pile of avocados (c) pixabay

Early History of the Avocado in California


Adapted from "The California Avocado Industry"

By Robert W. Hodgson


The first reference to the introduction of the avocado into California appears in the Report of the Visiting Committee of the California State Agricultural Society in 1856. According to this report, an avocado tree was imported from Nicaragua, along with other fruit plants, by a Dr. Thomas J. White who lived near Los Angeles. Not until 1871, however, was the avocado definitely established, through the introduction of three trees by Judge R. B. Ord of Santa Barbara. Two of these three trees bore fruit for many years in Santa Barbara, and served to create interest in further plantings. In the years following its introduction by Judge Ord, many trees were planted. Some were imported from Mexico and the countries of Central America; others were started from the seeds of the many fruits brought into California by travelers.

Turn of the Century

In the early 1890's, Juan Murrieta of Los Angeles became interested in the avocado and imported a considerable quantity of thick-skinned fruit from Atlixco, Mexico. He distributed some of the seeds of these fruits among his friends and planted the others, himself. From this group of seedling trees came a number of the varieties that first attracted attention as promising commercial fruits. These include the Royal, Walker, Challenge, Dickey, Blakeman, Sharpless, Colorado, and Murrieta. None of these varieties are currently grown commercially. These early plantings stimulated interest in the commercial possibilities of the avocado, and numerous experimental plantings were made in the first decade of the 1900's.

Early 1900's

Starting around 1910, growers began to emphasize the commercial aspects of avocado culture. Instead of relying on chance seedlings, nurserymen undertook the exploration of the avocado districts in Mexico and Guatemala. F.O. Popenoe and T.U. Barber, of the West India Gardens, Altadena, were pioneers in this field, and during 1911-1912 brought in budwood of many varieties from the best districts of Mexico. Of these, Fuerte and Puebla proved to have special merit. E.E. Knight, of Yorba Linda, a resident for many years of Central America, also brought in budwood of superior varieties from Guatemala, of which Queen and Linda proved to be the most promising.


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