1. Sapotaceae Juss.

    1. This family is accepted.


Sapotaceae, H. Heine. Flora of West Tropical Africa 2. 1963

Trees, shrubs, or rarely climbers, often with milky juice
Leaves alternate, entire, leathery; stipules usually absent
Flowers hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, usually small
Calyx 4-8-lobed
Corolla 4-8-lobed, lobes 1-2-seriate, imbricate, sometimes with petaloid external appendages
Stamens inserted on the corolla, the fertile ones equalling the corolla-lobes and opposite to them, or more numerous and 2- or more-seriate; staminodes sometimes present; anthers opening lengthwise
Ovules solitary in each cell, ascending from the inner axil Ovary several-celled, superior; style simple
Fruit 1- many-celled, often a rather hard berry, rarely a capsule
Seeds with a bony, often shining testa, and a large broad hilum; endosperm mostly scanty; embryo large, with small radicle and broad foliaceous cotyledons
Distinguished by the woody habit, alternate leaves without or with caducous stipules, and regular flowers, mostly with petaloid staminodes

Pennington, T.D. (2009). Neotropical Sapotaceae.


Trees, shrubs, rarely geoxylic suffrutices, sometimes spiny Latex nearly always present in trunk , branches and fruit , usually white, rarely yellow. Indumentum of malpighiaceous hairs, rarely mixed with simple hairs.  Stipules present or absent.  Leaves spirally arranged, or alternate and distichous , less frequently opposite or verticillate , simple , entire or very rarely spinous; petiole rarely with a pair of minute stipels near base.  Inflorescence fasciculate ; fascicles usually solitary, axillary , ramiflorous or cauliflorous , or occasionally several arranged along short leafless axillary shoots; fascicle bases sometimes developing into short densely scaly branchlets (brachyblasts) up to several cm long.  Flowers bisexual or unisexual (plant monoecious or dioecious ; calyx a single whorl of 4-6 free or slightly fused, imbricate or quincuncial sepals, or 6-11 sepals in a closely imbricate spiral, or with 2 whorls of (2-)3-4 sepals and then outer whorl valvate or only slightly imbricate ; corolla rotate, cyathiform or tubular, gamopetalous, tube shorter than, equalling or exceeding lobes; lobes 4-6(-9), entire , lobed or partly divided , or divided to base into 3 segments, median segment entire , 2 lateral segments entire , laciniate or shallowly or deeply divided ; stamens 4-6(-12), fixed in corolla tube (upper or lower half) or rarely free , opposite corolla lobes, exserted or included; filaments free or partially fused to staminodes, anthers often extrorse; staminodes 0-6(-9), in a single whorl, alternating with stamens or fixed in corolla lobe sinus , simple or variously lobed , toothed, divided or sometimes petaloid ; disk present as a small annulus, surrounding ovary base, or absent.  Ovary superior , 1-15-locular, loculi usually uniovulate, rarely 2(-5)-ovulate, placentation axile , basi-ventral or basal ; style included or exserted ; style - head simple or minutely lobed Fruit a berry or less frequently a drupe , pericarp leathery or fleshy Seeds 1-several, globose , broadly ellipsoid to strongly laterally compressed , testa usually smooth, shining and free from pericarp , less frequently roughened wrinkled or pitted, and then often adherent to pericarp ; scar adaxial , basi-ventral or basal , narrow or broad or sometimes extending to cover most of seed .  Embryo vertical, oblique or horizontal, with thin foliaceous or thick flat or plano-convex, usually free , cotyledons, radicle included or exserted ; endosperm present or absent.

