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Invasive - Central, South
Not a problem species (un-documented) - North

Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla1

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Deborah R. Hilbert, and Drew C. McLean 2


A superb shade, street (where falling fruit will not be a problem), or fruit tree, sapodilla reaches a height of 60 feet with a 45-foot spread. The smooth, dark, and glossy, five-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. Full Form - Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla
Figure 1.  Full Form - Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla
Credit: UF/IFAS

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)

Origin: native to Mexico and Central America

UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: invasive and not recommended (Central, South); not considered a problem species at this time, may be recommended (North)

Uses: hedge; shade; fruit; street without sidewalk; specimen; highway median; screen

Figure 2. Range
Figure 2.  Range


Height: 40 to 60 feet

Spread: 35 to 45 feet

Crown uniformity: symmetrical

Crown shape: pyramidal, round

Crown density: dense

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: coarse


Leaf arrangement: alternate but appears whorled near branch tips

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: elliptic

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen

Leaf blade length: 2 to 5 inches

Leaf color: emerge pinkish and then turn dark green on top and paler green underneath

Fall color: no color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. Leaf - Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla
Figure 3.  Leaf - Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla
Credit: UF/IFAS


Flower color: cream-colored

Flower characteristics: not showy; bell-shaped; fragrant; emerges solitary or in clusters from leaf axils near branch tips

Flowering: year-round

Figure 4. Flower - Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla
Figure 4.  Flower - Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla
Credit: UF/IFAS


Fruit shape: round to oval

Fruit length: 2 to 4 inches

Fruit covering: scurfy; fleshy berry

Fruit color: brown

Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Fruiting: ripens in spring and summer

Figure 5. Fruit - Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla
Figure 5.  Fruit - Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla
Credit: UF/IFAS

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: branches don't droop; showy; typically one trunk; no thorns

Bark: light brown and striated, becoming dark brown and deeply furrowed with age

Pruning requirement: little required

Breakage: resistant

Current year twig color: green, brown

Current year twig thickness: medium

Wood specific gravity: unknown

Figure 6. Bark - Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla
Figure 6.  Bark - Manilkara zapota: Sapodilla
Credit: Gitta Hasing, UF/IFAS


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, sapodilla 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.


Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.


1. This document is ENH564, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

IFAS Assessment

Central, South


Invasive and not recommended by IFAS. Will be reassessed every 10 years. Specified and limited uses may be considered by the IFAS Invasive Plants Working Group

view assessment

IFAS Assessment


Not a problem species (un-documented)

Not considered a problem species at this time. May be recommended by IFAS. Reassessed every 10 years.

view assessment

Publication #ENH564

Release Date:April 29, 2019

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Part of Southern Trees Fact Sheets

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    • Andrew Koeser