Achras nitida Sessé & Moc.
Kaukenia globosa (C.F.Gaertn.) Kuntze
Kaukenia surinamensis (Miq.) Kuntze
Manilkara amazonica (Huber) Standl.
Manilkara balata Dubard
Manilkara darienensis (Pittier) Standl
Manilkara longiciliata Ducke
Manilkara nitida (Sessé & Moc.) Dubard
Manilkara riedleana (Pierre ex Duss) Dubard
Manilkara siqueiraei Ducke
Manilkara surinamensis (Miq.) Dubard
Manilkara williamsii Standl.
Mimusops amazonica Huber
Mimusops balata Crueg. ex Griseb.
Mimusops bidentata A.DC.
Mimusops darienensis Pittier
Mimusops domingensis (Pierre) Moscoso
Mimusops globosa C.F.Gaertn.
Mimusops longiciliata Ducke
Mimusops maparajuba Huber
Mimusops nitida (Sessé & Moc.) Urb.
Mimusops riedeliana Pierre ex Baill.
Mimusops riedleana Pierre ex Duss
Mimusops sieberi A.DC.
Mimusops siqueiraei Ducke
Mimusops surinamensis Miq.
Sapota mulleri Blume ex Bleekrod.
Common Name: Balata
Photograph by: Xemenendura
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
Balata is a large, evergreen forest tree with a dense crown of horizontal branches[
]. Mature trees can reach a height of 30 - 45 metres, with a bole 1.3 - 2 metres in diameter[
]. Large boles can be free of branches for up to 18 metres, and have broad rounded buttresses, spreading at the base[
The tree is harvested from the wild as a source of food, medicines, latex and wood. The latex makes an excellent quality rubber and the tree is sometimes grown for this purpose. Although growth is slow, balata is also cultivated for shade and timber[
S. America - Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas; C. America - Panama; Caribbean.
Moist coastal and limestone forests to lower mountain forests at elevations from near sea level up to 600 metres[
|Other Uses Rating
|Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
A plant of lowland moist to wet areas in the tropics and subtropics[
]. It grows best in areas where the mean annual rainfall ranges from 1,500 - 4,000mm, though it has been grown in areas with up to 7,000mm[
]. It prefers a mean annual temperature within the range 16 - 31°c[
]. It is not tolerant of frost[
Although it grows faster in a sunny position, the plant is extremely tolerant of shade[
]. The plant is not exacting as to soil type, though it seems to dislike pure sands and to prefer moist but well-drained conditions[
]. Trees are very wind tolerant[
The trees grow slowly - 5 year old trees in the wild are around 4.5 metres tall[
Good flowering and fruiting years are usually every 3 - 4 years[
Except when very young, the tree cannot be coppiced[
Young plants quickly develop a tap root. Mature trees have a strong, moderately deep root system and are wind firm[
The tree grows best in Puerto Rico on alluvial plain where it may reach the age of 400 years[
Fruit - raw[
]. The globose berries about 25mm in diameter, and usually contain a single, shiny, black seed, surrounded by a sweet, gummy pulp[
Although no specific information has been seen for this species, the sap from some of the other species within the genus can be used as a substitute for cow's milk[
]. The latex has the consistency and taste of cream, but overindulgence in it can result in severe constipation[
A latex obtained from the stems is used as an effective cure for dysentery[
The bark is emetic. A decoction of the bark, combined with the barks of Hymenaea sp. and Humiria sp., is used as an effective cure for dysentery[
The leaves are used for treating paralysis of the limbs[
The tree is tapped for its milky latex, the source of balata gum - a non-elastic rubber which is similar to gutta-percha[
]. In some areas, trees have yielded sap for more than 25 years[
]. The latex is coagulated by fire or dried in the sun, and souvenirs or novelties are then fabricated from it[
Gutta-percha is a natural latex obtained from the sap of the tree. Allowing this fluid to evaporate and coagulate in the sun produces a hard and durable latex which can be made flexible again with hot water, but which does not become brittle. Prior to the advent of synthetic materials, gutta-percha had a wide range of uses - most particularly as an insulating material for electricity wiring and for underwater telegraph wires, a purpose for which it is very well suited since it is bio-inert and so is not attacked by marine plants or animals. Gutta-percha can be moulded into any shape and has been used to make items such as ornate furniture, pistol grips, acid-resistant receptacles and ‘mourning’ jewellery, where its dark colour was an advantage. It has been widely used as the core of golf balls and is still used in modern dentistry where its bio-inertness makes it ideal as a temporary filling for teeth and as a filling material inside tooth fillings[
The heartwood is light red when cut and turns to dark reddish brown with purplish shades when dry; it is distinct, but not sharply demarcated from the 4 - 6cm wide band of whitish to pale brown sapwood. It is finely and uniformly textured; usually straight-grained, though sometimes interlocked; sometimes with a characteristic odour when fresh, though this disappears upon drying. The wood is very hard, very heavy, tough, strong, elastic; very durable, even in contact with the soil, being very resistant to fungi, dry wood borers and termites, but susceptible to marine borers. It seasons slowly, with a high risk of checking and distortion; once dry it is poorly stable in service. The wood has a fairly high blunting effect, stellite-tipped and tungsten carbide tools are recommended; it rates excellent for boring, fair for planing, and poor for turning; it finishes very well; nailing and screwing are good, but require pre-boring; gluing is correct for internal purposes only, and needs to be done with care because of the density of the wood. A strong and attractive wood that resembles mahogany, it is highly valued commercially and is widely used in the tropics for railway sleepers, bridging, heavy construction, furniture, turnery, flooring, violin bows, and billiard cues. Its strength, high wear resistance, and durability qualify the timber for use in textile and pulp mill equipment. Its excellent steam-bending properties make it suitable for boat frames and other bent work[
Seed - it has a very short viability and is best sown as soon as it is ripe. Germination rates can be as low as 10%, though when sown immediately up to 60% have germinated[
]. Germination is slow and irregular over a long period, with some seed germinating in the second year[
]. The seeds should be sown in moist leaves because they are not capable of emerging from the soil[
]. 'Limited success' has been achieved with bare root plantings after I year in the nursery, but if seedling are left too long in the beds, the taproot proves to b a problem[
Seedlings in the wild are capable of growing under heavy shade and in herbaceous cover. Average height at the end of the first year is 12 cm, and after 5 years about 4.5 metres[
Artificial regeneration is best attained by direct sowing of fruits or transplanting of potted seedlings Ausubo
In experimental work at the Institute of Tropical Forestry, seeds were sown in nursery beds in the su and under shaded conditions. After 10 months, those in the sun were twice as tall as the shade specimens. Direct out-planting of potted seedling under heavy shade in the limestone forest on the north coast showed survival rates greater than 9 percent after 10 months. The seedlings, however were sensitive to drought. Most had wilted and yellowed after a prolonged period without rain.