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In Bloom

avocado
Persea americana Lauraceae
 
<em>Persea americana</em> by Joanne Taylor

Persea americana by Joanne Taylor

 

Few New World plants growing at the San Francisco Botanical Garden have the long history of cultivation and modern, international renown as the avocado. A native of Mexico and Central America, evidence that the avocado has been cultivated for food dates back 10,000 years, and it is believed that prior to this time they were eaten as a wild fruit for at least 2000 years. A member of the laurel family, the avocado is a relative of other popular aromatic plants used as foods, including cinnamon, bay laurel, and sassafras, the North American species of the latter serving as the main flavoring agent of traditional root beer and sasparilla.

Cultivated avocados differ little from their wild relatives, unlike many of our cultivated fruits, vegetables, and domesticated animals. Recent research suggests the wild avocados of Mesoamerica had attained their relatively large size prior to the arrival of humans in this area, and perhaps evolved with now-extinct megafauna (large animals) living tens of thousands of years ago. The large, relatively unprotected fruit, a pulp that contains laxatives, and a seed that is bitter and toxic if broken, suggest that the fruit was swallowed whole, and that the seed passed quickly through the large animal’s digestive tract without damage to be deposited elsewhere in the animal's feces to germimate and grow a new tree. In regions of Africa today where Persea americana is cultivated, elephants consume the fruit and disperse the seeds in this very way.

There are more than 150 species of avocado around the globe, from the US, Mexico, Central and South America to the Canary Islands, Africa, and into Asia. In spite of the diversity of species internationally, Persea americana is the primary species used as food for humans around the globe. In Mexico alone there are 12 species of avocado, but most are inedible.

Nutritionally, avocados are rich. Relative to most other fruits, the avocado is high in unsaturated fat — the "good" fat — which lowers cholesterol. They're calorie rich — averaging 250 calories for a medium-sized fruit. They're also high in potassium (helps control blood pressure), lutein (good for your eyes), and B, C, and E vitamins. They're also low in sugar and contain fiber.

Though our two specimens are yet to fruit, they do currently produce small flowers. We keep our eyes on them annually, with the hope that they will soon fruit for us here in the Garden.

IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text by Corey Barnes and Profile by Mona Bourell. Photos by Joanne Taylor.

Location

Persea americana can be found
Mesoamerican Cloud Forest Bed: 24G

Visiting Info >>
Map (Bed Numbers) >>

Profile

Scientific Name Persea americana
Common Names Mexican avocado
Family Lauraceae
Plant Type Perennial tree
Environment Full sun to part shade. Important that the soil is evenly moist but well-drained. Require organically-rich soil. It is helpful to leave the fallen leaves to accumulate as mulch. A few varieties can withstand light freezing temperatures.
Bloom Small, inconspicuous, greenish-yellow flowers bloom in late winter and spring. Flowers are "perfect," having both male and female parts. However, the male pollen is produced a few days apart from when the female stigma is receptive to avoid self-fertilization. Therefore, two trees are necessary for successful pollination and fruit development.
Uses Large specimen tree, reaching 30 to 40 feet. With two trees growing near each other, fruit production is possible
 
 
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Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens

January

Magnolia stellata

Magnolia stellata

February

<em>Narcissus</em> spp.

Narcissus spp.

March

Cantua buxifolia

Polylepis spp.

April

Davidia involucrata

Davidia involucrata

May

Digitalis spp.

Digitalis spp.

June

Cantua buxifolia

Gunnera tinctoria

July

Cantua buxifolia

Liriodendron chinense

August

Cantua buxifolia

Cycads of the Ancient Plant Garden

September

Fitzroya cupressoides

Fitzroya cupressoides

January

Polyspora longicarpa

Polyspora longicarpa

February

Polyspora longicarpa

Magnolia laevifolia

March

Cantua buxifolia

Cantua buxifolia

April

Papaver rhoeas

Papaver rhoeas

May

Strelitzia reginae

Strelitzia reginae

June

Cestrum elegans

Cestrum elegans

July

Dichroa febrifuga

Dichroa febrifuga

August

Dichroa febrifuga

Sequoia sempervirens

September

Cestrum elegans

Salvia confertifolia

October

Cestrum elegans

Nerine bowdenii

November

Cestrum elegans

Protea lepidocarpodendron

December

Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia campbellii

January

Magnolia doltsopa

Magnolia doltsopa

February

Magnolia liliiflora

Magnolia liliiflora

March

Vireya Rhododendrons

Vireya Rhododendrons

April

Leucospermum spp.

Leucospermum spp.

May

Senna multiglandulosa

Senna multiglandulosa

June

Tagetes lemmonii

Tagetes lemmonii

July

Eucomis spp.

Eucomis spp.

August

Cuphea spp.

Cuphea spp.

September

Phyllocladus trichomanoides

Phyllocladus trichomanoides

October

Phyllocladus trichomanoides

Saurauia Madrensis

November

Pinus pseudostrobus

Pinus pseudostrobus

December

Magnolia dawsoniana

Magnolia dawsoniana

January

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'

February

Magnolia laevifolia'Strybing Compact'

Magnolia laevifolia 'Strybing Compact'

March

Aristolochia californica

Aristolochia californica

April

Chlorogalum pomeridianum

Chlorogalum pomeridianum

May

Arbutus menziesii

Arbutus menziesii

June

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

July

Cistus sp.

