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Persea americana - Mill.

Common Name Avocado, Alligator Pear
Family Lauraceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards The unripe fruit is poisonous[303 ]. The ground up seed is mixed with cheese and used as a poisonous bait to kill rats and mice[418 ]. (Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested)
Habitats Humid lowland forests on limestone formations[307 ].
Range Central America - Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Persea americana Avocado, Alligator Pear

Persea americana Avocado, Alligator Pear


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Avocado, Persea americana, is a large evergreen tree native to South Central Mexico reaching a height of about 20m, or up to 10 m if grafted. It has an irregular and dense crown, and a bole that usually branches from low down and can be up to 45 cm in diameter. The flowers are greenish-yellow and the leaves are arranged alternately. Avocado fruits are eaten raw or used as a sandwich spread and in desserts. It is pear-shaped and green with a mild and pleasant flavor. The leaves can be made into tea or, when toasted, used as flavoring in stews and bean dishes. The plant, in general, has a wide range of medicinal uses. Extracts of the leaves have shown antihypertensive and anticancer activities. The leaves are used against dysentery, coughs, high blood pressure, liver problems, and gout. The bark is used against diarrhea while the fruits are used to lower blood cholesterol level, promote hair growth, sooth skin and treat skin conditions, and as aphrodisiac. Grounded seeds are used in the treatment of various skin conditions. Seeds also yield oil, which is used in the cosmetic industry, and dye used for marking clothes. The wood is moderately soft but heavy. It is brittle and not durable, hence only ideal for light construction purposes.There are three main races of avocado: Mexican (subtropical), Guatemalan (semitropical), and West Indian (tropical).

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Persea americana is an evergreen Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 25 m (82ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Insects. The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Laurus persea L. Persea drymifolia Schltdl. & Cham. Persea nubigena L.O.Wiliams. Persea persea (L.)

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Oil
Edible Uses: Oil

Fruit - raw[296 ]. The flesh has a buttery texture and a mild, oily flavour. It is commonly eaten raw and may also be used as a sandwich spread, in ice creams etc[301 ]. The pear-shaped fruit is up to 12cm long[200 ]. A non-drying oil obtained from the fruit has a mild, pleasant taste[46 , 301 ]. It is used as a salad dressing, especially with strong tasting leaves such as chicory, rocket and watercress[301 ]. A tea can be made from the leaves[301 ]. Toasted leaves are used as a flavouring in stews and bean dishes[301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

The avocado has long been used medicinally, with most parts of the plant being employed[254 ]. There has been some research into the medicinal properties of the plant that support traditional uses. Research has shown that there is anti-cancerous activity in extracts of the leaves and fresh shoots[303 ]. Leaf extracts have shown antihypertensive activity[348 ] The leaf and seed contain cyanide[348 ]. The oil from the seeds contains steroids that are used for pharmaceuticals[348 ]. The seed extract has an erythroagglutinating property[348 ]. The fruit contains reductase and transferase enzymes[348 ]. The leaves are astringent, carminative, antitussive, emmenagogue and hypotensive[238 , 348 ]. An oral infusion of the leaves is used to treat dysentery[303 ]. It is also used for relieving coughs, lowering blood pressure, treating liver obstructions, promoting menstrual flow and for clearing high uric acid levels in the body which could lead to gout[254 , 348 ]. Combined with Tripogandra serrulata, they are used as a remedy for biliousness[348 ]. The bark is astringent, carminative, antitussive and emmenagogue[238 ]. It is used in the treatment of diarrhoea[348 ]. The fruit pulp is emollient, carminative and helps lower blood cholesterol levels[238 ]. The mashed fruit pulp is a nourishing food that is considered to have aphrodisiac properties[254 ]. From unripe fruit used to induce abortion. Used externally, the pulp is cooling and soothing to the skin - it is applied to suppurating wounds and to the scalp to promote hair growth[254 ]. The skin of the fruit has anthelmintic properties and is used traditionally for expelling worms[238 , 254 , 303 ]. The seed is ground and made into an ointment used to treat various skin afflictions, such as scabies, purulent wounds, lesions of the scalp and dandruff[303 ]. Oil extracted from the seeds has astringent properties[303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Fodder  Oil

Summer shade tree. Backyard tree. Xerophytic. Other Uses: The pulp and the seeds contain fatty acids, such as oleic, lanolic, palmitic, stearic, linoleic, capric and miristic acid which constitutes 80% of the fruits fatty content. The non-drying oil extracted from the seed is used by the cosmetic industry in soaps and skin moisturizer products[303 ]. The fresh fruit pulp is massaged into the hair and scalp as a vitamin-rich hair tonic and restorer[307 ]. A reddish-brown dye obtained from the seed is used for marking clothes[307 , 447 ]. Watery extracts of the avocado leaves contain a yellowish-green essential oil[303 ]. The ground-up seed mixed with cheese is used as a rat and mouse poison[303 ]. The heartwood is light brown; the sapwood is whitish. The wood is moderately soft, heavy, brittle, but not durable. It is brittle, and susceptible to termite attack[303 ]. It has been used for house building (especially for house posts), light construction, furniture, cabinet making, agricultural implements, carving, sculptures, musical instruments, paddles, small articles like pen and brush holders, and novelties. It also yields a good-quality veneer and plywood[303 , 307 , 447 ]. More popular for its fruits the wood of avocado is seldom used[303 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Fodder: Fruit  Global Crop  Industrial Crop: Medicinal  Management: Standard  Other Systems: Homegarden  Other Systems: Multistrata  Staple Crop: Oil

