From the Manual Of Tropical And Subtropical Fruits
by 
Wilson Popenoe, 1920



Historical Information about the Avocado Races and Varieties

To use the definition of H. J. Webber,1 "Races are groups of cultivated plants that have well-marked differentiating characters, and propagate true to seed except for simple fluctuating variations." Technically speaking, the Mexican avocados should not be called a race, since they really represent a species; the West Indian and the Guatemalan, however, do not appear to differ from each other except in minor characters.

The classification of avocados into these three races has been useful, inasmuch as it brings together all those varieties which have several characteristics in common. In fact, the mere statement that an avocado belongs to the West Indian, Guatemalan, or Mexican race gives one an idea of the relative hardiness, season of ripening, and commercial character of the fruit. The botanical standing of the cultivated races, as at present understood, and the characters which serve to distinguish them horticulturally, are shown in the following key in the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture.

1. Leaves anise-scented; skin of fruit thin (rarely more than 1/32 inch in thickness) Persea drymifolia Mexican Race of horticulture

2. Leaves not anise-scented; skin of fruit thicker (from 1/32 to 1/4 inch in thickness) Persea americana a. Fruit summer and fall ripening; skin usually not more than 1/16 inch thick, leathery in texture. West Indian Race b. Fruit winter and spring ripening; skin 1/16 to 1/4 inch thick, woody in texture. Guatemalan Race

One variety cultivated in the United States, the Fuerte, appears to be a hybrid between the Mexican and Guatemalan races. Others of similar origin are likely to appear at any time, hence it is desirable to establish a group to include hybrids.

The avocados of the West Indian race have been developed in the tropical lowlands; the Guatemalan race, on the other hand, is a product of the highlands. At intermediate elevations varieties appear which belong to neither of these races, but possess some of the characters of each. These intermediate forms cannot be classified with accuracy.

In selecting varieties for commercial planting, it must be borne in mind, first of all, that the tree must be vigorous and hardy enough to grow successfully in the particular location which the planter has in view. Secondly, it must in time produce sufficiently large crops of marketable fruit to make its culture commercially profitable. It is not necessary that it be very precocious; it is noticeable, in fact, that precocious varieties often fail to make vigorous trees. It is more desirable to have the tree devote itself during the first three years to the development of an extensive root-system and a well-branched crown capable of withstanding the drain imposed by the production of heavy crops of fruit than to have its growth limited and its vitality exhausted by premature fruiting. Thirdly, the fruit itself must be given consideration from a commercial standpoint. Attractiveness, flavor, shipping qualities, season, and other important characteristics should be considered in respect to the market it is proposed to supply. Naturally, good shipping quality can be sacrificed to some other point if the fruit is for local use, while it is essential if the fruit is destined for distant markets. The flavor and quality of the flesh should be as good as possible, and the seed should not be unduly large.

More than one hundred and fifty varieties have been propagated in the United States up to the present time. The larger part of these originated as seedlings in California and Florida; the remainder have been introduced from Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, the Bahamas, Hawaii, and a few other regions.

Of this large number not more than a dozen are likely to be planted ten years hence. Indeed, most of them have already been discarded. New varieties are originating every year, however, and the introduction of promising sorts from foreign countries is receiving much attention. It is only by testing a large number of varieties from all of the important avocado regions of the tropics that the best available kinds for commercial cultivation can be obtained.

It is not desirable to burden such a work as this with descriptions of all the avocados which have been propagated. It is sufficient to include the more important ones which are at the present time being planted commercially. For descriptions of minor varieties, and for information regarding the behavior and value of new introductions, the reader is referred to the annual reports of the California Avocado Association. In 1917 this organization issued Circular No. 1, "Avocado Varieties Recommended for Planting in California," the suggestions contained in which have done much to eliminate from consideration numerous inferior sorts. The varieties recommended in this circular are as follows, the arrangement being according to season of ripening in California:

Spring varieties
Fuerte, Spinks, Blakeman, and Lyon

Summer varieties
Spinks, Blakeman, Lyon, Dickinson, and Taft

Fall varieties
Taft, Dickinson, and Sharpless

Winter varieties
Sharpless, Puebla, and Fuerte

Several of these varieties may be superseded within a short time by others which are now being tested in California. It is not to be expected that the industry can settle down to the cultivation of a few standard sorts until all of the promising ones have been tested, and this may require several years.