Cistus sp.

August

Rosmarinus sp.

Rosmarinus sp.

September

Dahlia spp.

Dahlia spp.

October

Salvia cacaliifolia

Salvia cacaliifolia

November

Salvia cacaliifolia

Salvia microphylla
'Hot Lips'

November

Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia campbellii

January

Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata

February

Magnolia x veitchii

Magnolia x veitchii

March

Iris douglasiana

Iris douglasiana

April

Aesculus californica

Aesculus californica

May

Vaccinium ovatum

Vaccinium ovatum

June

Sambucus racemosa

Sambucus racemosa

July

Sequoia sempervirens

Sequoia sempervirens

August

Asarum caudatum

Asarum caudatum

September

Deppea splendens

Deppea splendens

October

Montanoa spp.

Montanoa spp.

November

Bidens sp.

Bidens sp.

December

Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

January

Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'

Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'

February

Bomaria spp.

Bomarea spp.

March

Rhododendron occidentale

Rhododendron occidentale

April

Polystichum munitum

Polystichum munitum

May

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

June

Salvia leucantha

Salvia leucantha

July

Hydrangea seemannii

Hydrangea seemannii

August

Wollemia nobilis

Wollemia nobilis

September

Cyathea cooperi

Cyathea cooperi

October

Pinus radiata

Pinus radiata

November

Correa spp.

Correa spp.

December

Garrya elliptica

Garrya elliptica

January

Magnolia x soulangeana

Magnolia x soulangeana

February

Senecio glastifolius

Senecio glastifolius

March

Ribes spp.

Ribes spp.

April

Oxalis oregana

Oxalis oregana

May

Calandrinia grandiflora

Calandrinia grandiflora

June

Taxus baccata

Taxus baccata

July

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

August

Passiflora parritae

Passiflora parritae

September

Malvaviscus arboreus

Malvaviscus arboreus

October

Monterey Cypress

Monterey Cypress

November

Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens

December

Aloe plicatilis

Aloe plicatilis

January

Banksia seminuda

Banksia seminuda

February

Zantedeschia elliottiana

Zantedeschia aethiopica

March

Magnolia laevifolia

Magnolia laevifolia

April

Araucaria heterophylla

Araucaria heterophylla

May

Toxicodendron diversilobum

Toxicodendron diversilobum

June

Clarkia sp.

Clarkia sp.

July

Agapanthus

Agapanthus

August

Brugmansia

Brugmansia

September

Cedrus spp.

Cedrus spp.

October

Protea repens

Protea repens

November

Camellia sinensis

Camellia sinensis

December

Thujopsis dolabrata

Thujopsis dolabrata

January

Gordonia longicarpa

Gordonia longicarpa

February

Rojasianthe superba

Rojasianthe superba

March

Echium spp.

Echium spp.

April

Iris douglasiana

Iris douglasiana

May

Digitalis purpurea

Digitalis purpurea

June

Felicia amelloides

Felicia amelloides

July

Ceroxylon quindiuense

Ceroxylon quindiuense

August

Amaryllis belladonna

Amaryllis belladonna

September

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba

October

Acer morrisonense

Acer morrisonense

November

Ilex aquifolium

Ilex aquifolium

December

Picea sitchensis

Picea sitchensis

January

Telanthophora grandifolia

Telanthophora grandifolia

February

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwartzkopf'

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwartzkopf'

March

Leptospermum Spp.

Leptospermum

April

Salvia gesneraeflora

Salvia gesneraeflora

May

Lavandula spp.

Lavandula spp.

June

Pelargonium

Pelargonium

July

Fuchsia paniculata

Fuchsia paniculata

August

Luma apiculata

Luma apiculata

September

Luculia

Luculia

October

Arbutus unedo

Arbutus unedo

November

Cycads

Cycad

December

Restionaceae

Restionaceae

January

Hellebores

Hellebores

February

Ceanothus

Ceanothus

March

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

April

Psoralea pinnata

Psoralea pinnata

May

Fremontodendron californicum

Fremontodendron californicum

June

Leucadendron argenteum

Leucadendron argenteum

July

Crocosmia

Crocosmia

August

Gunnera tinctoria

Gunnera tinctoria

September

Pellaea rotundifolia

Pellaea rotundifolia

October

Fuchsia boliviana

Fuchsia boliviana

November

Erica canaliculata

Erica canaliculata

December

Magnolia campbelli

Magnolia campbelli

January

Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata

February

Camellia

Camellia

March

Geranium maderense

Geranium maderense

April

Acmena smithii

Acmena smithii

May

Eschscholzia californica

Eschscholzia californica

June

Dendromecon harfordii

Dendromecon harfordii

July

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri

August

Eupatorium purpureum

Eupatorium purpureum

September

Epilobium canum sp.

Epilobium canum sp.

October

Grevillea spp.

Grevillea spp.

November

Drimys winteri

Drimys winteri

December

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