and kneaded into balls. These are usually as large as children's marbles, and were formerly
much used for washing clothes and the body[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
]. They have a strong smell[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
].

An oil obtained from the seeds is used in making paints[
1483
Title
Minangmose (Gymnocladus assamicus) and Dekang (Gymnocladus Burmanicus): Culturally important and endangered trees of
Publication
Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, Vol 9(3), July 2010, pp 419-429
Author
Singh R.K.; Srivastava R.C.; Adi tribe; Monpa tribe; Khasi t
Publisher
 
Year
2010
ISBN
 
Description
 
].

The oily seeds have been used by makers of artificial flowers as a source of wax to wax their threads[
178
Title
Chinese Materia Medica.
Publication
 
Author
Stuart. Rev. G. A.
Publisher
Taipei. Southern Materials Centre
Year
1911
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
].

The wood is hard, durable, finishes to a fine lustre. It is used for cabinet making[
229
Title
The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
Publication
 
Author
Elias. T.
Publisher
Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.
Year
1980
ISBN
0442238622
Description
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
].

Propagation

Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. The seed can also be sown in early spring in a greenhouse[
78
Title
Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
Publication
 
Author
Sheat. W. G.
Publisher
MacMillan and Co
Year
1948
ISBN
-
Description
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
]. Scarification and pre-soaking the seed for 24 hours in warm water, especially if it has been stored, will improve germination[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Make sure the seed has swollen after soaking, soak it again if it has not and, if it still does not swell, try filing away some of the seedcoat but be careful not to damage the embryo. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into fairly deep individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Consider giving them some protection against the cold for their first couple of winters outdoors
Root cuttings 4cm long and 1cm thick in a greenhouse in December[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Plant the roots horizontally in pots[
78
Title
Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
Publication
 
Author
Sheat. W. G.
Publisher
MacMillan and Co
Year
1948
ISBN
-
Description
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
]. Good percentage.
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2021-03-02. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Gymnocladus+chinensis>

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