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Manilkara zapota - (L.) P.Royen.

Common Name Sapodilla, Nispero
Family Sapotaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Older leaves contain a poisonous alkaloid[298]. Seeds contain hydrocyanic acid and should be removed before eating the fruit[303].
Habitats Lowland and coastal forests[200 , 307 ].
Range C. America - Panama to Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Manilkara zapota Sapodilla, Nispero

Manilkara zapota Sapodilla, Nispero


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Manilkara zapota or commonly known as Sapodilla is a slow-growing evergreen tree growing about 18 - 30 m in height and 1.5 m in trunk diameter. It is long-lived and native to southern Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. The leaves are green, glossy, elliptical to oval in shape, and alternately arranged. The flowers are white and bell-like. The globose fruit, which is a berry, is edible - usually eaten raw when fully ripe or processed into desserts. Each fruit contains one to six seeds. Young leaves and shoots are edible as well.Sapodilla is used medicinally for the treatment of fever, hemorrhage, wounds, ulcers, neuralgia, diarrhea, indigestion, gallstones, and thrush in babies. It also yields a white latex which is made into chewing gum. The gum is also used in transmission belts, dental surgery, etc. The wood is very hard, tough, dense, and resistant to insect attacks. It is ideal for heavy construction, railway ties, furniture, tool handles, and joinery. Sapodilla is resistant to wind. Fruiting commence five to eight years after planting and occurs twice a year, though flowering may continue all year round.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Manilkara zapota is an evergreen Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 25 m (82ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Insects.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Achradelpha mammosa (L.) O.F.Cook Achras breviloba (Gilly) Lundell Achras calderonii (Gilly) Lundell

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Sap  Shoots
Edible Uses: Gum

The fruit can be eaten raw, or used in making sherbets, custard, ice cream, pies, jams, jellies etc[301 ]. 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[200 , 301 ]. The fruit contains tannin, which is astringent[200 ]. 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[200 ]. The globose fruit is about 10cm in diameter[307 ]. The stems are a source of a milky latex called balata or chicle[200 , 301 ]. This inelastic polymer can be coagulated when it becomes hard and brittle until chewed[200 ]. It has long been used as the base for chewing gum[200 , 301 ]. The very young leaves and shoots can be eaten raw or cooked[298 , 301 ]. Some caution is advised since older leaves contain poisonous alkaloids[298 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Antidiarrhoeal  Antipyretic  Astringent  Diuretic  Febrifuge  Odontalgic  Tonic  Urinary

A leaf decoction is taken for fever, haemorrhage, wounds and ulcers[303 ]. For neuralgia, leaf with tallow is applied as a compress on the temples[303 ]. The flowers are used as one of the ingredients of a powder that is rubbed on the body of a woman after childbirth[303 ]. The bark is astringent, febrifuge and tonic[348 , 739 ]. Tannin from the bark is used to cure diarrhoea and fever[303 ]. The fruit is eaten as a remedy for indigestion and diarrhoea[348 ]. Seeds are antipyretic, and when ground with water they act as a diuretic[303 , 348 ]. They are used to expel urinary and gall bladder stones[739 ]. The pulverized roots are used to treat thrush in babies[739 ]. The plant is a source of sapotin, a glucoside used in medicine as a febrifuge[303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Furniture  Gum  Latex  Tannin  Teeth  Wood

Seaside backyard tree. Shade tree. Coastal street tree. Public open space. Xerophytic. 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[303 ]. 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[303 ]. 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[331 ]. Tannin from the bark is used to tan ship sails and fishing tackle[303 ]. The heartwood is dark reddish or reddish brown, the sapwood pinkish[331 ]. It is without distinctive odour or taste, of rather low lustre, rather fine-textured and with fairly straight grain[331 ]. The wood is noted for its strength and durability, it is also very hard, tough, dense, and resistant to insects[303 , 331 ]. It is not easy to work and has a tendency to splinter, but can be finished smoothly[331 ]. It is suitable for heavy construction, railway ties, furniture, joinery and tool handles[303 ].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

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[303 ]. 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[418 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 - 34°c, but can tolerate 11 - 42°c[418 ]. 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[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 1,500mm, but tolerates 400 - 2,000mm[418 ]. Fruiting is not adversely affected by heavy rainfall[303 ]. Grows best in full sun[303 ]. 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[307 ]. Grows well in calcareous soils[335 ]. Dislikes heavy clay soils[335 ]. Prefers a well-drained soil[200 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 5.5 - 8.5[418 ]. Established plants are drought resistant, they also resist strong winds and moderate levels of salt in the soil[200 , 307 , 418 ]. The tree has a main fruiting period, but some flowers and fruits are produced throughout the year[303 , 335 ]. Fruits take about 4 months to mature[303 ]. Seedlings may take 5 - 8 years to bear fruit, while grafted varieties take only 2 - 3 years from planting out[303 ]. Trees reach their maximum cropping at around the age of 30 years[418 ]. A good tree may yield up to 2,500 - 3,000 fruits per year, or about 250 - 300 kilos[418 ]. 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[418 ]. There are some named varieties[416 ]. Flowering Time: Late Winter/Early Spring. Bloom Color: Pale Green Inconspicuous/none.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seeds germinate after about 30 days without any treatment and with up to 80% success rate[303 ]. Cuttings Air-layering of 2-year-old branches, 45 - 60cm long, 1 cm in diameter and suitably leafy[303 ]. Grafting.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Sapodilla, Nispero, Baramasi, Buah chiku, Canistel, Chicle, Chico sapote, Chicomamey, Chicu, Chikoo, Chiku, Ciku, Hong xiem, Imut, Korob, Lamoot, Lamud-farang, Lamud, Lamut-farang, Lamut, Lomut, Mammee sapota, Marmalade fruit, Mespil, Mispel, Mispu, Muy, Muyozapot, Naseberry, Neesberry, Nispero, Nispero quitense, Rata-mi, Ren xin guo, Safeta, Sagadu, Sapatu, Sapota, Sapoti, Sapotilha, Sapotille, Sauh menila, Sawa londo, Sawo manila, Sopeta, Sopheda, Tam lu'c, Ya, Xaboche, Zapota, Zapote, Zapote chico, Zapote morado, Zapotillo, beef apple, breiapfelbaum, chicle, chico zapote, chiko|sepadilla / rata mee, chiku tree, chiquibul, ciku, crown gum, guenda-xina, iabn, kaugummibaum, mratabu, mrutabu, naseberry, nispero, níspero, palo maria, peruetano, ratabu, sagadú, sapatu, sapodilla, sapodilla plum, sapodillbaum, sapote, sapotier, sapotilla, sapotillier, sapotillplommon, sopota, tree potato, zapote, zapote chico, zapote de abejas, zapotillo, zapotl.

Belize; Colombia; Costa Rica; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama, Africa, Andamans, Antigua and Barbuda, Asia, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belize, Brazil, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Caribbean, Central Africa, Central America*, China, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, East Africa, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, FSM, French Guiana, Ghana, Guiana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinée, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Is., Mexico*, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, North America, Northeastern India, Pacific, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Manilkara bidentataBalata, bulletwood, bully treeTree30.0 10-12 MMHSNMWe224
Manilkara discolorRed milkwood, Silvery milkwoodTree20.0 10-12 MLMHSNDM402
Manilkara huberiCow Tree, Massaranduba. Black balataTree40.0 10-12 MLMHNM303

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(L.) P.Royen.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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