Distribution in the Neotropics
  • Chromolucuma Ducke.: native, southern Central America, S America (Guianas to Peru).
  • Chrysophyllum L.: native, Mexico to Argentina. West Indies.
  • Diploon Cronq.: native, Venezuela to SE Brazil.
  • Ecclinusa Mart.: native, southern Central America to E Brazil.
  • Elaeoluma Baill.: native, southern Central America to Venezuela and Amazonian Brazil.
  • Manilkara Adans.: native, Mexico to SE Brazil, West Indies.
  • Micropholis (Griseb.) Pierre: native, Mexico to SE Brazil, West Indies.
  • Mimusops L: introduced, occasionally grown as a shade tree.
  • Pouteria Aubl.: native, Mexico to Argentina, West Indies.
  • Pradosia Liais.: native, southern Central America to SE Brazil.
  • Sarcaulus Radlk.: native, southern Central America to E Brazil.
  • Sideroxylon L.: native, Mexico and USA to Argentina, West Indies.
Key differences from similar families

The families listed below differ from Sapotaceae as follows:

  • Ebenaceae: lacks white latex, corolla lobes contorted in bud, stamens usually twice as many as corolla lobes, ovarylocules 2-ovulate, styles distally or completely free, seed coat without hard shiny surface.
  • Lissocarpaceae: lacks white latex, indumentum of simple hairs, inflorescence a cyme, corolla lobes contorted in bud, corolla throat bearing a tubular corona.
  • Symplocaceae: lacks white latex, indumentum of simple hairs, leaf margins serrate or dentate, fruit a drupe.
Notable genera and distinguishing features
  • Chromolucuma: leaves subtended by large stipules, calyx of 5 imbricate sepals, corolla cup-shaped or tubular, stamens included, staminodes present, seed with dull rough testa.
  • Chrysophyllum: stipules absent, calyx of 5 imbricate sepals, corolla cup-shaped to tubular, stamens included, staminodes absent, seed scar lateral (adaxial). Diploon: stipules absent,calyx of 5 imbricate sepals, corolla rotate, stamens exserted, staminodes absent, ovary unilocular with 2 basal ovules, seed with a basal scar.
  • Ecclinusa: stipules present, flowers sessile, calyx of 5 imbricate sepals, staminodes absent, seed scar lateral (adaxial) and extending around the base of the seed.
  • Elaeoluma: stipules absent, leaves usually minutely punctate, calyx of 5 imbricate sepals, corolla cup-shaped to rotate, stamens exserted, staminodes absent, seed scar lateral (adaxial).
  • Manilkara: calyx of 2 whorls of 3 sepals, outer whorl valvate, corolla lobes 6, usually divided into 3 segments, staminodes present, seed scar usually basi-ventral.
  • Micropholis: stipules absent, leaves with numerous fine closely parallel secondary veins, calyx a single whorl of 5 imbricate sepals, corolla cup-shaped or tubular, stamens included or exserted, staminodes present, seed scar lateral (adaxial).
  • Mimusops: calyx of 2 whorls of 4 sepals, outer whorl valvate, corolla lobes 8, divided into 3 segments, staminodes present, seed scar basal.
  • Pouteria: stipules nearly always absent, calyx of 4 or more sepals in a single imbricate whorl, corolla cup-shaped to tubular, stamens included, staminodes present, seed scar lateral (adaxial).
  • Pradosia: stipules absent, leaves often opposite or verticillate, calyx  of 5 imbricate sepals, corolla rotate, stamens exserted, staminodes absent, fruit a drupe, seed scar lateral (adaxial).
  • Sarcaulus: stipules absent, calyx of 5 imbricate sepals, corollaglobose, carnose, staminodes present, scar lateral (adaxial).
  • Sideroxylon: often spiny, calyx a single whorl of 5 imbricate sepals, corolla lobes divided into 3 segments or entire, staminodes present, seed scar basal or basiventral.
Useful tips for generic identification

Key to genera of Neotropical Sapotaceae (including those introduced and naturalized).

1. Calyx of 2 whorls or (2-)3-4 sepals, outer whorl usually valvate; corolla lobes nearly always divided into 3 segments ... 2
1. Calyx a single whorl of 4-6 imbricate or quincuncial sepals, or 6-11 in a closely imbricate spiral; corolla lobes divided into 3 segments or undivided ... 3

2. Calyx of 2 whorls of (2-)3(-4) sepals; seed scar elongate, basi-ventral — Manilkara
2. Calyx of 2 whorls of 4 sepals; seed scar circular or elliptic, usually basal — Mimusops

3. Corolla lobes often divided into 3 segments; stamens exserted; staminodes present, well-developed; seed nearly always with basal or basi-ventral scar — Sideroxylon
3. Corolla lobes simple; stamens included or exserted; staminodes present, but poorly developed, or absent; seed with adaxial scar (sometimes extending around the base) ... 4

