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Morton, J. 1987. Sansapote. p. 113–114. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.


Licania platypus

A fruit held in rather low esteem, the sansapote, Licania platypus Fritsch (syn. Moquilea platypus Hemsl.), of the family Chrysobalanaceae, is often called sonzapote, sunzapote, sungano, zapote cabelludo, sapote or sangre in Costa Rica and El Salvador; sonzapote in Nicaragua; zapote amarillo, zapote borracho, zapote cabello, zapote de mico, zapote de mono, mesonsapote, mezonzapote, cabeza de mico, or caca de niño in Mexico; sonza, sunza, zunza, chaute jolobob in Guatemala; urraco in Honduras; chupa in Colombia; monkey apple in Belize.

Fig 31: The sansapote, photographed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture plant explorers, Cook, Collins and Doyle, at Nicoya, Costa Rica, in 1903. Published in Henry Pittier's New or Noteworthy Plants from Colombia and Central America #3 (Contribution of the U.S. National Herbarium Vol. 13, Part 12), the Smithsonian Institution; 1912.

The handsome tree is erect, stately, reaching 100 to 160 ft (30-50 m) in height; has a rounded crown of thick branches, heavily foliaged, and dark purplish or brown bark dotted with tiny white or reddish-white lenticels. It is sometimes slightly buttressed. The deciduous leaves are alternate, occasionally spiraled, elliptic- to narrow-lanceolate, pointed at both ends; 4 to 12 in (10-30 cm) long, 1 1/4 to 3 1/2 in (3-9 cm) wide, with thick midrib, indented above and prominent beneath. New foliage is bronze or red-purple and very showy. The abundant, fragrant flowers, in broad terminal, branched panicles 4 to 14 in (10-35 cm) long, are small and densely hairy with recurved petals and numerous protruding stamens. Only 1 to 3 fruits develop from each particle. The obovoid or pyriform. fruit, 5 to 8 in (13-20 cm) long, 4 to 5 1/2 in (10-14 cm) wide, has a thin, dark-brown or reddish, warty rind covered with white lenticels. The flesh, somewhat pumpkin-scented, is yellow or orange-yellow, soft, fibrous, dry or juicy and of subacid or sweet flavor. Usually there is a single rounded or ovate-oblong, flattened seed, 2 3/8 to 4 in (6-10 cm) long.

Origin and Distribution

The sansapote grows wild in dense forests from southern Mexico to Panama, on both coasts, and also in northern Colombia. It is much planted as an ornamental and shade tree throughout Central America. It was introduced into the Philippines in the early 1900's and into Hawaii only about 25 years ago. In the spring of 1913, the United States Department of Agriculture received seeds from the Department of Agriculture in San José, Costa Rica (S.P.I. #34915). In November of the same year, seeds of a small-fruited type from the Pacific Coast and a large-fruited type from the Atlantic slope were received from the same source (S.P.I. #36590). Another introduction was made from Colombia in 1916 (S.P.I. #42991).

Few of the trees planted in southern Florida have survived. Several young specimens have died at the Fairchild Tropical Garden. One at the Subtropical Horticulture Research Station, Miami, has bloomed several times after rains but has not fruited. William Whitman obtained seeds from the Ministry of Agriculture, El Salvador, in 1957. One tree grew well, suffered severe hurricane damage in 1964, recovered, bloomed in late 1969 and, in the summer of 1970, produced a dozen fruits; over 100 in 1971. The fruits are not highly regarded in Central America but are sold in native markets. Tapirs and peccaries feast on those that are left on the ground.


This is a tropical species limited to low elevations–not more than 2,000 ft (600 m) above sea-level.


According to Pennington, the tree blooms from July to September in Mexico and the fruits ripen from August to December. Perhaps he means of the following year. In Costa Rica and Honduras the fruit is said to take a year to develop to maturity. In Florida, one tree bloomed in November and the first fruits ripened 9 months later and the season extended from summer to fall.

Food Uses

The fruit is eaten raw when better fruits are not available. According to Standley, it has the reputation of being unwholesome, causing fever and other illnesses.

Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*

Moisture 64.6-67.4 g
Protein 0.230-0.291 g
Fat 0.26-0.49 g
Fiber 0.9-2.5 g
Ash 0.96-1.61 mg
Calcium 10.5-33.2 mg
Phosphorus 24.5-29.1 mg
Iron 0.52-1.70 mg
Carotene 0.157-0.273 mg
Thiamine 0.005-0.16 mg
Riboflavin 0.013-0.027 mg
Niacin 1.466-1.530 mg
Ascorbic Acid 11.0-35.6 mg
*According to analyses made in Costa Rica and El Salvador.

Other Uses

The sapwood is pale-yellow or light yellowish-brown; the heartwood is purplish-brown or reddish, fine-grained, very heavy and strong, suitable for fine furniture and cabinetwork, but it is not durable in contact with the ground. It is little-known inasmuch as the trees are valued and seldom felled. Related species provide timber for construction and charcoal. The seeds of L. rigida Benth. yield oiticica oil, much like tung oil.