The White sapote tree can grow from 15 to 60 feet in height, but can be pruned to any size and can be grown in a planter. It has thick, light-gray bark that has wart-like growths on it. The branches are usually long, and they hang downward. The sapote's evergreen leaves grow in an alternate manner and are palmately compound. Each leaf has three to seven lanceolate leaflets. These leaflets can be smooth or hairy on the underside.
They do produce an odorless flower which is greenish-yellow. Each flower has four to five parts, and they are found on panicles, terminal and axillary. Due to aborted stigmas these flowers are sometimes unisexual. Otherwise they are hermaphroditic, meaning both male and female sexual organs are located on the flower.
The fruit, which is usually produced in the autumn, is usually oval in shape, either symmetrical or irregular. Each one is between two and one-half and four and one-half inches wide, about the size of an apple, and between four and five inches long. The skin is thin and can be green, yellow or golden. This skin is inedible. The flesh of the white sapote is creamy-white or yellow, and it has many small yellow oil glands. The texture is very smooth. The sapote fruit tastes sweet with a touch of bitterness. Inside the fruit there can be between one and six hard white seeds, about one to two inches long. These seeds have a bitter taste and are known to be narcotic. Some of the white sapote trees produce fruit year-round.
When planted from seed, these trees produce fruit after approximately eight years. This plant prefers to be planted in well-draining soil that is slightly acidic. It will also thrive if it is exposed to partial to full sun with some afternoon shade in warmer areas.
Origin and distribution
The white sapote is native to central Mexico; however, it has successfully been planted in areas in Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica, as well as areas in northern South America, the Bahamas, West Indies, India and Mediterranean areas.
It has shown commercial success when planted in Gisborne in New Zealand and in areas of South Africa.
In 1810, Franciscan monks introduced the white sapote to California, where it is still grown in limited quantity. Its popularity in this area, as well as Florida, has fallen, mainly due the attraction that it has to fruit flies. Today it is mainly grown in these areas by collectors.