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Sapodilla Family

Pouteria calistophylla (Standl.) Baehni, a tree in the Sapotaceae. Note the unusual narrowing of the petiole below the leaf base. Un árbol. Note que el pecíolo es más estrecho antes de unirse con la lámina.

Description: A family of trees with white latex and simple, alternate, entire leaves. The petioles are narrowest just before the junction with the leaf blade, a rare character. Many species have two-branched hairs similar to those of Malpighiaceae, though again these may be hard to see. The intersecondary veins tend to be fine and parallel. Sapotaceae are easy to identify to family and notoriously difficult to identify to genus or species. Most of the species are differentiated only by reproductive characters, and some trees in this family can go decades without fruiting!

Economic uses: Manilkara zapota (known as zapote or zapote Colombiano) and several Chrysophyllum species have edible fruits. The Amazonian species Manilkara bidentata is a timber tree, and its resin was used to manufacture chewing gum before synthetic substitutes were found.

Descripción: Una familia de árboles con savia blanca y hojas simples, alternas, y enteras. El pecíolo es más estrecho justo antes de unirse con la lámina, una característica poco común. Muchas especies tienen pelos en forma de “T,” similares a los de las Malpighiaceas, aunque a veces no es facil verlos. Las venas secundarias usualmente son finas y paralelas. Las Sapotaceas son fáciles de reconocer como una familia, pero los géneros y las especies son notablemente difíciles de separar. Muchas especies sólo se distingue por características reproductivas, y ¡algunas árboles en esta familia pueden pasar décadas sin que fructifiquen!

Usos económicos: Los frutos de Manilkara zapota (zapote o zapote colombiano) y unas especies de Chrysophyllum son comestibles. Manilkara bidentata, una especie amazónica, es maderable, y produce una resina que era usada para producir chicle antes que se descubriera el sustituto sintético.

Genera/species at La Selva: 3/15: Chryosophyllum (3), Pouteria (11), Pradosia (1).

FIELD MARKS – alternate, simple obovate leaves grouped at ends of twigs, sympodial branching, white latex.

Obovate leaves (shaped like an upside down egg) clustered at branch tips and sympodial branching. Sympodial branching occurs when the apical meristem ceases to function and a new stem forms below the old one, forming a pattern of repeated loops resembling a child’s drawing of waves on the ocean.
Chrysophyllum cainito is widely cultivated and distinguished by leaves that are shiny dark green above and golden brown below. (Note that leaves of this species are not clustered at branch tips.)
Pouteria durlandii. Photo by R. Aguilar courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Pouteria durlandii trunk and sympodial branching. Photo by R. Aguilar courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Sympodial branching and obovate leaves clustered near branch tips are characteristic of Sapotaceae.

< < Previous family: Sapindaceae
Next family: Simaroubaceae > >
How to Examine a PlantPlant Family ListKey to Plant FamiliesTop Ten ListsThe MatrixNavigation Bar.jpg