4. Stipules present, well-developed, leaving a conspicuous scar ... 5
4. Stipules absent (minute stipules present in Pouteria congestifolia ) ... 6

5. Flowers sessile; staminodes absent; seed smooth, shining; scar usually narrow — Ecclinusa
5. Flowers pedicellate; staminodes present; seed with dull  rough testa; scar broad, covering up to two thirds of seed surface — Chromolucuma

6. Staminodes present, as many as the corolla lobes ... 7
6. Staminodes fewer than corolla lobes or absent ... 9

7. Leaves usually alternate and distichous; venation craspedodromous or brochidodromous, often with secondary and tertiary veins closely parallel and leaf appearing finely striate; seed laterally compressed, with endosperm — Micropholis
7. Leaves usually spirally arranged; venation variable, but not closely parallel and leaves never finely striate; seed shape variable, usually without endosperm... 8

8. Leaves spirally arranged; corolla and staminodes not carnose; stamens nearly always included; stamens and staminodes not inflexed against the style — Pouteria (major part).
8. Leaves alternate and distichous or only weakly spirally arranged; corolla tube and staminodes carnose; stamens exserted; stamens and taminodes strongly inflexed — Sarcaulus

9. Corolla tubular, campanulate or globose, stamens included ... 10
9. Corolla rotate or broadly cyathiform, stamens exserted... 11

10. Ovary usually 2-locular; embryo with plano-convex cotyledons and included radicle, endosperm absent — Pouteria (minor part)
10. Ovary usually 5-locular; embryo with thin foliaceous cotyledons, radicle exserted, copious endosperm — Chrysophyllum

11. Ovary unilocular, locule with 2 basal ovules; seed scar basal or basi-ventral — Diploon
11. Ovary 2-6-locular, loculi uniovulate, ovules axile; seed scar adaxial.

12. Leaves often opposite or verticillate, not punctate; usually cauliflorous or ramiflorous; filaments strongly narrowed below anther insertion; ovary usually 5-locular; fruit a drupe — Pradosia
12. Leaves spirally arranged, usually minutely punctate on lower surface; inflorescence mostly axillary; filaments not strongly narrowed below anther insertion; ovary 2-3(-4)-locular; fruit a berry — Elaeoluma

Other important characters
  • Presence of staminodes alternating with the corolla lobes.
  • Fruit a fleshyberry.
  • Inflorescence a fascicle.
  • Ovarylocules 1-ovulate.
  • Seed with hard shining testa and a conspicuous scar area.
Distinguishing characters (always present)
  • Sticky white latex present in cut bark, twigs or petioles.
  • Indumentum of 2-branched hairs.
  • Actinomorphic gamopetalous corolla with stamens opposite the corolla lobes.
General Description
Number of genera
  • 12 genera in the Neotropics (11 native).
  • One genus (Mimusops) introduced.  Otherwise native.
Notes on delimitation

See APG website: http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/Research/APweb/welcome.html

Important literature

Govaerts, R., Frodin, D.G. & Pennington, T.D. 2001. World Checklist & Bibliography of Sapotaceae, pp. 361. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Pennington, T.D. 1990. Flora Neotropica vol. 52, pp. 770. New York Botanical Garden Press, New York.

Pennington, T.D. 1991. The Genera of Sapotaceae, pp. 295.  Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Pennington, T.D. 2002. Sapotaceae. In: Mori, S.A., Cremers, G., Gracie, C.A., de Granville, J.J., Heald, S.V., Hoff, M. & Mitchell, J.D. (eds.), Guide to the Vascular Plants of Central French Guiana vol. 2, pp. 669-83. New York Botanical Garden Press, New York.

Pennington, T.D. 2004. Sapotaceae. In: Smith, N., Mori, S.A., Henderson, A., Stevenson, D.W. & Heald, S.V. (eds.), Flowering Plants of the Neotropics, pp. 342-344. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton.

Pennington, T.D. 2006. Sapotaceae. Flora da Reserva Ducke, Brasil. Rodriguesia 57 (2): 251-366.