In Florida, the only variety which was extensively planted during the first fifteen years of the industry was Trapp. With the introduction of the Guatemalans, however, the question has become more complicated, and it will take some time to determine by actual trial which members of this race are most suitable for cultivation in different parts of the state.

It is probable that varieties will be obtained which will make it possible, both in California and Florida, to market avocados in every month of the year. Indeed, it is almost possible to do so at the present time. In other regions horticulturists should work toward this end by obtaining for trial varieties ripening at different seasons.


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Mexican Race

This race, which embraces the hardiest avocados cultivated in the United States, is particularly valuable for regions too cold for the West Indian and Guatemalan varieties. It is extensively cultivated in the highlands of central and northern Mexico, whence seeds have been brought to California, resulting in numerous seedling trees scattered throughout the southern half of the state. In Florida it has never become popular, but good varieties have not been introduced until recently. Some of them promise to prove of value for the colder sections of that state.

From its native home in Mexico this race has spread to several other regions, most notably Chile, where it appears to be well known. It is the only race grown successfully in the Mediterranean region, trees having fruited at Algiers, in southern Spain, along the Riviera in southern France, and even in such a cold location as that of Rome. In tropical regions outside of Mexico it seems to be little cultivated.

The anise-like scent of the foliage and immature fruits is the most distinctive characteristic of the race and the one by which it is usually identified. The leaves are commonly smaller than those of the Guatemalan and West Indian races, and sharper at the apex. The fruit is small, 3 to 12 ounces in weight, rarely 15 or 16 ounces. The skin is thin, often no thicker than that of an apple, and usually smooth and glossy on the surface. The color varies from green to deep purple. The seed is commonly larger in proportion to the size of the fruit than in the Guatemalan race. The seed-coats are both thin, sometimes closely united and adhering to the cotyledons, sometimes separating as in the West Indian race. The flowers are heavily pubescent, and appear in winter or early spring, sometimes as early as November and usually not later than March. The fruit ripens in summer and autumn, commencing in June in Florida and August in California. Sometimes a second crop is produced from late flowers, ripening from March to May in California.
Northrop - Form obovate to pyri-form, sometimes distinctly necked; size small, weight 5 to 8 ounces, length 4 inches, greatest breadth 2 1/2 inches; base narrow, the slender stem inserted squarely almost without depression; apex rounded; surface smooth, very glossy, deep purple in color, with a few small maroon dots; skin thin, adhering closely to the flesh, membranous; flesh buttery, cream yellow in color, practically free from fiber, and of rich flavor; quality good; seed oblong-conic, small, fitting tightly in the cavity with the seed-coats both adhering closely. Season October and November at Santa Ana, California, with a second crop maturing in April and May.

Originated near Santa Ana, California; first propagated in 1911 under the name Eells. The tree is vigorous, frost-resistant, and productive.

Puebla - Form obovoid, slightly oblique; size below medium to medium, weight 8 to 10 ounces, length 3 1/2 inches, greatest breadth 2 7/8 inches; base obliquely flattened, the stem inserted slightly to one side in a small shallow cavity; apex obliquely flattened but not prominently so; surface smooth, glossy, deep maroon-purple in color, with numerous reddish dots; skin less than 1/32 inch thick, easily peeled from the flesh, firm in texture; flesh rich cream yellow near the seed, changing to pale green near the skin, buttery in texture, and of rich nutty flavor; quality very good; seed medium to large, tight in the cavity, with both seed-coats adhering closely to the cotyledons. Season December to February in southern California.


