FLIP: Florida Invasive Plants

Manilkara zapota

Common Name(s): Sapodilla


Mexico and Central America

Ecological Impact

The dense, thick, evergreen canopy formed by these trees may interfere with native species’ growth by reducing sunlight in the various vegetative layers (J. Duquesnel, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Park Service, Key Largo FL, 1996 pers. comm.). Also produces significant amounts of fleshy fruit that may alter interactions within animal communities (J. Duquesnel, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Park Service, Key Largo FL, 1996 pers. comm.).


Evergreen or semi-deciduous tree to 18 m (60 ft) tall with a dense, elongate crown, dark brown rough or furrowed bark, pubescent new growth, and sticky, white latex; may buttress slightly at base and form surface roots. Leaves alternate, simple, elliptic, dark green, glossy, to 14 cm (5.5 in) long and 5 cm (2 in) wide, clustered at branch tips; margins entire, bases long tapering to the petiole or slightly rounded, tips blunt. Flowers small, white or cream colored, fragrant, bisexual, solitary, long stalked in leaf axils; 6 hairy sepals (3 inner and 3 outer), 6 stamens. Fruit a large, brown, globose to elliptic berry to 10 cm (4 in) across, scruffy until ripe and becoming smooth skinned, with yellowish, translucent, sweet, edible pulp; containing up to 10 shiny, black seeds, each with one white margin (Cherry & Langeland 2008).

Identification Tips

Differs from the south Florida native wild dilly, M. bahamensis, which has smaller fruit (to 4 cm) and dull, gray green leaves (Cherry & Langeland 2008).


Introduced as a fruit crop as early as 1883 (Gordon and Thomas 1997), cultivated in Florida Keys by early 1900s (Fairchild 1938), and escaped into Florida’s flora in “hammocks, old fields, Everglade Keys and Florida Keys” by 1933 (Small 1933).


Herbarium specimens documented from Broward, Collier, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach counties (Wunderlin and Hansen 2002). Dense monocultures reported from Everglades National Park and scattered trees found in Biscayne National Park, Deering Estate, and Long Key State Park (FLEPPC 2002).

Management Strategies

Hand pull seedlings. Basal bark: 10%-20% Garlon® 4, larger trees may require several applications. Cut stump: 50% Garlon® 3A (Langeland, Ferrell, and Sellers 2011).


Most photos courtesy of the Atlas of Florida Plants; click for additional plant details.

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Florida Invasive Plants