In The Fullerton Arboretum

by Alfredo Chiri

WHITE SAPOTE Casimiroa edulis Rutaceae Var. ‘Hybrid’ donated by: CRFG/Vincent and planted in 1981(r.f.-04) Var. ‘McDill’ donated by: CRFG/Haluza and planted in 1982(r.f.-02) Common names: White sapote, zapote blanco, ahache, matasano

White sapote is a native to Mexico and Central America and occurs in the wild and cultivated areas. The Casimiroa edulis is one of the three species of trees; the other two are woolly-leaved white sapote and the matasano de mico.

White sapote trees range from 15 to 60 feet in height. The trunk has a thick grayish bark with long drooping branches. The leaves are alternated with 3 to 7 lanceolated leaflets that are smooth above, light green, and smooth or hairy on the underside.

The flowers are small and greenish yellow, odorless, and borne in terminal panicles. Flowers are hermaphrodite and occasionally can become unisexual because of some aborted stigmas. There is a variation as to the amount of pollen produced by the seedlings and the grafted cultivars.

Flowers with sterile pollen and lack of cross-pollination are a primary cause of heavy shedding of immature fruits. Bees will alleviate this problem.

The fruit is round, oval or ovoid, thin-skinned and bruises easily. It is from 2-4 inches in diameter and shaped like an apple, light green when unripe, yellowing when ripe. The skin is coated with many tiny yellow oil glands. The flesh is creamy with a sweet flavor, and its color is yellow or white, containing 1 to 6 hard white seeds.

White sapotes are usually found in elevations between 1500-3500 feet.In California, trees do well near the coast where the mean temperature is about 65° F. but poorly when the mean temperature drops to 57° or lower.

White sapotes are commonly grown from seeds. Seedlings begin to bear in 7 to

8 years. Grafting is common practice during midsummer. Rootstock that is preferred for grafting is from the seedlings of the 'Pike' variety.

Propagation from cutting isn't often successful, as they're difficult to root.

Trees will do very well as long there is a good drainage in sandy loam or clay. Trees are fairly drought resistant. The white sapote is not the most desirable lawn tree in spite of its attractive foliage. It has invasive roots and produces many fruits that fall to the ground and make a mess, attracting squirrels, rats, birds, flies and other insects.

When harvesting white sapote fruits, it is recommended to clip the fruit from the branches, leaving a short piece of stem attached. This stub will fall when the fruit becomes eating-ripe. If the fruit is plucked by hand by twisting, soon it will show a soft spot which rapidly will become watery and decayed. The best way to keep the fruit is to freeze it.

Alfredo Chiri

Centro de Technologia Andina

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