Fig. 8. The Northrop avocado. (X3/7)
Fig. 8. The Northrop avocado. (X3/7)

Originated at Atlixco, state of Puebla, Mexico; first propagated in 1911, in which year it was introduced into California. A vigorous and hardy variety, fruiting later in the season than most others of its race

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West Indian Race


This race is the predominant one in the West Indies and throughout the low-lying portions of the tropical American mainland. It is found as far north as Florida and the Bahama Islands, and as far south as central Brazil. From its home in America it has been carried to Madeira, the Canary Islands, parts of tropical Africa, Oceania, and the Indo-Malayan Archipelago. It is much more widely disseminated than either of the other races. The name South American race is sometimes applied to it, while P. H. Rolfs termed it the West Indian-South American.

Practically all of the avocados cultivated in Florida previous to the introduction of the Guatemalan were of this race. In California it has never been extensively grown; only a few trees, in fact, are known to have fruited in that state. It is the most susceptible to frost of the three races, and is best suited to cultivation at low elevations in the tropics.

The foliage of the West Indian race lacks the anise-like scent which characterizes the Mexican; in general, it resembles the foliage of the Guatemalan closely, but often the young branchlets and the leaves are lighter in color. The fruits are produced on short stems; the smallest weigh 4 or 5 ounces, the largest 3 pounds or more. The surface is nearly always smooth, yellow-green to maroon in color, the skin rarely more than 1/16 inch thick, pliable and leathery in texture. The seed is usually large in proportion to the size of the fruit, and often loose in the seed cavity. The cotyledons are often rough on the surface, with the two seed-coats frequently thick and separated, at least over the pointed end of the seed, one of the coats sometimes adhering to the cotyledons and the other to the wall of the seed cavity. The flowers are characterized by less pubescence than those of the Mexican race, but are very similar to those of the Guatemalan; sometimes they are almost devoid of pubescence. The flowering season is from February to March in Florida, the fruit maturing from July to November, in certain varieties sometimes remaining on the tree until December or January.

Pollock (Fig. 4). - Form obovate to oblong-pyriform; size very large to extremely large, weight commonly 25 to 35 ounces, but occasionally attaining to 50 ounces, length 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 inches, greatest breadth 4 to 5 inches; base narrow, flattened slightly, with the short stem inserted obliquely in a shallow, flaring, regular cavity; apex obliquely flattened or slightly depressed; surface smooth, light yellowish green in color, with numerous small greenish yellow or russet dots; skin less than 1/16 inch thick, separating very readily from the flesh, tough and leathery; flesh firm, smooth and fine in texture, deep yellow changing to yellowish green close to the skin, almost without a trace of fiber discoloration; flavor rich, rather dry, very pleasant; quality excellent; seed conic, oblique at base, rather small, weighing about 4 ounces, usually fitting snugly in the cavity but sometimes loose, the seed-coats rather loose, more or less separate; season August and September at Miami, Florida. Originated at Miami, Florida; first propagated in 1901. It has been planted more extensively than any other West Indian variety except Trapp. It is remarkable for its large size and excellent quality.

Trapp (Fig. 5). - Form roundish oblate, obliquely flattened at the apex; size large to very large, weight 16 to 24 ounces, length 4 to 4 1/2 inches, greatest breadth 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 inches; base narrowing slightly, flattened around the deep, narrow, rounded, regular cavity in which the short stem is inserted; apex obliquely flattened; surface smooth to undulating or slightly pitted, pale yellow-green in color, with numerous small to medium sized, irregular, pale greenish yellow dots; skin 1/16 inch thick, separating very readily from the flesh, firm, leathery and pliable; flesh firm, very smooth, rich cream-yellow, changing to pale green near the skin, fiber discoloration very slight; flavor moderately rich, pleasant, quality good; seed broadly oblate, large, about 5 ounces in weight, nearly tight in the cavity, with the seed-coats adhering more or less closely to the cotyledons or sometimes to the lining of the cavity. Season commencing in late September or October at Miami, Florida, and extending until the end of December, with a few fruits hanging on until the end of February or March.

