White Sapote

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Casimiroa edulis
 White Sapote, Sapote, Zapote blanco, Casimiroa, Custard Apple
Casimiroa edulis.jpg
Habit: tree
Height:  ?m (15-50 ft)
Lifespan: perennial
Origin: Central Mexico
Poisonous: Seed is poisonous if ingested
Water: drought tolerant
Features: fruit, drought tolerant
USDA Zones: 9b-11
Sunset Zones: 15-16, 22-24
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Growth Habit: The white sapote forms a medium to very large evergreen tree, 15 to 50 feet, according to cultivar and soil. It is deciduous under drought and other stress. The tree casts a dense shade. Growth is rapid, in flushes. It is densely branching, drooping at maturity. Young trees tend toward a single, limber stem for first 2 years often requiring staking. White sapotes have a taproot and other fibrous roots that are wandering and greedy like citrus.

Foliage: The white sapote has glossy, bright green, palmately compound, hand-shaped leaves with 5 - 6 inch leaflets on a long petiole. New growth is usually reddish, becoming dark green with age, pale green beneath. Stress such as either prolonged cold or abnormal heat, will cause defoliation and a subsequent new growth flush. Leaves will burn in hot winds, which may also scar the fruit or cause it to drop.

Flowers: The odorless flowers, small and greenish-yellow, are 4- or 5-parted, and born in terminal and axillary panicles. They are hermaphrodite and occasionally unisexual because of aborted stigmas. They follow growth flush and often rebloom again several months later. The flowers are attractive to bees, hoverflies and ants. The pollination tendencies or requirements of various cultivars have not yet been fully determined.

Fruit: White sapote fruit ripens six to nine months from bloom. Some cultivars are alternate bearing. Fruit size varies from 1 inch to 6 inches for some of the newer cultivars. Fruit color ranges from apple-green to orange-yellow at maturity, according to cultivar. The fruit shape is round, oval or ovoid, symmetrical or irregular. The skin is very thin and smooth, with a waxy bloom, and is sometimes bitter. Green-skinned varieties have white flesh; yellow skinned varieties have yellow flesh. The flesh has a custard-like texture and a sweet delicious flavor reminiscent of peach or banana, although sometimes with a hint of bitterness. The fruit becomes pungent and unpleasant if overripe. In California the flesh of the wooly-leaf sapote is often bitter and unpleasant. The fruit contains 5 - 7 short-lived seeds thaat resemble a greatly enlarged orange seed. They range in size from 1 - 2 inches in length. The fruits also usually contain several aborted, thin, papery seeds. White sapotes bear within 10 years from seed, or 2 - 8 years from graft.

Adaptation: The white sapote is successful wherever oranges can be grown. In California mature trees are found from Chico, southward. It does poorly in areas with high summer heat such as the deserts of the Southwest, and in the high humidity of the tropical lowlands of Hawaii and Florida. Otherwise, it can take a lot of abuse, but is brittle in wind. Established trees withstand occasional frost to 22° F., although young trees can be damaged at 30° F. The tree does best where the mean temperature from April to October is about 68° F. White sapotes are also tolerant of cold wet roots and north sides of buildings. Wooly-leaf sapotes are somewhat less hardy than the common white sapote. Only grafted trees are suitable for containers; seedlings get large fast.

Harvest: White sapote fruit ripens in October (south) to February (north). A few cultivars will have fruit year-round, but the fruit from later blooms generally ripens poorly and is of poorer quality. Large trees commonly produce a ton of fruit per year. The fruits taste best when tree ripened, but tend to fall first. The fruits must be handled with care even when unripe as they bruise so easily and any bruised skin will blacken and the flesh beneath turns bitter. Mature fruits should be clipped from the branches leaving a short piece of the stem attached. This stub will fall off when the fruits become eating-ripe. Some cultivars will ripen to good flavor when picked hard and kept in a controlled atmosphere, while others become bitter and inedible. Fruits that have ripened on hand will keep in good conditions in the home refrigerator for at least 2 weeks.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Casimiroa edulis, Llav. & Lex. White Sapote. Cochil Sapota. Large tree: trunk ashen gray, with warty excrescences: lvs. dark green, glossy: fls. greenish yellow, small: fr. greenish yellow when ripe, with strong, thick epicarp, ½in. thick, about the size of an orange; seeds nearly 1 in. long and half as wide. Mex.—The fr. of this species has a delicious flavor, similar to that of a peach. It is used in Mex. as an aid in inducing sleep, and the lvs. as a remedy for diarrhea. It grows on the coast of Mex. to an altitude of about 7,000 ft. See Sapote, White.

