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Manilkara zapota (Sapotaceae)
by Mrs. Syazwani Binti Azeman
© Syazwani Azeman

Locally known as ciku in Malay, Manilkara zapota from the family Sapotaceae is a medium-sized tree originally from Central America and Mexico. This tree can be found planted in almost all countries in the tropics, such as India, Africa, the Philippines and Malaysia. In Malaysia, this tree is widely found in Terengganu, Pahang, Perak, Johor and Melaka. It can grow well in hot areas with high humidity (Zawiah & Othaman, 2012).

Since Manilkara zapota is a non-seasonal tree, it flowers and bears fruit all year round. The tree is moderately tall and can reach up to 20 m in its original habitat in the forest. Its canopy is pyramidal when young and somewhat rounded as it matures. Manilkara zapota is a slow-growth tree, hence having shady low branch. The trunk has a rough texture and greyish-black colour with almost the entire part of the tree producing white sap (Jabatan Pertanian Pulau Pinang, 2023).

The leaves are simple, quite thick, shiny and dark green, while the young shoots are brown and rough. They are alternate and spirally arranged at the end of the branch. Matured leaves, 3.5-15 cm long and 1.5-7 cm wide, are ovoid and tapered at the end (National Parks Board Singapore, 2023). The flowers are small (1-1.5 cm) and usually arise from the axils of leaves and sometimes from the tips of twigs. There are six fused petals (1-5 cm) covered with six brown sepals. The fruits are brown, round to oval, measuring 5-10 cm long and 3-8 cm wide. The texture is thin and rough, and the flesh of the ripe fruit is soft, brown, aromatic, sweet and juicy (Zawiah & Othaman, 2012).

Ripe fruit is eaten fresh or processed into drink or juice. This tree is usually cultivated for its fruit, which has commercial potential. According to the IUCN Red List Version 3.1 (2021), this species is categorised as Least Concern (LC).

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