Different forms of the plant can succeed in a range of climates, ranging from subtropical with occasional frosts to lowland and highland tropics, where it can be grown at elevations as high as 2,800 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 14 - 40°c, but can tolerate 10 - 45°c[418 ]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -4°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at -1°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 500 - 2,000mm, but tolerates 300 - 2,500mm[418 ]. Prefers a rich, neutral to alkaline soil and a position in full sun[307 ]. Succeeds on all kinds of soil[200 ]. Requires a well-drained soil, the plant is intolerant of water-logging[200 , 296 ]. West Indian rootstocks are fairly tolerant of saline conditions, though other forms are intolerant[200 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 5.8, tolerating 4.5 - 7[418 ]. Requires a position sheltered from strong winds[296 ]. Seedlings take 6- 8 years to produce fruit, whilst grafts can start fruiting in their second year[296 ]. Yields of 15 tonnes per hectare have been recorded, but averages are about half that figure[200 ]. Mature fruit can be left hanging on the tree for weeks without damage[200 ]. The three main races of Avocado are as follows. There are many named varieties of each race:- Mexican. This is the hardiest form, succeeding in subtropical climates and not well adapted to lowland tropical conditions[303 ]. It can withstand short periods when temperatures drop as low as -6°c[303 ]. The optimum temperature for growth is between 14 - 25°c[303 ]. It has the highest oil content, over 20% and up to 30%[200 ]. Guatemalan. This form is semitropical. It can withstand short periods when temperatures drop as low as -4?c[303 ]. The optimum temperature for growth is between 15 - 28°c[303 ]. It has a medium oil content generally between 10 - 20%[200 ]. West Indian. This form is wholly tropical and grows well in a lowland tropical climate[303 ]. It can grow in a temperature range of 12 - 40°c, though the optimum is between 24 - 32?c[303 ]. It has the lowest oil content, generally below 10%, down to around 3%[200 ]. Although the flowers are hermaphrodite, the male organ produces pollen when the females are not receptive and so each tree is functionally self-sterile. Therefore at least two different trees are required for pollination[296 ]. Each avocado flower opens twice. The female part ripens first, then the flower closes to open many hours later in the male stage[200 ]. In the Mexican form, this gap is more than 24 hours, from morning to the next afternoon, whilst in the Guatemalan it is less than 24 hours[200 ]. Flowering Time: Mid Spring Late Spring/Early Summer. Bloom Color: Pale Green. Spacing: 20-30 ft. (6-9 m).

Carbon Farming

  • Fodder: Fruit  Fodder from fruiting plants especially trees.
  • Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world. The annual value of each is more than $1 billion US Examples include coconuts, almonds, and bananas.
  • Industrial Crop: Medicinal  Most pharmaceuticals are synthesized from petroleum but 25% of modern medicines are based on plants.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Other Systems: Homegarden  Tropical multistrata agroforestry (multi-story combinations of trees, crops, domestic animals in the homestead).
  • Other Systems: Multistrata  Multistrata agroforests feature multiple layers of trees often with herbaceous perennials, annual crops, and livestock.
  • Staple Crop: Oil  (0-15 percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Some of these are consumed whole while others are exclusively pressed for oil. Annuals include canola, poppyseed, maize, cottonseed, sunflower, peanut. Perennials include high-oil fruits, seeds, and nuts, such as olive, coconut, avocado, oil palm, shea, pecan, and macadamia. Some perennial oil crops are consumed whole as fruits and nuts, while others are exclusively pressed for oil (and some are used fresh and for oil).

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sown fresh it can germinate in about a month - this can be reduced to about 17 days if the seed coat is removed[200 ]. Seedling trees can flower within 5 - 7 years[200 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Avocado, Alligator Pear, Abacate, Abacateiro, Abokado, Abuacatl, Adpukat, Aguacate, Ahuacate, Alligator pear, Avocat, Avocatier, Avocato, Avokaa, Avokad, Awokado, Bata, Bo' le dau, Buah apukado, Butter pear, Butter-thei, E li, Evokado, Kai, Mparachichi, Mukorobea, Mwembe mafuta, Palta, You li, ahuaquatl, am-pier, avocado oleum, avocado pear, avocado pear|ali geta pera, avocado tree, avocadobaum, avocadopalme, avocat, avocatier, avokado, avpcatier, bolbia, bombia, butter pear, e li, kanboni babilin, kissi peya, kuulup, mountain pear, mparachichi, mwembe mafuta, palta, palto, paya, pea, pear, persea americana, persea folium, perseae folium, pia, pie, poire d'alligator, sarin, sikya, ube bekee, ube-oyibo, wagádi, wani-nashi.

Africa, Antigua & Barbuda, Asia, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Caribbean, Central Africa, Central America, China, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Africa, East Timor, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, Guam, Guatemala, Guiana, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Himalayas, Hispaniola, Honduras, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico*, Mozambique, Nauru, New Zealand, Nicaragua, North America, Northeastern India, Pacific, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, PNG, Philippines, Puerto Rico, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tasmania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Uganda, USA, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, West Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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