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Avocado tree

Avocado tree

Class : Bedecktsamer (Magnoliopsida)
Order : Laurels (Laurales)
Family : Laurel family (Lauraceae)
Genre : Persea
Type : avocado
Scientific name
Persea americana
Avocado fruit on the tree

The avocado ( Persea americana Mill. , Also Persea gratissima C.F.Gaertn. ) Is a species of the laurel family (Lauraceae). From a botanical point of view, the fruit is a berry and historically has many other names that are rare today, such as avocado pear , alligator pear or butterfruit .

The tree has its origin in the warm, humid tropical rainforest of Mexico and Central America . Today it is cultivated in over 400 cultivars worldwide in the tropics as well as in Turkey , South Africa , Israel , California , Chile , Colombia , Peru , Australia , New Zealand and southern Spain ( Malaga and on the coast of Granada ). The avocado has only been cultivated in the Mediterranean region since the beginning of the 20th century.


Avocado sapling

The avocado tree has its origin in southern Mexico and was already cultivated by the Coxcatlán culture in Tehuacán . The fruit has been used in tropical and subtropical Central America for around 10,000 years. The avocado was first mentioned in the travel log of the Spanish historian and conqueror Pedro de Cieza de León . He noted that the avocado ("aguacate") grow in Panama , Ecuador , Colombia and Peru . The Spaniards brought it to the Caribbean , Chile and Madeira , until it spread to Africa, Madagascar , Malaysia and the Philippines in the course of the 19th century . The avocado has only been grown in the Mediterranean region since the beginning of the 20th century.

Avocados were only exported on a larger scale after the Second World War . Initially only in the USA, Europe and the most westernized countries in East Asia.

Among the European countries, France was by far the largest importer (with 80,000 tons in 1994), followed by Great Britain (with 15,000 tons) and the Netherlands and Germany (both around 10,000 tons each). At that time, however, Germany obtained its avocados almost exclusively from France. Most of the avocados sold in Europe come from Israel, South Africa or Spain. Meanwhile, the number of avocados from Italy is also increasing.


The name “avocado” goes back to the Nahuatl word ahuacatl , which also means “ testicles ”. Through a folk etymological renaming, it became avocado in older Spanish (" Advokat ", today abogado ), which was adopted into German in the 20th century . The modern Spanish name aguacate is borrowed directly from the Nahuatl word.

In the past, the avocado was sometimes referred to as Abacata or Abacate (after Portuguese) and in German because of the consistency of the pulp as butterfruit, butter pear or because of its shape and the texture of its skin as alligator pear . In Spanish, other names are also used in South America, such as the Quechua word palta in Argentina , Chile, Bolivia and Peru.

The word " guacamole ", which describes a Mexican avocado cream, comes from the Nahuatl word ahuacamolli, which means " avocado soup " or " avocado sauce ". The avocado was first mentioned by a European author in 1519. The Spaniard Martín Fernández de Enciso wrote in his book Suma de geografía que trata de todas las partidas y provincias del mundo that the avocado is grown near Santa Marta (Colombia).


The avocado tree is shrubby and fast-growing and, depending on the species, can reach a height of up to 20 meters.

Wood, bark and roots

The bark of the trunk is more or less smooth and ash gray. The wood is soft and the sparse, finely hairy branches can easily break off in the wind. The type of root growth strongly depends on the subsoil. The bark contains antibacterial substances.

Avocado leaves
Avocado flowers

Buds and leaves

The avocado tree has quite large, spirally arranged, dark green to green-brownish, egg-shaped, ovate to lanceolate, pointed to pointed and glossy, leathery, thick leaves. The leaves are up to 45 centimeters long. The leaves are stalked up to about 5 cm long, the spreading edge is whole, the base is wedge-shaped to round-pointed. The young leaves are often reddish and finely haired, later the underside is very finely haired, the top only slightly. The nerve is pinnate with a pronounced midrib. The leaves are not shed in winter, so they are evergreen , so the plant needs a lot of light. The leaves of P. americana var. Drymifolia and related varieties have a slightly aniseed odor when rubbed on them . The leaves contain the toxin persin as well as alkaloids and terpenoids .

