This is a rare case of a species of ancient cultivation, little-known outside its homeland, that has recently found a place in modern food processing. The lucmo, Pouteria lucuma O. Ktze. (syns. P. insignis Baehni, Lucuma obovata HBK. and perhaps L. bifera Mol.; also Richardella lucuma Aubr.; Achras lucuma Ruiz & Pavón ), is called lucumo in Chile and Peru; lucma in Ecuador; lucuma or rucma in Colombia; and mamón in Costa Rica.
This attractive tree ranges from 25 to 50 ft (8-15 m) in height, has a dense, rounded crown, velvety hairs on its young branchlets, and copious milky latex. The evergreen leaves, clustered at the tips of small branches, are obovate, oval or elliptic, blunt at the apex, pointed at the base, 5 to 10 in (12.5-25 cm) long; thin or slightly leathery; dark-green on the upper surface, pale and sometimes brown-hairy on the underside. The profuse flowers, borne singly or 2 or 3 together in the leaf axils, are tubular, yellowish-green, with hairy sepals and 5- to 7-lobed mouth about 1/2 in (1.25 cm) across. The fruit is oblate, ovate or elliptic, pointed or depressed at the apex; 3 to 4 in (7.5-10 cm) long, with thin, delicate skin, brownish-green more or less overlaid with russet, and bright-yellow, firm, dry, mealy, very sweet pulp, permeated with latex until almost overripe. There may be 1 to 5, usually 2, rounded or broad-oval, dark-brown, glossy seeds with a whitish hilum on one flattish side.
The lucmo was first seen and reported by Europeans in Ecuador in 1531. Archaeologists have found it frequently depicted on ceramics at burial sites of the indigenous people of coastal Peru. It is native and cultivated in the highlands of western Chile and Peru and possibly southeastern Ecuador where it is known to have been cultivated since ancient times. It is grown also, to a limited extent, in the Andes of eastern Bolivia and the fruit is sold in the markets of La Paz. It is most popular in central Chile, less so in Ecuador. In 1776, it was reported as planted only in the warmest parts of northern Chile. In 1912, there were a few trees growing in gardens around San José, Costa Rica where the lucmo was introduced by returning exiles in the first half of the 19th Century. In 1915, O.F. Cook collected seeds at Ollantaytambo, Peru, for the United States Department of Agriculture (S.P.I. #41332). In January of 1922, Wilson Popenoe introduced seeds from Santiago, Chile (S.P.I. #54653). There have been several attempts to grow the tree in southern Florida. It has not lived long. One specimen actually bore fruit at the Fairchild Tropical Garden, developed galls, and eventually succumbed. The lucmo grows well in parts of Mexico and Hawaii but the fruit is not widely favored.