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Fig. 4. The Pollock avocado. (X 3/14)
Fig. 4. The Pollock avocado.
 

  Fig. 5. The Trapp avocado. ( X3/8)

Fig. 5. The Trapp avocado.


Originated at Coconut Grove, Florida; first propagated in 1901. An unusually late variety, and for this reason valuable. It was the only avocado planted extensively in Florida previous to the introduction of the Guatemalans. The tree is very productive, but is a weak grower and susceptible to frost.

Waldin. - Form oblong to oblong-pyriform; size large to very large, weight 18 to 28 ounces, length 5 to 6 1/2 inches, greatest breadth 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 inches; base somewhat narrowed with the rather short thick stem inserted squarely; apex slightly flattened; surface smooth, usually without markings; skin 1/16 inch thick, separating readily from the flesh, tough and leathery in texture; flesh firm, deep yellow in color, smooth, with very little trace of fiber; flavor rich and pleasant ; quality excellent; seed obovate, rather large, weighing about 5 ounces, usually tight in the cavity. Season October until early January at Homestead, Florida.

Originated near Homestead, Florida; first propagated in 1915. The tree is a strong grower, productive, and more resistant to cold and to fungous diseases than the average variety of its race. Valuable on account of its lateness in ripening, and the good quality of its fruits.

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Guatemala Race

Although planted in California as early as 1885, the Guatemalan race did not begin to attract attention until about 1910. With the increase of interest in avocado culture which had its inception in California about that time, a number of fruiting trees were brought to light, most of them grown from seed introduced about 1900 by John Murrieta of Los Angeles, although the first tree was planted by Jacob Miller at Hollywood. Because of the excellent commercial qualities of the fruits produced by these seedlings and the season at which they ripened, several of them were propagated and named as horticultural varieties. The number has now increased, both through the fruiting of seedlings locally and the introduction of selected varieties from southern Mexico and Guatemala, especially from the vicinity of Atlixco, Puebla, Mexico, which was the source of most of the seeds introduced by Murrieta and has since furnished budwood of many choice varieties.

In Florida this race came into notice even later than in California. Several trees grown from seeds sent from Guatemala by G. N. Collins about 1901 came into bearing at the Miami Plant Introduction Garden in 1911-1912, and their season of ripening, February to April, immediately stimulated interest in this race, since a winter-ripening avocado had been the greatest desideratum of Florida growers. Budwood of practically all the varieties growing in California was obtained, and the first offspring of these came into bearing at Miami in 1915. While it can thus be seen that the Guatemalan race is new to Florida, it promises to become of great commercial value, and it has the decided advantage that its culture will be possible farther north than that of the West Indian race. Up to the present the trees are successful under Florida conditions. The varieties that have so far fruited ripen from October to May.

In other countries the distribution of this race is limited. It was introduced into Hawaii in 1885, and has recently begun to attract attention in that territory. Lately it has been planted in Cuba, where it promises to be successful. It has also been introduced into Porto Rico and a few other regions, but only within the last few years.

