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Growing White Sapote: Casimiroa edulis

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A member of the Rue family and related to citrus, the Casimiroa genus has ten species. Casimiroa edulis, White Sapote, has the greatest cultivation range. Of the many regional cultivars developed, only a few are found in nurseries. White Sapote is not related to Black Sapote (Diospyros digyna) of the Persimmon family nor to Mamey Sapote (Pouteria sapota), one of the eggfruit trees of the Gutta Percha family.

Form: Tree.
Lifespan: 40-150 years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen, but cold- and drought-deciduous.
Growth rate: Rapid in spurts.
Mature Size: 15-50' high and as wide.
Flowers: Small, greenish-yellow, in clusters.
Bloom: Depends on climate. May bloom several times a year. Some cultivars bloom in alternate years.
Self-fruitful: Yes.
Years before fruiting: Grafted, 3-4; seedlings 7-8.
Fruit: Thin, green skin with white flesh or thin orange-yellow skin with yellow flesh, variable in shape and size, can resemble an apple, 1-6" diameter, tastes like peach, pineapple, banana or vanilla custard, especially when soft. The skin is bitter on some cultivars. Eating the fruit can induce drowsiness.
Months for fruit to ripen: 6-9. Best flavor when tree-ripened, but many often fall to the ground first, and should be harvested early. Unripe fruit must not be bruised because the flesh will become blackened and bitter under the bruise. Fruit ripen after harvest. Some cultivars should be harvested when soft, others when hard. Remove from tree by cutting the stem with clippers. The stem falls off the fruit when ripe.
Storage after harvest: Ripen at room temperature. Store ripe fruit up to 7-10 days in the refrigerator.
Leaves: Reddish new growth turning to glossy dark green, 3-7 lance-shaped leaflets joined at base, dense shade.
Stems: No thorns. Branches are somewhat brittle and should not be climbed.
Roots: Tap root, invasive side roots spread beyond the drip line. C. edulis 'Pike' is often used as a rootstock due to its vigorous growth.
Cultivars of Note:
'Lemon Gold' Green skin ripens to pale yellow, yellow flesh, excellent flavor with hint of lemon, uniform appearance, fruit ripens well when picked immature, keeps well when ripe, moderate crops, less vigorous tree.
'Redland' Medium sized, sweet, round fruit.
'Suebelle' Yellow skin, sweet flesh with vanilla custard flavor, variable sized fruit usually small, harvest when soft, 15-20' high tree, bears nearly all year.
Wildlife: Flowers attract insects. Fruit attracts birds and mammals.
Toxic / Danger: Seeds are poisonous.
Origin: Mexico and Central America.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 9b-11. Mature trees are hardy to 25°F, young trees to 30°F. These trees prefer dry, not humid, climates.
Sunset climate zones: 8, 9, 14-16, 18-24.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: Needs afternoon shade above 80°F.
Sun: Full sun except afternoon shade in hot climates.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Water after becoming established: Every 3-4 weeks. Do not grow near frequently watered lawns. Infrequent deep watering is best to discourage shallow roots that can heave pavements.
Soil: Very well drained, tolerant otherwise, pH 5.6-7.8 (slightly acidic to slightly alkaline). Salt intolerant.
Fertilize: Avoid fertilizer in salt-prone or alkaline soil. Use citrus fertilizer when the soil is suitable.
Mulch: Use 2-6" compost to retain moisture. Keep 8" away from trunk.
Spacing: This tree should be placed at least 15' away from any structure or other tree.
Planting: 'Suebelle' can be grown in a very large container.
First Year Care: Remove any flowers after initial planting. Pinch off terminal bud to encourage branching. Use 50% all day shade for the first three years to reduce heat stress and leaf drop in hot climates. A shade cloth canopy is recommended.
Prune: Remove any branches that are too horizontal or too vertical to avoid weak branching. Do not remove lower limb branches. Remove any weeds or plants growing under the canopy.
Litter: Moderate. Messy fruit if not harvested.
Propagation: Grafted cuttings. Seed must be planted within 3 weeks of removal from fruit and does not grow true to parent.
Pests: Aphids and scale.
Uses: Ornamental, shade, edible fruit.

Cultivar 'Suebelle' is one of the best fruit trees for the California garden.

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