The Canistel or Egg Fruit

by Gene Joyner, Extension Agent I

IFAS Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service

The canistel, Pouteria campechiana, is a large open-growing evergreen tree native to Central America. Under Florida conditions it usually obtains a height of about thirty to forty feet with about an equal width and has light to dark green leaves four to eight inches long with prominent veins.

Leaves or branches, if cut, have a clear, milky sap which is an easy way of identification of this tree. Small greenish-white flowers in small clusters are produced from late spring through early fall and the fruits mature primarily September through March.

Fruits are bright orange and may be oblong or almost round, but usually most have a point at one end. Size can vary from two and a half to as much as five inches in diameter. Flesh color is bright orange or pumpkin-colored with a dry to moist consistency depending on the variety. Flesh is eaten fresh and also used for pies, milk shakes and ice cream. The color of the flesh often reminds one of the color of an egg yolk which gives it one of its common names, egg fruit.

Trees prefer protected areas since they are cold-sensitive, particularly when small, and should be protected from frost or freeze. Large trees will suffer severe damage at about 28°F. Trees grow quickly, often three to four feet a year, and prefer slightly acid soils for best growth. On highly alkaline soils, micronutrient deficiencies may occur which may require treatment with nutritional sprays. Salt tolerance is fair to good with this tree, but it should be protected from really exposed areas close to salt water.

Trees are propagated easily from seed; however, superior varieties are usually grafted or airlayered. Seedling trees may take two years or more to begin production, while grafted or airlayered trees usually provide fruit the next season.

Occasional problems such as scale insects may affect trees, but usually these are not serious enough to kill it.

Nurseries that deal in tropical fruits may have improved varieties, however, there are few named varieties available at the present time. Most selections have been made from seedlings by individual growers and some have been propagated by nurseries under local names.


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