The East Bay Avocado: Invisible No Longer

The East Bay produces a cornucopia of tree fruits that we love to eat, such as apples, figs, and plums. But what about our beloved avocado (Persea americana)?

Hearing reports of avocado trees growing quietly among us, I followed clues in search of these elusive trees and found them living almost unnoticed all over the East Bay, from Fremont to Antioch. Some are majestic, towering gorgeously above Victorian mansions and dropping their fat fruit from great heights. Many were planted in the 1960s and ‘70s, but there are rumors of trees over 90 years old.

Why have more trees not been planted? It could be that many homeowners are concerned that an avocado tree would overwhelm a small urban or suburban lot, since left to their own devices most avocado cultivars grow well over 30 feet in height. Add to that the common caveats: you need two trees for pollination, taking up even more space, and they create deep shade, so you can’t garden under them. Plus, they make a mess if you don’t harvest the fruit.

When an avocado craze swept Southern California back in the 1920s, many trees were planted on small lots. But the mania never made it to Northern California, perhaps because there’s a perception that we have too much frost for this subtropical tree, native to Mesoamerica and the Caribbean. In truth, many avocado cultivars are hardy and can take cold down to 25 degrees (once they make it past their juvenile state). The trees can be topped and kept to six feet without harm, says Katherine Pyle, founder of the California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG) Golden Gate Chapter. Some varieties self-pollinate, making two trees unnecessary. And you can garden around them.

Source: Edible East Bay magazine. For more, visit:


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