White Sapote. A tropical fruit. The zapote blanco of the Mexicans (Casimiroa edulis), known in California and Florida as white sapote, is a fruit little cultivated outside of Mexico, but occasionally seen in the southernmost parts of the United States, in the West Indies, and even in the Orient, where it is probably of recent introduction. Horticulturally, it has been given more attention in southern California than in any other region.

The tree reaches an ultimate height of 50 feet or more, with a short stout trunk, often covered with warty excrescences around the base, and a broad erect crown, sometimes spreading and dome-shaped, under favorable conditions densely foliaged and of very attractive and ornamental appearance. The bark is somewhat rough, ashen gray when mature, and dotted with numerous warty light gray lenticels. The leaves are alternate, digitate, borne upon long slender petioles and composed of three to seven, commonly five, elliptical to lanceolate, acuminate leaflets, coppery when young but eventually of glossy bright, green color. The small greenish flowers, less than 1/2 inch in diameter, are produced in spring on short axillary panicles, and are composed of a four- or five-parted calyx, with short acute pubescent segments, and a four- or five-petaled greenish corolla, valvate in the bud, with small oblong-elliptic acute concave petals; the stamens are as numerous as the petals and alternating with them, with short filaments and small oblong anthers; the ovary is superior, five-celled, globose, bearing at its apex a three- to five-lobed sessile stigma.

The fruit, when of a choice variety, is as large as a good-sized orange, and somewhat resembles a quince in general appearance. The tender yellow or yellowish green skin, scarcely as thick as that of an apple, surrounds the soft cream-colored pulp, of melting and delicate texture and pleasant but peculiar flavor, sweet and lacking any trace of acidity, with sometimes a touch of bitterness. The seeds, normally five in number, an inch long and half as wide, are oblong to elliptical in form, light yellow in color, reticulated on the surface; their number is frequently decreased by abortion to two or three. In the tropics the fruit ripens in July and August, in California usually not before October; it is picked when fully mature but while still hard, and must be laid away for a few days before it is mellow and ready for eating. Because of its thin skin and the delicate texture of the flesh it does not ship so readily as some other fruits, yet if taken while still hard, and carefully packed, it can be sent considerable distances. It is commonly used while fresh, and an over-indulgence in it is thought by the Mexicans to induce sleep, but it is doubtful whether there are grounds for this belief. The white sapote is popular among the Mexicans, especially in the region around Guadalajara, and is regularly found in the markets.

The hardiness of the tree is attested by its behavior in southern Europe; it has fruited at La Mortola, and is cultivated at other points on the Riviera; it is also said to have fruited in the island of Jersey. In Mexico it flourishes up to altitudes of 7,000 feet, according to Von Mueller.

Although introduced to California from Mexico about 1810, it has not yet become extensively cultivated in that state, and large specimens are rather rare. One of the oldest trees, thought to have been planted about a century ago, is growing on De la Guerra Street in Santa Barbara. Although uncared for amidst the most unfavorable surroundings it bears regularly; its fruits, however, are small and practically worthless. A number of trees of considerably lesser age—most of them planted about 1895 - are in bearing in various parts of southern California, and while some produce small, inferior fruits others produce large ones of delicious flavor. After it comes into bearing the tree commonly produces regularly and abundantly. It has shown itself to be remarkably drought-resistant, though it naturally succeeds much better when irrigated in the dry season. It seems to prefer a well-drained sandy loam, but thrives on heavy clay if the drainage is good, and in south Florida has done well on shallow sandy soil underlaid with soft limestone. In this latter state it has not been cultivated many years, but has come into bearing in the vicinity of Miami and seems to be at home. It has also fruited in Cuba.

