Jacksonville Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, 1445 Millcoe Road, Jacksonville, FL 32225  

Photo: by Chuck Hubbuch

Avocado is known to botanists as Persea americana. As its scientific name suggests, it is native to the Americas, specifically Mexico and nearby Central America. However, it is cultivated in warm climates around the world for its edible fruit. As with many edible plants, the wild populations that have the greatest genetic diversity are threatened by deforestation. It is noteworthy that the leaves, seeds and stems of avocado are reported to be toxic to many animals including dogs and cats.

People have known for thousands of years that avocados are edible and nutritious. Eating avocado fruit actually lowers bad cholesterol. Avocado is eaten fresh, used in spreads like guacamole, in soup and in ice cream. Oil from avocado fruit and seeds are used in lotions, soaps and cosmetics. The wood is used for small construction. A milky juice from the seed has been used to mark linen and clothing. The tree has many traditional uses. For example, the fruit pulp has been used to treat skin disorders and wounds. The skin of the fruit has been used to treat intestinal parasites. It has been used to treat headaches, toothaches, hypertension, diarrhea, sore throat, coughs and dandruff.

The avocado tree is medium-sized with large evergreen leaves. A tree can produce a lot of fruit. A few varieties are reported to be fairly cold hardy in the Jacksonville area – reportedly surviving winter temperatures in the mid-teens Fahrenheit. Joey, Pancho, Lila, Brazos Belle and Fantastic are some of the named cold hardy cultivars that can be found in Florida nurseries. If you wish to try growing one of these cultivars, be sure to plant it in a sunny, well-drained site. Water it regularly until it is well-established.

A young plant is growing in the Arboretum on the north side of the lake loop. It is an unnamed seedling.

by Chuck Hubbuch

Jacksonville Arboretum & Botanical Gardens