Inflorescences and flowers

An avocado tree normally only develops flowers after about ten or more years, but there are varieties that produce flowers and fruits after two years. The small, about 5–8 mm long, short-stalked, yellowish to greenish flowers are in panicle-like, terminal or axillary inflorescences.

The flower of the genus Persea has the flower shape typical of the laurel family, each with three hairy calyx and petals that look relatively similar. According to another, more recent, probably more correct view, it is a perigone with six tepals. Arranged in four circles of three each are 12 stamens . Of these, nine are fertile in the three outer circles, three in the fourth circle have receded into short, arrow-shaped staminodes. At the bottom of the stamens of the third circle there are two yellow-orange "glands" ( nectaries ), and the three staminodes also secrete nectar. The anthers usually consist of four pollen sacs. The hairy, unikarpellate ovary is upper constant with a einfächrigen ovary. The bitegmic ovule ( containing two integuments ) is anatropic and crassinucellate. The stylus has a slightly lobed scar . Most of the flowers on a tree are abnormal or sterile and will not produce fruit.

Chromosome number

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 24, 36 or 48.

The avocado fruit


'Fuerte' avocado
Avocado dicot seeds

The avocado fruit is a solitary berry . It is usually pear-shaped, but there are also round and egg-shaped ones. It is between 7 and 20 cm long and about 5 to 9 cm wide. The weight of the fruit can be more than 1 kg for the Choquette and Pollock varieties. Avocados from tropical countries usually weigh between 500 and 900 g. Depending on the species, the leathery, wrinkled or smooth, waxy outer shell (exocarp) is medium to dark green, but it can also be dark red, purple to black.

Inside is a large seed that is about the size of a golf ball and makes up about 13-18% of the total fruit. The round to egg-shaped seed consists of two halves, the two large, softish cotyledons that enclose the small embryo. The endosperm is taken up by the cotyledons as it grows. The seed is wrapped in a brown seed coat (testa). The soft flesh is green-yellow to golden-yellow and oxidizes to a dark color when exposed to air; this can be prevented by quickly adding antioxidants such as the ascorbic acid found in lemon juice . The pulp, but also the seeds, contain up to 30% fat. The seeds contain tannins and phytic acid as well as alkaloids.

The fruits offered in stores are sometimes still hard, but can be bought without hesitation because they are climacteric fruits , so they ripen again. If the skin gives way to pressure, the fruit is ready for consumption. The post-ripening process can be accelerated by the ripening gas ethene , for example by wrapping the fruit in newspaper or storing it with apples. The fruit is ripe when it loses its luster.

Avocado fruits never ripen on the tree, but fall to the ground in a hard "green" state even without being picked, where they ripen quickly. In cultivation, the fruits are therefore picked as soon as they reach a marketable size.


The more than 400 commercially available varieties are all the result of breeding and crossing from three types found in nature: M (exiko), W (East India) and G (uatemala).


Type Taxonomy typical format typical fat content typical properties
M (exiko) Persea americana var. Drymifolia pear-shaped high small-fruited, leaves aromatic
W (East India) Persea americana var. Americana egg-shaped low large-fruited, watery, sensitive
G (uatemala) Persea americana var. Guatemalensis spherical medium thick and rough shell

The variety denominations mostly refer to the name of the breeder.