Seeds should be planted as soon as possible after their removal from the fruit, in flats of light, porous soil, or singly in 3- or 4-inch pots, covering them to the depth of 1 inch. If the weather is warm, or artificial heat is provided, germination will take place within three or four weeks. The young plants should be grown in pots until 2 to 3 feet high, when they may be set out in the open ground. While young, the white sapote should be watered liberally to encourage growth, though it can get along with little water if necessary. The terminal bud should be pinched out to force the tree to branch when about 3 feet high; otherwise it is likely to make a growth of 10 to 12 feet before branching, being liable to be broken off by a severe wind.

Seedlings do not come into bearing until seven or eight years old, and are undependable at best, many producing fruit of inferior quality. For this reason trees propagated by some vegetative means should be planted. Shield-budding is successfully practised, the method being essentially the same as with the avocado. Stock plants should be selected from young, vigorously growing seedlings, with stems about 3/8 inch in diameter at the base. Budwood is taken from the ends of the branches, using fairly well-matured wood which has assumed the ashen-gray color. The buds are cut about 1 1/2 inches long, leaving any wood that may adhere to them, and are inserted in T-incisions, after which they are bound firmly in place with waxed tape. At the end of two to four weeks, depending upon the climate, they may be unwrapped, and then re-wrapped loosely, leaving the bud exposed so that it may start into growth, at the same time lopping back the stock to a point 3 or 4 inches above the bud. In the tropics budding can probably be done at almost any season; in California spring and summer, when the stock plants are in most active growth, are the best times.

Three named varieties have been established in California—Harvey, Parroquia, and Gillespie. Of these Harvey is the largest and probably the best; the tree is very prolific, and individual fruits sometimes measure 3 1/2 inches in diameter.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



Location: Before planting, consider the mess made by unpicked fruit. Planting over a patio can be a big mistake. The ultimate size of the the tree should also be kept in mind. They prefer full sun.

Soils: White sapotes prefer a well-drained soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.5, but the tree will grow in almost any soil as long as it is well-drained.

Irrigation: White sapote trees are drought tolerant but produce better fruit with regular, deep watering. Deep watering is also necessary to keep greedy roots deep in the ground. Shallow watering can encourage surface roots that will break pavement or ruin lawns. Drip irrigation is suitable for young trees. They will tolerate some salts, but gradually decline. White sapotes are often most productive following wet winters.

Fertilization: Fertilizer formulas should vary with the nature of the soil, but, in general, the grower is advised to follow procedures suitable for citrus trees. Many white sapote trees have received little or no care and yet have been long-lived.

Pruning: Young trees tend to grow vertically without much branching. After planting, remove the flowers and pinch out the terminal bud to encourage branching. Since branches are brittle in wind, and will often break at crotches that are either too narrow or horizontal, it is important to prune to eliminate such weak joints. Too much pruning or heading-back, however, may encourage weak growth.


Seedlings generally produce inferior fruit, but there is always a chance of producing a worthwhile new cultivar. Use fresh seed, washed and cleaned of flesh. Budding is done in the spring, if possible, on year-old seedlings. Trees are usually grafted., using stocks grown in place for three years. Scions should be girdled 1 to 2 months, then stored until the first sign of new stock growth in spring. Cleft, splice, or approach grafts are all successful. Seedling trees usually begin to bear in 7 - 8 years; grafted trees will start bearing in 3 or 4 years.

Pests and diseases

The white sapote has few natural enemies but the fruits of some cultivars are attacked by fruit flies where that is a problem. Black scale often occurs on nursery stock and occasionally on mature trees in California. Mealybugs are sometimes found around fruit stems, and aphids can infest new growth. The trees also attract fruit-eating animals, including parrots. White sapotes are resistant to both Phytophthora and Armillaria. Snails can defoliate young trees and damage fruit.