The foliage of the Guatemalan race, as of the West Indian, lacks the anise-like odor which characterizes the Mexican. It is commonly deeper colored than the West Indian, the new growth often being deep bronze-red. The fruits, weighing 4 ounces to more than 3 pounds (commonly 12 to 20 ounces), and borne on long stems, are light green to purplish black in color. The surface is often rough or warty, especially toward the stem end of the fruit. The skin is usually over 1/16 inch, sometimes 1/4 inch, thick. This characteristic, together with the texture of the surface, is variable, occasional forms being found which have the skin scarcely thicker or rougher than in the West Indian race. It is usually harder, however, and more coarsely granular in character. The seed completely fills the cavity. The cotyledons are nearly or quite smooth, the seed-coats thin, closely united, and adherent to the cotyledons throughout. The flowers, more finely pubescent than in the Mexican race, are similar in character to those of the West Indian. They appear much later than those of the Mexican race, usually beginning to open in late spring, about the time those of the West Indian race (in Florida) are setting fruits. Unlike both the other races, the fruit does not ripen in the ensuing summer, but is carried over into the following autumn, winter, or spring; while in California, fruits which develop from flowers appearing in June may remain on the tree until a year from the following October. The ripening season in general is winter and spring in Florida, somewhat later in California, where the earliest varieties at present cultivated begin to ripen late in January or in February, and the latest ones hang on the tree until October.

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Blakeman. - Form broad pyriform to obconic, oblique, broad at the basal end; size above medium to very large, weight 14 to 20 ounces, length 4 to 4f inches, greatest breadth 3 1/4 to 3 3/4 inches; base rounded, the long stem inserted obliquely in a very shallow cavity; apex broadly rounded, obliquely flattened or slightly depressed on one side, with the stigmatic point raised; surface slightly undulating to roughened, but not so rough as in many other Guatemalan varieties, dark green with numerous large yellowish or reddish brown dots; skin thick and woody, separating readily from the flesh, brittle, granular; flesh fine-grained, firm, deep cream-yellow in color, tinged with green near the skin, free from fiber or discoloration; flavor rich, pleasant; quality very good; seed broadly conic, medium sized, fitting tightly in the cavity with both seed-coats adhering closely. Season April to August at Hollywood, California.

Originated at Hollywood, California; first propagated in 1912, under the provisional names Habersham and Dickey No. 2.

Dickinson (Fig. 6). - Form oval to obovate, sometimes almost pyriform; size small to medium, weight 9 to 14 ounces, length 3 1/2 inches, greatest breadth 2 3/4 inches; base not noticeably flattened, the long stem inserted in a very small and shallow cavity; apex rounded; surface very rough, verrucose or tuberculate around the base, dark purple in color with large, irregular, maroon dots; skin very thick, especially near the base, separating fairly readily from the flesh, coarsely granular, woody, brittle; flesh buttery, pale greenish yellow, free from fiber, of pleasant flavor; quality good; seed roundish oblate, medium sized, tight in the cavity, with both seed-coats adhering closely. Season June to October at Los Angeles, California.

Originated at Los Angeles, California; first propagated in 1912. Vigorous in growth and precocious in fruiting.

Lyon. - Form broad pyriform, indistinctly necked, and sometimes oblique at the apex; size above medium to large, weight 14 to 18 ounces, length about 5 1/2 inches, greatest breadth 3 1/2 inches ; base narrow, the long stout stem inserted obliquely almost without depression; surface undulating to rough, bright green in color, with numerous small yellowish or russet dots; skin moderately thick, separating very readily from the flesh, coarsely granular, brittle; flesh smooth, firm, deep cream colored, tinged with green toward the skin, free from fiber discoloration, the flavor very rich and pleasant; quality very good; seed broad conic, medium small to medium in size, fitting tightly in the cavity with both seed-coats adhering closely. Season April to August at Hollywood, California. Originated at Hollywood, California; first propagated in 1911. The tree is precocious in bearing, and the fruit is of excellent quality.

Sharpless. - Form slender pyriform to elongated pyriform with a long neck; size large to very large, weight 16 to 24 ounces, length 6 to 6 1/2 inches, greatest breadth 3 1/4 inches; base very narrow, the long stem inserted obliquely without depression; apex rounded; surface slightly roughened or pitted, glossy, greenish purple to deep purple in color, with numerous yellowish dots; skin thick, separating readily from the flesh, granular and woody; flesh smooth, firm, cream colored, free from fiber discoloration, and of unusually rich pleasant flavor; quality excellent; seed oblate-oblique, small, weighing 1 1/4 ounces, fitting tightly in the cavity, with both seed-coats adhering closely. Season October to February at Santa Ana, California.

