SCIENTIFIC NAME: Casimiroa edulis
FAMILY: Rutaceae

We bought our White Sapote tree (native to Central America) in Nov. 1977 at Avondale Nursery in Cairns. It was about nine inches high in the pot, and would have been only a few month old from seed.

The area where we planted the tree had just been cleared of lantana and trees. The spot was well-drained, sunny and good soil and a lot of logs had been burned just previously to planting our White Sapote tree.

The tree grew rapidly, straight up, to about six feet. At this height, we pinched out the top to encourage the tree to branch. It turned into a better-looking tree. To fertilize it, we gave it chook manure, and meat and bone meal, watered at about two-weekly intervals and applied an occasional leaf spray of trace elements and a seaweed liquid.

We also mulched the tree with a grass mulch, keeping the roots cool in summer. However, during the Jan 1979 flood we found the White Sapote dying. We were told to scrape away the mulch and bare some of the roots, as it does not like wet feet. By baring a small amount of the roots we managed to save the tree.

For a long time, the tree did not show any signs of improvement until September, 1979, when it shot off and it is now 15' high and about 8' across and very handsome.

Its branches are very open, with a whitish rough bark, and the leaves are glossy with a palmate compound.

We discovered to our excitement the White Sapote's first flowers in June, 1980. They appeared in small clusters, rather like a male papaya tree before they open, but on a smaller scale. The cluster of small greenish-yellow flowers open at different intervals and they seem to pollinate easily, as small round, green fruit have now appeared. We do not know as yet whether this first set will hold until mature.

The tree seems to enjoy a slightly cooler climate where the lowest temperature we have recorded was 3°C on the grass. It seems to have a good cold tolerance. The branches are very brittle, as kookaburra perched on quite a large branch and snapped it off. We had to doctor this by cutting the torn branch level with the main trunk and daubed the wound with some fungicide, copperoxy mixed with water to a paste.

By the book, the fruit should take six months to mature, so we will be waiting anxiously to taste it. Note the first flowers appeared approximately three years from seed.

The one fruit managed to reach about the size of an egg in December 1980. The skin of the fruit turned slightly yellow-green and this was when we picked it. To our excitement, the taste was excellent. The white sapote has the texture of an avocado and to us, it tasted like custard apple-flavoured avocado. This fruit had one seed. Our one regret was that there were not many more of them.

We would say that the estimate of six months to fruit maturity is correct. The book also mentioned withholding water while the tree is dormant, or fruiting will be scarce. We did this.

We think the reason why a lot of the fruit fell off is because we did not give the tree enough water when the fruit first set. We hope the next flowering, which we expect in June 1981, will be more prolific and that more fruit reach maturity.

DATE: September 1980

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