Ajuntament de Barcelona

Persea americana

Miramar Garden and Camí dels Cims

    Catalan name: 
    Spanish name: 
    English name: 
    Avocado tree
    Botanical synonyms: 
    Persea gratissima, Laurus persea, Persea drymifolia, Persea nubigena, Persea persea
    Species characteristics
    Central America (probably Southern Mexico and Guatemala)
    Tropical and subtropical climate

    Perennial tree up to 20 m tall, although the grafted ones are a lot shorter, with short trunk and dense crown. The bark is more or less rough and chestnut-brown.

    The leathery leaves, 8-20 cm long, are entire and alternate. Their margin is smooth and their shape varies from oblong to elliptical lanceolate.

    The small greenish flower appear into dense panicles at the branches' tip. The big amount of flowers bloomed on a single tree does not result in the same amount of fruits, because only few flowers will be productive.

    The fruits are thick edible berries, 10 cm long, 6 cm in diameter and up to 1 kg. They are usually pear-shaped, although depending on the varieties, they can be spherical, oval... Also the skin colour (from green to almost black purple) and the texture (from smooth to rough) depend on the variety. The yellowish green pulp is soft and greasy. Every fruit has a single big hard seed.

    Flowering time: 
    Fruiting time: 
    Uses and properties: 

    The fruit from the Avocado Tree, the Avocado, has a high content in vegetable oils which make it very healthy as a natural anti-oxidant.

    It's a highly important and traditional component of the diet in Mexico long before the Conquistadores arrived and is used in many dishes.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name, Persea americana, consists of the genus name Persea, from the Greek περσεα, a plant name, and the Latin term americana, “American”. The Nahuatl word ahuacatl o awacatl, literally “testicles” and also “avocado”, was adapted in Spanish as a aguacate, term used nowadays. The term guacamole, which names a very popular dish with avocados, comes from the Spanish guacamole, adaptation of the Nahuatl ahuacamolli, “avocado soup or sauce”.

    The first European references to the plant are from 1519 on Spanish documents. The avocado tree appeared in Southern Mexico and from there it spreaded, through the Pacific coast, to Southern Peru and Northern Chile, although the cultivation is not documented until the first millennium before Christ: there have been found avocado tree seed in Peru buried with Inca mummies from 750 BC and there are evidences that in 500 BC in Mexico the avocado trees were already cultivated. However, it is possible that the Spanish or the English were the responsibles of the introduction of the avocados into the Antilles in colonial times.

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001