Neesberries can be grafted

Know your islands


Neesberry (Manilkara zapota)

Although neesberry seeds can be used for propagation and are used for selection of superior types, they should not be used for home plantings.

Marcottage (air layering) has not been an effective propagation method.

Side veneer and cleft grafting on to seedling rootstock are the most common grafting methods. Scions or bud sticks are chosen from young terminal shoots.

Cover the grafted scions completely with grafting tape. The best time to graft is late summer and early fall. The following is taken from Wild Trees in the Cayman Islands by Fred Burton, with illustrations by Penny Clifford; Photographs by Paul Watler.


Manilkara zapota

The Neesberry, or ‘Naseberry’, grows to a tall, well-shaped tree with dark leaves clustering at the ends of often drooping branch tips. The dark brown bark is colonized by grey and orange lichens, and has deep vertical fissures, crossed horizontally by cracks to give a rectangular pattern.

The fruits are brown, with a rough surface: they are quite hard until ripe, by which time they are eagerly pecked open by a variety of birds by day, and devoured by fruit bats at night. Ripe fruits have a soft but grainy textured pulp containing several large, glossy black seeds. The fully ripe pulp is sweet and edible. The leaves are one traditional ingredient of a tea to treat common colds.

Bark, leaves, an unripe fruits all exude a milky white latex if cut or broken’ this is the substance collected by the chicleros of Central America, who tap the latex from this and several related trees to make Chiclê, the raw material for chewing gum.

Neesberry is native to Central America and perhaps some of the Greater Antilles: it was probably planted in Cayman soon after the first settlers arrived, and now grows wild in all three islands, in forests where there is soil.

Grow Cayman Plants and encourage Cayman Wildlife! For more information, to share your knowledge or if you would like to get involved with the many activities in the National Trust’s Know Your Islands Program, please visit, or call 949-0121.The weekly column from the National Trust is submitted by Marnie Laing, Education Programs Manager at the Trust.

Last week’s answer: The name of a young red mangrove seedling is a propagule.

Trivia question: What is the great maritime tragedy known as that took place in 1794 off Grand Cayman?

Look for the answer in next week’s feature!