Manilkara zapota, commonly called Sapodilla or the Chicle Tree is found in the Sapotaceae family. This tree can grow to heights of 9 to 30 meters. When cut into, the bark of the Sapodilla tree oozes a sticky, white, gummy sap called ‘chicle‘, a substance from which chewing gum is made.
Tucker Greenhouse’s ‘Chiclet Gum tree’ is located in the tropical greenhouse on the west side of the room, right next to the pond. Our specimen is a very small tree, with inconspicuous flowers. The flowers were so inconspicuous that I never even saw the blooms. What drew my attention to this tree were the large kiwi-like fruits hanging from its upper branches. The Chicle Tree/Sapodilla is native to Mexico and Central America. The kiwi-like fruit is a berry containing five seeds. The fruit flesh is pale yellow to brown and tastes a lot like a pear.
The history of the harvesting of ‘chicle’ is very interesting, and people have been harvesting it for hundreds if not thousands of years. Mayan and Aztec Indians harvested chicle in pre-Columbian times. I was curious about how this was done, so I found this video of a ‘chiclero‘ or chicle harvester
The two photos below are of sapodilla fruit and leaves. Unfortunately, no pictures of flowers though.