  • Chestnut - Origin Vista, Calif. Wesley C. Chestnut, 1935. Seedling of Suebelle. Tree large, heavy production, fruit has withstood shipping to eastern states. Spherical, yellow-green when ripe, taste good, skin bitter. Alternate bearing.
  • Cuccio - Origin Fallbrook, Calif. Cuccio, 1973. Probable syn. Florida. Very quick to come into bearing. Green when ripe, taste excellent, keeps long and well on tree. Fruit sunburns if tree defoliates.
  • Ecke - Origin Encinitas, Calif., Paul Ecke, Sr., 1963. Single fruits,uniform in size and shape, Skin becomes bright yellow several months before maturity.
  • Fiesta - Origin Yorba Linda, Calif., Ray Vincent, 1973. Reliable,productive but very late cropper of rather small (1-2 inch) fruit. Pale yellow, thick skin, endures handling.
  • Lemon Gold - Origin Escondido, Calif., Martin Reinecke, 1958. A less vigorous tree, moderate crops, usually in November. Keeps well when ripe, can be picked immature and ripens well off the tree. Uniform, pleasing appearance; flesh quite yellow. Flavor excellent, occasional hints of lemon.
  • Louise - Origin Chula Vista, Calif., Bill Nelson, 1973. Nearly everbearing, Jan. - Sept., productive. Fruit yellow, medium size. Suggested for home gardens, not commercial.
  • Malibu No. 3 - Origin Malibu, Calif., Washington MacIntyre, 1981. Fruit spherical, yellow, ripens Oct - Nov. Pick when soft. Tree is long coming into bearing. Most promising new cv.
  • Maltby - Origin Carlsbad, Calif., Guy Maltby, 1928. syn. Nancy Maltby. Frequently found in Florida, obsolete in California. Tree large. Fruit to one pound, irregular in shape, pointed, flesh yellow, flavor varies by season, can be good. Productive.
  • McDill - Origin Orange, Calif., McDill, 1968. Precocious, excellent taste, among the largest. Shape oblate, large, greenish-yellow. Bears early autumn. Tree large, grafts easy.
  • Michele - Origin Pasadena, Calif., Michele Montllor, 1940. Tree small, nearly everbearing. Fruit smallish, yellow, with distinct taste of caramel. For home culture.
  • Pike - Origin Santa Barbara, Calif., intro. USDA, 1928. Tree med. size, heavy cropper, mid-season, Large green fruits. One of three most popular cultivars of the mid-century, is still found commercially. Taste fairly good, skin bitter.
  • Reinecke Commercial - Origin San Diego, Calif., John M. Reinecke. Fruit irregular in shape, weighing about 5 ounces. Skin attractive golden-orange when ripe. Flavor good, seeds moderate in number. Has excellent keeping qualities, and even if picked prematurely will soften and become fairly good eating. Tree is a relatively poor yielder.
  • Stickley - Origin La Mesa, Calif., Stickley 1967. Seedling of Vernon,less alternate in bearing. Broad vigorous tree. Fruit yellow-green, quite sweet, uniformly large. Ripens very early, sweet even if harvested immature. Keeps well when soft.
  • Suebelle - Origin Encinitas, Calif., Susan Hubbell, 1931. Syn. Hubbell. The best known cv of sapote, still not surpassed in performance by others; common in nurseries. A distinct cv., Neysa was commonly sold as Suebelle from 1955-65. True Suebelle fruit is variable in size, usually small, yellow, asymmetrical, sweet. Pick when soft. Bears nearly year-round. Tree medium, for home culture.
  • Vernon - Origin Vista, Calif., Wells Miller, 1953. A mature tree found by him and may prove to be another, older cv. Tree large, rounded, vigorous but medium height. Fruit green, round oblate; flesh white, not becoming bitter when over-ripe. Alternate bearing, over the winter months. Performs well in northern California. Difficult to graft.
  • Wilson - Origin Monrovia, Calif., W. C. Wilson, 1927. Introduced then by Armstrong Nurseries and still found in collections. Tree productive, fruit flattened, flavor good, poor keeper.
  • Mac's Golden - Origin Carlsbad, Calif., Charles Ramsey, 1932 A wooly-leaf sapote (C. tetrameria). Fruit large, yellow with deeper-colored flesh. The best, and least yellow, of the matasanos, preferred by some, with characteristic aroma. Elongated oval, few seeds.


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