variety Type In trade since Place of origin Fruit
min. [G]
max. [G]
Avocadito G x M ? Chile / Israel finger 10 30th green /
thin smooth without Fuerte cocktail avocado (unfertilized)
Booth 7 G x W 1935 Florida: Homestead Ellipsoid round 280 560 green thick rough medium 10-14% fat
Booth 8 G x W 1935 Florida: Homestead Long ellipsoid 400 800 green thick rough medium 6-8% fat
Choquette G x W 1939 Florida: Miami Ellipsoid 850 1200 green thick smooth medium approx. 13% fat
Edranol G x? 1932 California: Vista Pear narrow 250 510 green medium medium small
Ettinger M x? 1947 Israel: Kfar Malal Pear narrow 250 570 green thin smooth big
Fuerte G x M 1911 Mexico: Puebla Ellipsoid 250 450 green medium medium medium 18-26% fat
hate G x? 1932 California: La Habra Egg narrow 140 400 green /
medium rough medium 18-25% fat
Nabal G 1917 Guatemala: Antigua Bullet 450 850 green thin /
smooth big
Pinkerton G x? 1974 California: Saticoy Pear long 250 510 green medium rough small Crossing
Hass x Rincon
Puebla M. 1911 Mexico: Atlixco Egg round 170 450 black thick smooth big
Reed G 1960 California: Carlsbad Bullet 480 700 green medium medium big
Pollock W. 1896 Florida: Miami Pear long 560 1400 green medium smooth big 3-5% fat
Waldin W. 1909 Florida: Homestead Long ellipsoid 400 800 green medium smooth medium /
6-10% fat
'Hass' avocado
Two Fuerte Habitus fruits and a small seedless avocadito

The most common type of Fuerte in the German trade is mainly found worldwide , a pear-shaped avocado with a medium green skin and light yellow flesh that is greenish towards the edge. The variety reaches a weight of 250 to 450 g.

In other countries, mainly the USA and France , however, the hate variety dominates . This variety is not a specific breed, but a random mutation. The Californian Rudolph Hass found the tree in his garden in the 1930s. All of today's Hass avocado trees, which are grown in Israel, California, Mexico , Chile, Spain, Australia and New Zealand are descended from this one tree . The fruit of the Hass variety is smaller than that of the Fuerte , rounded and has a thick, warty skin. You can tell when they are ripe that the skin turns dark purple; it can also be felt. The fruit weighs between 140 and 400 g. For small fruits weighing 140 g, the shell weighs around 12 g, the spherical seed 12 to 25 g, for large ones up to 50 g. In recent years the variety has also become more and more widespread in Germany. The Maluma variety from South Africa is similar to the Hass variety .

A specialty is a seedless avocado, called avocadito , cocktail avocado , cuke , finger avocado or mini avocado . This form arises from unfertilized flowers mainly of the Fuerte variety . In the past, this effect was viewed as a crop loss and attempts were made to avoid it. Avocaditos have been harvested specifically for a number of years. The fruits are only 5 to 8 cm tall, with a thin skin and can be squeezed out like a spreadable sausage. They are mainly supplied from California, Israel and South Africa.

Nutritional value and composition

The avocado fruit is rich in unsaturated fatty acids and potassium . The physiological calorific value is 909 kJ (221 kcal ) per 100 g of edible portion.

The composition naturally fluctuates depending on the variety, the environmental conditions (soil, climate) and the cultivation technique (fertilization, plant protection). Average values ​​per 100 g of edible portion:

Components in g
water 66.5
protein 1.9
fat 23.5
carbohydrates 0.4
Fiber 6.3
Minerals 1.4
Vitamins in µg
Retinol (Vit. A 1 ) 12
Total carotenoids 1 105
Thiamine (Vit. B 1 ) 80
Riboflavin (Vit. B 2 ) 150
Nicotinic acid (Vit. B 3 ) 1100
Pantothenic acid (Vit. B 5 ) 1100
Vitamin B6 530
Folic acid 30th
Vitamin E 2 1300
vitamin C 13
Vitamin K 19th
Vitamin D 0
amino acids in mg
Arginine 60
Histidine 3 30th
Isoleucine 110
Leucine 195
Lysine 155
Methionine 45
Phenylalanine 110
Threonine 120
Tryptophan 20th
Tyrosine 75
Valine 170

1 mg = 1000 µg

1 β-carotene 40 µg
2Total tocopherol 1300 µg, α-tocopherol 1300 µg
3 semi-essential


External system

The laurel family comprises around 50 genera with around 2000 to 2500 species . The genus Persea consists of 150 species (including the subgenera Machilus and Eriodaphne ), which are distributed from Atlantic North America to Chile and from the Indian - Malay region to Japan .

In addition to Persea americana , another type of Persea is called avocado: the wild avocado ( Persea schiedeana ), which is also known as "mountain avocado" (Spanish: Aguacate del monte ), Yas or Coyo (u), Zucte and others. a. is known. This species has the ability to occupy clearings and deforestation.