Pennington, T.D. 2007. Sapotaceae. In: Harling, G. & Persson, C. (eds.), Fl. Ecuador No. 152, pp. 195. Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg.

Pennington, T.D. & Edwards, K.S. 2005. Sapotaceae. In: Berry, P.E., Yatskievych, K. and Holst, B.K. (eds.), Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana vol. 9, pp. 89-137. Missouri Botanical Garden, Press, St. Louis.Pool, A. 2001. Sapotaceae. In: Stevens, W.D., C. Ulloa, A. Pool & O.M. Montiel (eds.), Flora de Nicaragua vol. 3. Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 85: 2332-2354.

Sapotaceae, F. K. Kupicha. Flora Zambesiaca 7:1. 1983

Trees and shrubs, very rarely (1 species) a liane, characteristically with latex in all parts; branching pattern often repeatedly subterminal
Indumentum consisting of T–shaped, Y–shaped or medifixed hairs (this is usually apparent only under high magnification; see Tab. 44, fig. 3)
Leaves stipulate or exstipulate, petiolate, alternate or rarely opposite or subopposite (not in FZ area), simple, entire or very rarely dentate (not in FZ area), very often grouped at ends of branches
Flowers actinomorphic, hermaphrodite or rarely female by reduction of stamens, usually solitary or in fascicles in leaf axils or on older wood (occasionally plants cauliflorous), very rarely in racemes (not in FZ area)
Calyx uniSériate, (4) 5 (6)–merous, orbiseriate with 2 + 2, 3 + 3 or 4 + 4 segments, sepals free or shortly united at base
Corolla gamopetalous, the number of lobes equalling that of calyx segments; petals simple or each with two dorsi–lateral petaloid appendages
Stamens oppositipetalous and epipetalous, equalling petals in number or more numerous (not in FZ area), inserted at various levels in the corolla–tube; anthers extrorse or less often introrse, 2–thecous, dehiscing longitudinally
Sterile Parts
Staminodes often present, always inserted on the corolla at the base of the sinus between lobes, equalling corolla–lobes in number
Ovary superior, syncarpous, conical or suborbicular, usually densely hairy, usually with as many locules as calyx segments but sometimes more or fewer; placentation axile; locules uniovulate
Fruit a berry with sticky, often edible, pulp, or rarely a capsule, several–many–seeded or often 1–seeded
Seeds usually ± compressed–ellipsoid to subglobose, with shiny testa; scar basal, lateral or basilateral, varying in shape and size; endosperm copious or ± absent and cotyledons correspondingly thin and leafy or swollen and fleshy

Sapotaceae, J. H. Hemsley. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1968

Trees or shrubs, rarely climbers, generally with milky juice
Leaves alternate, simple, always entire in Africa
Stipules present, often caducous, or absent
Flowers solitary or clustered in the axils or at nodes below, hermaphrodite or rarely ? by reduction of stamens, regular, generally small
Calyx with 4–8 sepals or shortly united lobes in one or two whorls, rarely spiral
Corolla usually cream or white, campanulate to shortly tubular, with 4–8 lobes in 1–2 series and sometimes divided into 3 segments
Stamens as many as the corolla-lobes and opposite them or more numerous and in 2(-several) whorls; staminodes sometimes present between the corolla-lobes, variously developed; anthers 2-thecous, opening lengthwise
Ovary superior, usually 5-many-locular; style simple; ovules solitary in each locule and ascending from the inner angle
Fruit a berry, with a generally thin outer layer and a juicy or mealy (rarely tough and leathery) pulp in which the seeds are embedded, rarely a capsule
Seeds with a generally hard smooth often shiny testa; attachment area (scar) small or large, sometimes covering more than half the surface area, softer, often rough and duller in colour; endosperm either copious on either side of flat foliaceous cotyledons or scanty to absent, with the cotyledons then usually thick and fleshy


Sapotaceae Juss. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Gen. Pl. [Jussieu] 151. 1789 [4 Aug 1789] (1789)

Accepted by

  • APG IV (2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/boj.12385


Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible

Flora Zambesiaca
Flora Zambesiaca

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa

Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2019. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Milliken, W., Klitgard, B. and Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.