University of Florida Extension ServiceUF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail:

September 3, 2003

Feature Article - for release the week of September 7, 2003

Dan Culbert - Extension Horticulture Agent


Alligator Pears

There are only few locals that have not heard of the results of the final Gator  match up this past weekend - but 

The Lulu Avocado is a high producing variety suitable for home production.   Photo © Ian Maguire/UF TREC

I’d suspect that there many who have heard of a popular tropical fruit once known as the alligator pear. Most people today do know this green fruit as the avocado, an important fruit to Latin Americans and a common dooryard fruit tree in the warmer sections of Florida.

Avocados originated in Southern Mexico, and have been introduced all over the tropics. They were first introduced into our state in Miami in 1833. While they are grown commercially in Dade County, Florida and around San Diego California, most of the world’s production comes from Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

The avocado can be an attractive part of the landscape if there is room for this 30 to 60 foot tall evergreen tree. Limbs are easily broken by high winds or when holding a heavy crop of fruit. The oval leaves are 3-10 inches long, red when young, but become smooth, leathery and dark green when mature. These trees will not tolerate flooding or poorly drained soils, but are adapted to many types of well drained soils.

Alligator pear fruit have one large seed, surrounded by a buttery pulp, rich in oil. The skin can be variable in thickness and texture and the mature fruit color may be green, black, purple or reddish, depending on variety. Avocados can be round or even pear shaped, and may weigh from a few ounces to five pounds.

Varieties of avocados may be classified according to the flower type, which may be important if a tree fails to produce fruit. Bees and other insects are the main pollinators and many of the flowers will naturally fall off rather than set fruit. Some varieties will be much more productive, and others will only produce a large crop every other year.

Many people save their avocado pit to grow a new tree, and wait for up to ten years before they find the fruit quality is not that great. Choosing a grafted trees will avoid this, and grafted trees begin to produce in 3 to 4 years. Fruits mature from June through January, with greatest production from October through December.

Avocado varieties are also classified in three groups based on their ability to handle a freeze. Mexican and Guatemalan hybrids are the most cold hardy because they can tolerate temperatures of 26o to 30oF as young trees. Mature trees can take a bit more cold and can tolerant temperatures to21oF.

Early varieties, which are seen in summer markets, are usually of West Indian origin, whereas mid- and late varieties are hybrids of the races and have greater adaptability to our growing conditions. Examples of the more cold tolerant avocados are the Brogdon, Gainesville, Mexicola, and the Winter Mexican.

Fruit doesn't ripen on the tree. Mature fruit ripens in 3 to 8 days after picking, and ripen best between 60E to 75oF. Putting a tomato or apple in a paper bag with the avocado may speed up the ripening. If kept at higher temperatures, they ripen unevenly and develop off-flavors.

Avocado do not come true from seed and should be propagated by veneer-grafting. Young, vigorously growing plants grown from seed are used as the rootstock, and leafy shoots from desirable trees are the source of the "scion" tops. Grafting is most successful during the cooler months. Propagation by cuttings and air-layering has not been successful.

The University of Florida has a great bulletin on dooryard Avocados, and specialized bulletins on insect and disease management. I have another in-depth article on avocados if you need additional information. Call or stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North - our phone number is 763-6469. You can view the references on line at or mail us at

Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida.  Larry A.  Arrington, Dean. Last update: 09/20/2007.  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert    


Crane, Jon,  Balerdi, Carlos and Maguire, Ian .  The Avocado.  Gainesville: UF/IFAS Extension Service Circular 1034. August 2001, revised August 2007 

Maguire, Ian  Other Photos [photos of Avocados and other tropical fruits]. Homestead: UF/IFAS Tropical Research & Education Center, 2002. 

Morton, Julia F.  "Avocado"  In: Fruits of Warm Climates, p. 91–102.  West Lafayette: Center for New Crops & Plant Products - Purdue University,  1987