Wild-type avocados from Oaxaca . The black skin is typical of non-cultivated fruits.

In Persea americana numerous varieties can be distinguished:

  • Persea americana Mill. Var. Americana - type "West Indies"
  • Persea americana var. Drymifolia (Schltdl. & Cham.) SFBlake - type "Mexico"
  • Persea americana var. Floccosa (Mez) Scora
  • Persea americana var. Guatemalensis (LOWilliams) Scora - type "Guatemala"
  • Persea americana var. Nubigena (LOWilliams) LEKopp
  • Persea americana var. Steyermarkii (CKAllen) Scora

Only the three varieties, which are also known as the “West India”, “Mexico” and “Guatemala” types, are of economic importance. The commercial varieties are the result of breeding and crossing these three varieties. See #sorts . The original, non-cultivated form of the avocado is called criollo in Spanish .


Spread of the seeds

Barlow and Martin identified the avocado as a species of plant that evolved in an ecological relationship with large mammals. These, such as the South American giant sloth , are now extinct. They ate the fruits including their mildly toxic seeds and excreted the seeds with their dung a long way away from the mother plant. Today the avocado tree no longer has a natural seed propagation technique; however, it has been preserved by humans.

Flower ecology

Open flowers of Persea americana . This flower is in the male phase, you can see the erect stamens. In the middle you can see the yellow staminodes and nectaries

In cultivation, the cultivated plant is usually artificially propagated vegetatively by grafting . Otherwise, the flowers of the avocado tree will be pollinated by insects . The main pollinators are bees and wasps , but also flies and the like. a.

The avocado tree has hermaphroditic flowers in which the genital organs mature at different times (intrafloral dichogamy ), with the male and female reproductive organs on a plant appearing or ripening at different times during the day; synchronous dichogamy (temporal diocyte ) or synchronous dichogamous proterogyny , because this is where the females mature first. In the female phase, the stamens and petals are laid back.

For pollination to take place, the male and female opening times must overlap. Most avocado cultures, at least in the subtropical races, have a daily period of 1-3 hours of the self-overlapping phase in which the female and pollen-releasing male flowers appear simultaneously.

In order to increase the pollination rate, different cultivars with different types of flowers are grown in the same garden; cultivars are differentiated by the types of flowers (type A and type B) that open at different times.

  • Type A: The flowers open in the morning on the first day with a fertile stigma as a female flower and close at 12 noon. The next day the same flower opens at 12 o'clock until evening as a fertile male flower with an unresponsive stigma, the stamens are bent upwards and pollen is now produced in the anthers.
  • Type B: Complementary to type A, the flowers open female on the first day in the afternoon and male the next day in the morning.

The tree's female flowers open sequentially over a period of about two hours and function as two separate populations. The early opening female flowers of type A are only exposed to cross- pollination, while the late opening flowers are exposed to both cross (xenogamy) and close pollination ( geitonogamy ). In contrast, the early female B-type flowers are exposed to both types of pollination, while the later opening flowers are only subjected to cross-pollination.

However, the cycles of these two types are often not as distinctive as shown here. a. influenced by temperature and can fluctuate.

Germination and site conditions

Avocado saplings

The germination time of an avocado seed is between four and six weeks, depending on the soil temperature. For the cultivation you need an area with loose substrate.

In principle, the avocado plants do not place high demands on the soil quality. However, they prefer nutrient-rich soils and are sensitive to salt. The plants need a lot of water, but at the same time the soil must not become too wet. In modern cultivation, therefore, artificial irrigation is used to control the water supply. Avocado plants need a lot of light; at least 2000 hours of sunshine a year. The trees are sensitive to stronger winds and branches can easily break off. Even in a light, dry wind, the flowers can dry out. The individual plants are planted on plantations at a distance of 6-10 m, depending on their size.


