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
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.
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© 2000 BGCII Page posted March 2004