Article from the Tropical Fruit News magazine of the Miami Rare Fruit Council International
by Gene Joyner


The Sapodilla, Manilkara zapata, is a large evergreen tropical tree native to Central America and Mexico. Although it is slow growing it is a recommended large shade tree because of its high resistance to breakage and uprooting by strong winds. The tree also has a high degree of tolerance to salt and is often used in seaside plantings.

The sapodilla will adapt to a wide range of soil types and growing conditions but will be injured by low temperatures of 26°F or lower. The tree is quite drought resistant once it has been well established, and will also survive short periods of flooding with no ill effects. Young trees should be fertilized about every other month with a citrus or fruit tree type fertilizer. After the first year, trees only need to be fertilized 2 or 3 times a year.

Small inconspicuous 3/8 inch flowers are born throughout the year and the large 2 to 4 inch, round or egg shaped, brown fruit mature primarily during the warmest months, though some fruits may mature during the winter. The flesh is usually light yellowish- brown with a texture that varies from smooth to granular, and has a sweet pleasant taste. There might be no seeds at all or there could be as many as 6--10 hard, shiny, flat, black 3/4 inch seeds. When fruits reach their maximum size they are usually picked and allowed to ripen off the tree. If you allow them to ripen on the tree, the fruit will likely be destroyed when it falls to the ground as fully ripe fruits are quite soft.

Sapodilla fruits can be used in a variety of ways as a fresh fruit, as the latex in the fruit is a problem when fruit are cooked.

Landscape nurseries offer sapodillas for sale but many of these have been propagated from seed and may be inferior in fruit quality and productivity. a number of seedling trees in South Florida produce good quality fruit and these can be propagated by grafting or airlayering. Named varieties you may find include "Prolific", "Brown Sugar", "Modello'" "Russell", and "Martin". When selecting for fruit characteristics, trees of good quality can be grafted or air-layered.

Sapodillas have very few pest problems. However, the mature fruit is attacked by the Caribbean fruit fly. It is important that the fruit be picked and not allowed to get too mature on the tree or else there will be severe damage to the tree.

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Joyner, Gene. "Sapodilla." Miami Rare Fruit Council International – RFCI, Tropical Fruit News, 1993, p. 7.

Published 4 July 2017 LR
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