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Publication #ENH564

Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2


A superb shade, street (where falling fruit will not be a problem), or fruit tree, Sopadilla reaches a height of 45 feet with a 40-foot spread. The smooth, dark, and glossy, six-inch-long evergreen leaves are clustered at the tips of twigs and the small, cream-colored solitary flowers appear in the leaf axils throughout the year. The four-inch-wide, scurfy brown fruits have a juicy, sweet, yellow-brown flesh and ripen to softness in spring and summer. The flower-to-fruit period is about ten months. The bark and branches, when injured, bleed a white latex which is the source of chicle, the original base for chewing gum. The trunk on older specimens is flaky and quite attractive, and flares at the base into numerous surface roots.

Figure 1. 

Mature Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla


R.A. Howard @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Manilkara zapota
Pronunciation: man-ill-KAR-uh zuh-POE-tuh
Common name(s): Sapodilla
Family: Sapotaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Figure 2)
Figure 2. 


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: According to the IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas (IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group 2008), Manilkara zapota is invasive and not recommended in the central and south zone in Florida (to see if any exceptions for specified and limited use have been approved since publication, check the Conclusions Table at: It is not considered a problem species and may be recommended in the north zone in Florida (counties listed by zone at:
Uses: hedge; shade; fruit; street without sidewalk; specimen; highway median; screen
Availability: not native to North America


Height: 40 to 45 feet
Spread: 35 to 45 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: pyramidal, round
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: coarse


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Figure 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: elliptic (oval), oblong
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen
Leaf blade length: 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Flower color: white/cream/gray
Flower characteristics: not showy


Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: 3 to 6 inches
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: brown
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don't droop; showy; typically one trunk; thorns
Pruning requirement: little required
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: green, brown
Current year twig thickness: medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: high


Roots: can form large surface roots
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Requiring full sun for best growth and form, Sopadilla is a tough tree tolerating a variety of poor soils but will grow better on well-drained soils. It has a good salt tolerance and is very drought and wind-resistant, enduring hurricanes very well. Thinning the very dense crown will help to increase grass and other plant growth beneath the crown and increase wind tolerance. These traits make it ideal for seaside locations. The trunk and roots grow quite large on older specimens, so locate no closer than about eight to ten feet from sidewalks and curbs. It makes a superb specimen tree for a large residential landscape or commercial landscape.

A central trunk often develops with little training. It dominates the young tree forming a pyramidal-shaped canopy. Improper pruning practices such as topping, forms many clustered leaders and can shorten the life of the tree.

Superior fruit cultivars are available: `Prolific', `Brown Sugar', `Modello', and `Russel'. Manilkara bahamensis, the Wild Dilly, is native to the Florida Keys and has less desirable fruit.

Propagation is usually by seed, with superior varieties being veneer-grafted.


Scales and fruit flies occasionally cause problems. Seedlings develop in the landscape where they could become a slight weed problem.

Literature Cited

Fox, A.M., D.R. Gordon, J.A. Dusky, L. Tyson, and R.K. Stocker. 2008. IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas: Status Assessment. Cited from the Internet (November 16, 2012),



This document is ENH-564, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised February 2013. Reviewed June 2016. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.