Pouteria campechiana



Pouteria campechiana

(Kunth) Baehni 1942

pronounced: poh-TER-ee-uh cam-petch-ee-AH-nuh

(Sapotaceae — the sapote family)


common names: canistel, yellow sapote, egg-yolk fruit

Pouteria is latinized from the Guiana vernacular name pourama-pouteri; campechiana means ‘from Campeche, Mexico’.

This is an evergreen, erect, slender tree from southern Mexico and Central America, found in moist or wet mixed forest, often on limestone. It is cultivated in many other tropical countries for its fruit. It has a spreading form, is generally not more than 8 m tall, but can reach a height of 30 m given the right conditions. It is usually found at altitudes of less than 1400 m. It is now mainly found as a cultivated tree, but has become naturalized in places like the Florida Keys (where it has become invasive), the Bahamas and Cuba. The diameter of the trunk can reach 1 m. The bark is brown, furrowed with abundant white gummy latex. The young branches are velvety brown.

The young tree photographed is in the garden of exotic fruits at Magnetic Island State School.

The leaves are alternate, though mainly grouped at the branch ends; they are thin, glossy and petiolate. Their shape ranges from oblanceolate, oblong-lanceolate to obovate. The apices are bluntly pointed, while the bases are sharply tapered.

The flowers are bisexual, solitary or in small clusters, and fragrant. They are borne at the leaf axils or at leafless nodes, and are 5- or 6-lobed, cream coloured, silky hairy, and about 1 cm long.

The fruits are highly variable in shape, depending on the cultivar, from nearly spherical to somewhat ovoid, oval, or spindle-shaped. They may or may not have a pointed apex or curved beak. They are often bulged on one side. The fruit has a 5-pointed calyx at the base, which may be rounded or have a distinct depression. The size of the fruit is from about 7.5 – 12.5 cm long by 5 – 7.5 cm wide. When unripe, it is green, hard, and gummy inside, then turns to lemon-yellow, golden-yellow or orange-yellow as it ripens. The skin of the ripe fruit is smooth and glossy, sometimes with brown roughed patches. The flesh is yellow and firm, becoming softer towards the seeds, and looking rather like the yolk of hard-boiled egg.

There are up to 6 hard seeds, near-oval, glossy and chestnut brown, except for the straight or curved ventral end, which is dull light brown to greyish white. Both ends of the seed are sharp. The seeds lose viability quickly, and should be planted within a few days of being removed from the fruit. Seedlings grow rapidly, and will often produce fruit in 3 – 4 years.

The fruit is eaten with condiments, including salt and pepper, either fresh or after light baking. The flesh may be puréed and used in custards and ice creams. It can be made into jam and pancakes, and can also be dehydrated and reduced to a nutritional powder.

A decoction of the astringent bark is used in Mexico to reduce fevers, and to treat skin infections. The seeds are used in the treatment of ulcers.

The timber from the tree is valued, being fine-grained, compact, strong and hard, and is especially suitable for planks and rafters in construction. The heartwood is greyish brown to reddish brown, blending into the lighter-coloured sapwood.


Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photograph of fruit by Augustus Binu, via Wikimedia Commons, shown temporarily until the local tree fruits
Photographed in Nelly Bay 2018
Page last updated 19th March 2019