The toxin persin and other poisonous substances that have a fungicidal, antibacterial and insecticidal effect occur in the oil cells of the entire plant . The concentration of these toxins is particularly high in the peels of unripe fruits and in the leaves. In North America, where the Guatemalan and Mexican species are most widespread, warnings are issued about the consequences of avocado consumption of the Guatemalan species ( reed variety ) on several farm animals (especially goats and horses, which can lead to long-term milk loss and heart failure, but also cattle); At least one case of a poisoning reaction of a cage bird is also known.

As the fruit ripens, Persin undergoes progressive enzymatic destruction that gradually reduces the concentration in the fruit. It is poisonous to many mammals, birds and fish and mainly causes heart muscle damage and inflammation of the mammary glands . Persin is considered harmless in human nutrition, where the pulp is used. For animals that ingest it in large quantities, e.g. B. through the leaves, it is a danger.

Diseases and pests

Overall, the avocado trees are relatively robust. Four fungi are almost the only pests:

  • Phytophtora cinnamonii preferentially attacks injured roots and the lower part of the trunk, causing root rot, which can lead to the death of the entire plant. Warm or soaked soils encourage the fungus to spread.
  • Colletotrichum gloeosporioides attacks the young fruits still hanging on the tree. It causes small, dry, dark spots on the skin of the fruit. The flesh underneath turns black.
  • Cercospora purpurea (also Pseusocercospora purpurea ) attacks the fruits and forms on them first light yellow, later dark rust-red craters.
  • Sphaceloma perseae affects the skin of the avocado fruit and results in a scab, which often causes severe crop damage.

Viral diseases and insect damage hardly play a role. The only known viral disease are the so-called "sunspots", which appeared in California in 1928. The virus seems to be transmitted only by pollen, seeds etc. and not by insects.

There are a lot of insects that damage the fruits or the plants themselves, but they usually only occur locally on a larger scale.

Cultivation and related problems

Today the avocado tree is grown in over 400 cultivars worldwide.

Not all fruits on a plant ripen at the same time. In industrial cultivation, the oil content is therefore used as a ripening criterion, because avocados do not show their ripeness by skin color or the like. Ripe fruits can hang on the tree for a while; they only become soft when you harvest them.

The productivity of a plantation depends on various factors, such as: B. the prevailing climate. In California and Israel it is 8–12 tons per year and hectare, in South Africa 12–15. From a financial point of view, cultivation is worthwhile from around 8-10 t / a and per hectare.

The poor ecological balance of the cultivation is criticized. This is justified primarily with the high water consumption, which has a detrimental effect in regions with low water supplies. To produce 1 kg of avocados, around 1000 liters of water are used on average worldwide (for comparison: around 180 liters of water for 1 kg of tomatoes). In Chile , an average of 70 liters of water is needed to produce a single avocado, and in some regions even more than 300 liters. The enormous water consumption of avocado cultivation has led to the drying up of entire rivers in the Chilean province of Petorca . The state grants the rights of use for water to third parties. The transport to the importing countries also worsens the ecological balance, among other things because a lot of energy is used for cooling (constant 6 ° C). The delicate avocado also requires a lot of packaging material.

In Mexico , forests are illegally cleared and cut down to create avocado plantations. This happens among other things through the dominating cartels as a result of the drug war , which in addition to drugs, oil, weapons, raw materials and people, have discovered the trade in avocados for themselves. In response, indigenous avocado farmers formed vigilante groups in the Purépecha plateau (in the Mexican state of Michoacán ) against the cartels responsible for illegal logging in the same region. In addition to Michoacán, the cartels also have part of the avocado trade in the state of Jalisco under control, according to the International Crisis Group (as of 2020) .

Economical meaning

In 1990 Mexico (with 686,301 tons), the USA (with 141,500 tons) and Brazil (with 118,635 tons) were the main producer countries. At that time, Spain was only producing around 44,880 tons per year.

According to the FAO, around 6.4 million t of avocados were harvested worldwide in 2018 . The ten largest producers together reaped 77.7% of the world harvest.

