Casimiroa edulis

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Related Links
Casimiroa edulis specimen at the Nairobi Arboretum, Kenya.
© AFT team
Fruit cluster
© Trade winds fruit
Near-ripe fruit cluster
© Trade winds fruit
White sapote tree
© Trade winds fruit

Local names:
English (white zapote,white sapote,mexican sapote,Mexican apple,casimiroa), Spanish (zapote blanco,matasano,chapote)

Casimiroa edulis is an evergreen tree to 18 m tall, with spreading, often drooping branches and a broad leafy crown. Bark light-grey, thick and  warty.

Leaves palmately compound, alternate, digitate; stipules absent; petiole 5-9.5 cm, finely pubescent; leaflets sessile or subsessile, 3-7, elliptic, ovate or broadly ovate, 4.5-12 cm long, 1-5 cm wide, apex acuminate, retuse or occasionally rounded, base cuneate, margins subserrate, bright green, glabrous or with scattered pubescence on the veins, vennation pinnate, anastomising at the margins.

Inflorescence paniculate; flowers odourless, small, regular, unisexual, 5-merous, hermaphrodite or occasionally unisexual because of aborted stigmas. Sepals lacinate, hirsute; petals greenish-yellow, 3-7 mm long; stamens 5, filaments subulate, thickening at the base; ovary superior, 5-celled, stigma sessile, lobate.

Fruit yellowish-green, spherical or ovoid drupe, irregular and knobby, with rough, pitted skin, often with gritty particles in the flesh, 6-10 cm in diameter, smooth, pulp sweet.

Seeds oval and wedged, usually 1-6/fruit, 18-23 mm long.

The woolly-leaved white sapote, often called C. tetrameria may be only a variant of C. edulis. It usually has 5 leaflets, larger and thicker than those of C. edulis and velvety-white on the underside, and all the parts of the flowers are in 4's.

A number of varieties are described some of these may actually be chance hybrids. Some have been named and propagated: 'Blumenthal', 'Chapman', 'Coleman', 'Dade', 'Flournoy', 'Galloway', 'Gillespie', 'Golden' or 'Max Golden', 'Johnston's Golden', 'Harvey', 'Lenz', 'Lomita', 'Maechtlen', 'Maltby' or 'Nancy Maltby', 'Nies', 'Page', 'Parroquia', 'Pike', 'Sarah Jones', 'Suebelle', or 'Hubbell', 'Walton', 'Whatley', 'Wilson', 'Wood', 'Yellow'.


The white sapote occurs in subtropical deciduous woodlands and low forests. It occurs both wild and cultivated in central Mexico but is planted in Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, South America, the Bahamas, the West Indies, parts of the Mediterranean region, India, Philippines. It is fairly drought tolerant.

Native range
Bahamas, Costa Rica, Guatemala, India, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Philippines, South Africa, United States of America

Tree management

In California, the young trees are cut back to 0.9 m when planted out, in order to encourage low-branching. As the branches elongate, some pruning is done to induce lateral growth. Fertilizer formulas should vary with the nature of the soil, but, in general, procedures suitable for citrus trees apply to the white sapote. Many white sapote trees have received little or no care and yet have been long-lived. White sapote are fairly drought-resistant. 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 must be clipped from the branches leaving a short piece of stem attached. This stub will fall off naturally when the fruits become eating-ripe. If plucked by hand, the fruits will separate from the stem if given a slight twist but they will soon show a soft bruised spot at the stem-end which quickly spreads over much of the fruit, becoming watery and decayed. If picked just a few days before fully ripe and ready to fall, the fruits turn soft quickly but they can be picked several weeks in advance of the falling stage and most will develop full flavor. 'Pike', however, if picked a month early, will take 2 weeks to ripen and will be substandard in flavor. Fruits that have ripened on hand will keep in good condition in the home refrigerator for at least 2 weeks. Fruits from commercial orchards are wrapped individually to retard full ripening, packed in wooden boxes, and well-padded for transportation under refrigeration.

The white sapote occurs in subtropical deciduous woodlands and low forests. It occurs both wild and cultivated in central Mexico but is planted in Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, South America, the Bahamas, the West Indies, parts of the Mediterranean region, India, Philippines. It is fairly drought tolerant.

White sapotes are commonly grown from seeds and seedlings usually begin to bear in 7-8 years. Grafting is a common practice in California and Florida in midsummer. Seedlings of 'Pike', being vigorous growers, are preferred as rootstock. Shield-budding and side-grafting in spring onto stocks up to 3/4 in (2 cm) thick give good results. Cleft grafts and slot grafts are made on larger rootstocks and when topworking mature trees. Grafted trees start bearing in 3-4 years. Commercial growers in New Zealand have had success with air-layers. Cuttings are very difficult to root.

Poison: The seed is said to be fatally toxic if eaten raw by humans or animals. Extractions from the kernels are an attractive and lethal bait for American cockroaches, having the advantage of killing on the spot rather than at some distance after ingestion of the poison.

  The fruit is edible and is used in Mexico and El Salvador as dessert. The flavour is sweet with a hint or more of bitterness and sometimes distinctly resinous.

Timber: The wood is yellow, fine-grained, compact, moderately dense and heavy, medium strong and resistant, but not durable for long. It is occasionally employed in carpentry and for domestic furniture in Central America.

Shade or shelter:  They are planted as shade for coffee plantations in Central America. 

Medicine:  For many years, extracts from the leaves, bark, and especially the seeds have been employed in Mexico as sedatives, soporifics and tranquilizers. The fruit is considered medicinal, the ancient Nahuatl name for the fruits "cochiztzapotl" is translated "sleepy sapote" or "sleep-producing sapote". Eating the fruit produces drowsiness and it is widely claimed in Mexico and Central America that consumption of the fruit relieves the pains of arthritis and rheumatism. The fruit is also reportedly vermifugal. The narcotic property of the seeds was first identified as an alkaloid by Dr. Jesus Sanchez of Mexico in his thesis, 'Breve estudio sobre la almendra del zapote blanco' in 1893 many years later the alkaloidal glycoside casimirin was related with the soporific activity. Since then a number of other substances especially alkaloids have been identified e.g. casimiroine, casimiroedine, the main seed alkaloid, casimiroedine, represents 0.143% content. Crushed and roasted seeds are effective in healing putrid sores. In Costa Rica, the leaf decoction is taken as a treatment for diabetes. Vasodepressive activity of the white sapote is attributed to Na-dimethy-1-histamine, formerly found in nature only in the sponge, Geodia gigas.

Ornamental:  White sapote trees often are grown strictly as ornamentals in California.