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Fig. 6. The Dickinson avocado. (X 3/8)

Fig. 6. The Dickinson avocado. (X 3/8)

Originated near Santa Ana, California; first propagated in 1913. This is a fruit of fine quality, ripening very late in season.

Solano. - Form broadly obovate to oval; size above medium to large, weight 16 to 24 ounces, sometimes attaining to 28 ounces, length 5 3/4 inches, greatest breadth 3 7/8 inches; base rounded, with the long stem inserted obliquely without depression; apex oblique, slightly flattened; surface nearly smooth, somewhat glossy, bright green in color with numerous greenish yellow dots; skin moderately thick, separating readily from the flesh, granular; flesh firm, smooth, yellowish cream color, greenish near the skin, free from fiber discolorations and of mild pleasant flavor; quality fair; seed broadly conical to broadly ovate, small, fitting tightly in the cavity, with both seed-coats adhering closely. Season March to May at Los Angeles, California; October to November 15 at Miami, Florida.

Originated at Hollywood, California; first propagated in 1912. Productive, and a strong grower.

Spinks. - Form broadly obovate, or ob-conic; size extremely large, weighing from 18 to 34 ounces, length about 5 inches, greatest breadth about 4 1/2 inches; base narrow, rounded, with the rather short stout stem inserted almost squarely without depression; apex rounded; surface roughened, warty around the base, dark purple in color; skin thick, separating readily from the flesh, woody, granular, brittle; flesh firm, smooth, rich yellow in color, free from fiber, and of rich pleasant flavor; quality very good; seed nearly spherical, small, weighing 3 ounces, fitting tightly in the cavity with the seed-coats adhering closely. Season April to August at Duarte, California.

Originated at Duarte, California; first propagated in 1915. The tree is vigorous and productive, and the fruit of excellent quality.

Taft (Fig. 7). - Form broad pyriform, slightly necked; size above medium to very large, weight 14 to 24 ounces, length 5 to 5½ inches, greatest breadth 3¾ inches; base tapering, the long stem inserted obliquely without depression; apex rounded, with the stigmatic point raised; surface undulating to roughened around the base, deep green in color, with numerous yellowish dots; skin thick, separating very readily from the flesh, granular, rather pliable; flesh firm, smooth, light yellow in color with no trace of fiber discoloration; flavor unusually rich and pleasant; quality excellent; seed broadly conical, medium sized, fitting tightly in the cavity with both seed-coats adhering closely. Season May to October in southern California.

Originated at Orange, California; first propagated in 1912. The tree is a strong grower but has not proved very frost-resistant in Florida. Its bearing habits have not been satisfactory in California, but in Florida they promise to be better.

Fig. 7. The Taft avocado. (X 1/3)

Fig. 7. The Taft avocado. (X 1/3)

Taylor. - Form pyriform to obovate; size medium to large, weight 12 to 18 ounces, length 4 to 4 1/2 inches, greatest breadth 3 1/2 inches; base tapering, usually not distinctly necked, the long stem inserted obliquely almost without depression; apex rounded; surface undulating to rough, dull green in color, with numerous small yellowish dots; skin 1/16 inch thick, separating readily from the flesh, granular and woody; flesh firm, smooth, yellowish cream color, pale green near the skin, free from fiber, and of fairly rich pleasant flavor; quality very good; seed conical, medium sized, tight in the cavity with both seed-coats adhering closely. Season January 15 to April 1, at Miami, Florida.

Originated at Miami, Florida; first propagated in 1914. This variety has been planted only in Florida, where it has proved to be vigorous and reasonably productive.




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Bibliography

Popenoe, Wilson, 1920. The"Manual Of Tropical And Subtropical Fruits." N.d. chestofbooks.com. Web. 11 Oct. 2013

Published 2014. Updated 7 Oct. 2015 LR

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