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in Tucson, Phoenix,
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Growing Sapodilla: Manilkara zapota

Botanical Overview

A member of the Chicle family (Sapotaceae), which includes Mamey Sapote and Miracle Fruit, the Manilkara genus contains 81 species. Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla, is the best known.

Description

Form: Tree.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow.
Mature Size: 6-60' high and 6-40' wide.
Flowers: Pale yellow to white, small, bell-shaped with brown sepals, inconspicuous.
Bloom: Several times spring through fall.
Self-fruitful: Some cultivars will need a second tree.
Years before fruiting: 2-4 if grafted, 5-8 from seed.
Fruit: Round, scurfy brown skin, juicy, sweet, yellow-brown flesh. The flavor is often described as a cross between brown sugar and a pear. The fruit has 1-12 hard, black, spiked seeds. Unripe fruit is very astringent.
Months for fruit to ripen: 4-6. Scrape the skin to make sure that the fruit is not green underneath the brown scurf. A yellow to orange skin color, and being slightly soft, indicates ripeness. It the stem leaks latex when cut, the fruit is not fully ripe.
Storage after harvest: Hard fruits need to soften at room temperature until they are slightly soft to the touch. Once soft, they can keep for a week in a refrigerator or can be frozen.
Leaves: Dark green, glossy, oval, spirally clustered at branch tips. This tree provides dense shade.
Stems: The sap contains a white latex which is a source for chicle, formerly used as a chewing gum base. The tree is very wind resistant. No thorns.
Roots: Cuttings of desirable cultivars are often grafted onto sapodilla seedling rootstock. The extensive roots derive two-thirds of the tree's water in the top 30" of the soil. Its surface roots can be invasive in moist soil, and when old and large, heave pavements. This tree should be planted 10' away from sidewalks and foundations.
Cultivars of Note:
'Alano' A tree growing 25-30 tall, self-fruitful, heavy producer, 9oz fruit, excellent flavor, very fine texture, very sweet, from Thailand.
'Silas Woods' A dwarf tree growing 6-10' tall, self-fruitful, heavy producer, 9oz fruit, excellent flavor, fine texture, very sweet, from south Florida. Its branches can break from the weight of developing fruit if not supported or the fruit not thinned.
Wildlife: The fruit attracts mammals, including fruit bats, which are also attracted to nectar and pollinate the flowers.
Toxic / Danger: The seeds are a choking hazard because of a spike on one end and are poisonous. Older leaves are poisonous.
Origin: Mexico and Central America.

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Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 10-11. Young trees are killed at 30-32°F. Mature trees can withstand a few hours at 24-26°F.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: These trees have difficulty when young, over 90°F, and when mature, over 105°F. They will need afternoon shade and extra water in these temperatures.
Drought tolerant: Yes, after three years.
Sun: Full morning sun with afternoon part shade in hot climates.
Planting: These instructions are for regions with summer temperatures over 105°F and the possibility of freezing temperatures in winter: Locate this tree so it receives full morning sun and deciduous afternoon shade, in front of a south-facing wall or building, but away from any low-lying spot where cold air collects. In summer, it must receive afternoon shade, in winter, full sun. While the soil must be very well draining, salt is not usually a problem, nor is wind. It can be grown in a container.
Soil: Very well draining, low to moderate organic material, pH 6.1-7.8 (slightly acidic to slightly alkaline) is preferred, but 5.6-8.5 (acidic to alkaline) is tolerated. This tree is highly salt tolerant.
Fertilize: Apply an organic fertilizer mid-winter to speed growth.
Water after becoming established: After the tree has been in the ground three years, deep water every 3 weeks in drought. In general, these trees need less water than any other fruit tree except pomegranate.
Mulch: Reduce root heating and freezing, and soil evaporation, by putting down a thick layer of organic mulch 5' around, and at least 8" away from, the trunk.
First Three Years Care: Water every two days for the first couple of weeks in the ground, then twice a week for the next two months. Deep water weekly until mid-fall, allowing for rain, then taper off to every two to three weeks in winter. The tree may need deep water every two weeks for the next couple of years in hot weather. Young trees may lose leaves with insufficient water. Provide afternoon shade over 90°F. Prune in winter to shape. Protect from freezes.
Prune: Fruit must be thinned to avoid branch breakage. Keep the ground weed-free 5' from the trunk, removing weeds by hand to avoid root damage.
Litter: Dropped fruit if not harvested, leaves.
Propagation: Cuttings grafted onto seedling rootstock. Seed, fresh or dried, does not grow true to its parents.
Uses: Edible fruit, ornamental. The hard wood is used for lumber.

Comments

Other common names for this tree are Chico Sapote and Chico.



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By HK Arun - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid-26901791

Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla cut fruit


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Latest update: September, 2020