The largest avocado producers

Largest Avocado Producers (2018)
rank country Quantity
(in t )
1 MexicoMexico Mexico 2,184,663
2 Dominican RepublicDominican Republic Dominican Republic 644.306
3 PeruPeru Peru 504.517
4th IndonesiaIndonesia Indonesia 410.094
5 ColombiaColombia Colombia 326,666
6th BrazilBrazil Brazil 235,788
7th KenyaKenya Kenya 233.933
8th United StatesUnited States United States 168,528
9 VenezuelaVenezuela Venezuela 139,685
10 IsraelIsrael Israel 131,720
world 6,407,171


In Europe, avocado consumption increased by two thirds from 2016 to 2018.

In 2017, the largest importers of avocados were the USA with 900,198 tons, the Netherlands with 267,197 tons and France with 145,996 tons. Germany was in 8th place (72,710 t), Switzerland in 22nd place (14,694 t) and Austria in 27th place (8,294 t). The largest exporters at the same time were: Mexico (896,557 t), Peru (247,363 t) and the Netherlands (243,810 t).



The wood of the Persea americana can be used for house building (posts), lightweight construction, furniture, agricultural tools, carvings, sculptures, musical instruments, paddles, etc. It also makes good veneer and plywood . However, the wood is rarely used because it is brittle and susceptible to termite infestation.

How to use the avocado in the kitchen

Avocado longitudinal cut, protecting the seeds

While the peel and seed of the fruit are inedible, the pulp around the large seed is very nutritious. The avocados available in Central Europe are mostly not sweet, but some varieties in tropical countries are. The flesh of the ripe avocado is yellow to green, soft and has an almost creamy consistency. The avocado has by far the highest fat content of all known types of fruit and vegetables. The pulp is eaten raw as long as it has not turned gray or brown. It tastes pure, lightly salted, seasoned with paprika powder or drizzled with lemon juice as a topping on bread.

Avocado cream


Avocado cream is the puree of avocado pulp. It is suitable for dipping , as a spread or as a filling for tortillas . For preparation, the pulp of a ripe avocado is mashed or mashed with a fork , then seasoned with salt or herb salt and pepper and refined with tomatoes, coriander leaves , chillies , cucumber, garlic, onions, yoghurt or numerous other ingredients. But you can also make it sweet, with lemon or lime and brown sugar . The Mexican variant is called guacamole .

Avocado cream tends to turn brown very quickly. The tan is caused by oxidation in the air. As antioxidants which can ascorbic acid of lemon or lime juice are used, which further rounds out the flavor.

International kitchen

Avocado for lunch in a Kenyan daycare center

In Australia and New Zealand , avocados are commonly served in sandwiches, on toast, or with chicken. In Mexico and Central America, avocados are mixed with rice, soups, salads or meat. In Peru, guacamole is eaten with tequeños and served as a side dish to asado or as a main course filled with tuna , shrimp or chicken.

The Chileans make a puree-like sauce out of the avocado and eat it with chicken, hamburgers , hot dogs or cut it into slices and serve it with celery or salad. The fruit is also eaten as a salad in Kenya and Nigeria . Avocados are also very popular in vegan cuisine because of their nutritional value . In the South American Indians the avocado was used for producing an alcoholic beverage named Abacate , the Europeans the invention of the egg liqueur inspired.

The avocado is used as a dessert in Taiwanese , Indonesian and Filipino cuisine . Together with sugar and milk, shakes of different consistencies are created, which are also served as vitamina de abacate in Brazilian cuisine .

Medicinal uses of the fruit

Certain varieties are also used for medicinal purposes (for example as a bactericide and against diarrheal diseases or for controlled weight gain due to the high fat content of around 25%).

Overweight people can lower their cholesterol levels through daily consumption . The content of monounsaturated fatty acids should be responsible. However, the effect is small compared to drug therapy with statins .

Avocado oil

The oil of the avocado fruit ( avocado oil ) and other parts of the plant was already used by the Aztecs . Occasionally it is used as an edible oil , today it is mainly used in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.


The leaves of the avocado are poisonous depending on the species ( Persin : see above ).

The leaves of the Mexican avocado ( Persea americana Art drymifolia ) should be edible and used as a spice, the taste should be reminiscent of anise . The leaves should be traded dry or fresh. After heating ( toasting ) before use, they can be found - crushed or in full size - mainly in bean dishes.


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Web links

Commons : Avocado  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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