Manilkara zapota 1


Manilkara zapota 1

General Information

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Sapodilla is an ornamental evergreen tree with a dense, widely spreading crown that can grow 9 – 20 metres tall in cultivation, but can be 30 – 38 metres tall in the forest. The straight, cylindrical bole can range in diameter from up to 50cm in cultivation and up to 150cm in the forest
A tree with a wide range of local uses as a food and medicine,

it is also very important commercially as the source of an edible fruit, a latex and a timber. The edible fruit is greatly enjoyed and very widely eaten in the tropics. The tree is widely cultivated commercially and in gardens in the tropics for this fruit and also for the latex contained in the sap. This latex is coagulated and used commercially to make chewing gum. The tree yields a timber that is traded internationally.

Known Hazards

Older leaves contain a poisonous alkaloid
Seeds contain hydrocyanic acid and should be removed before eating the fruit

Botanical References


C. America – Panama to Mexico.


Lowland and coastal forests


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Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *  *
HabitEvergreen Tree
Height20.00 m
Growth RateSlow
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Ornamental, Wild

Cultivation Details


Sapodilla can grow well in a wide range of climatic conditions from the wet tropics to dry cool subtropical areas; but they prefer a moist hot climate similar to that found at medium to low elevations, usually below 600 metres, in tropical areas, such as in coastal regions. Commercial crops can be obtained at elevations up to 900 metres in the tropics, with the tree producing at least some fruit up to 2,500 metres.

It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 – 34°c, but can tolerate 11 – 42°c. When dormant, the plant can survive very short-lived temperatures down to about -4°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at -1°c.

It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 1,500mm, but tolerates 400 – 2,000mm. Fruiting is not adversely affected by heavy rainfall
Grows best in full sun. An undemanding plant,

it is one of the few fruit trees to thrive in the poor, wind-swept low-lying coral islands of the West Indies, though it grows better given fertile conditions

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Grows well in calcareous soils. Dislikes heavy clay soils. Prefers a well-drained soil. Prefers a pH in the range 6 – 7, tolerating 5.5 – 8.5. Established plants are drought resistant, they also resist strong winds and moderate levels of salt in the soil
The tree has a main fruiting period, but some flowers and fruits are produced throughout the year.

Fruits take about 4 months to mature].
Seedlings may take 5 – 8 years to bear fruit, while grafted varieties take only 2 – 3 years from planting out Trees reach their maximum cropping at around the age of 30 years
A good tree may yield up to 2,500 – 3,000 fruits per year, or about 250 – 300 kilos Annual yields per ha of 20 – 30 tonnes have been reported in Florida, 20 – 25 tonnes in the Philippines and 20 – 80 tonnes in India
There are some named varieties

Edible Uses

The fruit can be eaten raw, or used in making sherbets, custard, ice cream, pies, jams, jellies etc. Slightly larger than a plum, when fully ripe, the flesh is soft, very sweet, slightly acid and totally delicious, with the flavour of pears, cinnamon and brown sugar combined.

The fruit contains tannin, which is astringent. In order to be at its best, the fruit needs to be eaten when it is absolutely ripe and has lost that astringency, and so it is difficult to grow commercially. The globose fruit is about 10cm in diameter

The stems are a source of a milky latex called balata or chicle. This inelastic polymer can be coagulated when it becomes hard and brittle until chewed. It has long been used as the base for chewing gum

The very young leaves and shoots can be eaten raw or cooked. Some caution is advised since older leaves contain poisonous alkaloi


A leaf decoction is taken for fever, haemorrhage, wounds and ulcers For neuralgia, leaf with tallow is applied as a compress on the temples

The flowers are used as one of the ingredients of a powder that is rubbed on the body of a woman after childbirth

The bark is astringent, febrifuge and tonic. Tannin from the bark is used to cure diarrhoea and feve

The fruit is eaten as a remedy for indigestion and diarrhoea

Seeds are antipyretic, and when ground with water they act as a diuretic. They are used to expel urinary and gall bladder stones

The pulverized roots are used to treat thrush in babies[].

The plant is a source of sapotin, a glucoside used in medicine as a febrifuge

Other Uses

Wild and cultivated trees in America are tapped for their milky latex, which coagulates into chicle, the principal constituent of chewing gum before the advent of synthetic alternatives. The gum is also used in transmission belts, dental surgery, and as a substitute for gutta-percha, a coagulum of the latex of Palaquium spp
Chicle gum is obtained from oblique cuts or slashes made in the trunk of the tree during the rainy months. From these cuts there issues a milky latex which must be coagulated by heat, and formed into solid blocks for export

Tannin from the bark is used to tan ship sails and fishing tackle

The heartwood is dark reddish or reddish brown, the sapwood pinkish. It is without distinctive odour or taste, of rather low lustre, rather fine-textured and with fairly straight grain.

The wood is noted for its strength and durability, it is also very hard, tough, dense, and resistant to insects It is not easy to work and has a tendency to splinter, but can be finished smoothly. It is suitable for heavy construction, railway ties, furniture, joinery and tool handles


Seeds germinate after about 30 days without any treatment and with up to 80% success rate
Air-layering of 2-year-old branches, 45 – 60cm long, 1 cm in diameter and suitably leafy