Friday, February 17, 2012

How YOU Helped Discover and SAVE an Avocado Variety!

This is the tree "we" helped save -- well, actually the tree will probably not be saved... but the avocados it produces will live on and on...This is the story and a bunch of cool photos follow at the end. 

Last summer (August, 2011) a story came out in the Ventura County Star (our county's largest newspaper) about the Diva and her love of rare, unique, "heritage" avocados and the trees they grow upon. A very nice man emailed the Diva to say his mom had a tree that was very old, produced some amazing avocados, and that soon the tree would probably have to be cut down. He wanted to know if the Diva had any ideas for how to save the avocado tree.

I exchanged several emails with Mr. Davis and suggested a couple of ideas:

a. He could contact the internationally known nursery that grafts most of the commercial avocado trees for all of California, Brokaw Nursery. It just so happens that they are in the same town as his mother's house and tree!

b. He could also contact the commercial nursery that grafts trees for the consumer market - LaVerne nursery, which is also in Ventura County (in Piru, California).

It turns out that Mr. Davis had already worked with a couple of exotic fruit growing hobbyists to take scions and make grafts. Mr. Davis had attempted to do that too -- but with little luck. So it turned out that Brokaw Nursery was kind enough (and interested enough!) to send a professional out. Mr. Davis called him an "avocado whisperer" - he checked out the tree, spent quite a bit of time observing it, looking at it's leaves, it's bark, and finally took several cuttings (in late November) when he determined it was at the optimal time to produce budwood that would graft well.

In January (2012) -- Mr. Davis' mother passed away -- and it was time for the family to sell the old family home. The tree will probably have to be cut down - as it is very old, very large, and towers over the home - making it not easy to insure (plus there are several other issues).

Avocado trees don't move well - it's not like you can dig it up (the root system would be several dozen feet wide, for one thing) - plus they just stop producing fruit after several decades.

The great news is -- in February -- Brokaw Nursery called Mr. Davis and (yippee!!) the grafts worked well! They had several small trees growing - and Mr. Davis was SO kind - he gave the Diva one! Mr. Davis and his family will all attempt to grow them, as well as several other friends. So this tree will live on through the traditional process of cutting, grafting, and growing more "baby" trees - just like we've been doing in California since the Spanish landed near Dos Pueblos (above Santa Barbara) since the 1800's.

I plan to grow my tree inside my house for a couple of years in a large pot -- and when it gets larger and stronger - then I will transplant it and grow it on the hill in my back yard.

Thanks to you (seriously) - for encouraging me, for following my blogs, for responding to my Facebook posts, and for purchasing the Diva's avocados, tools, spices, etc. Because of "us" -- you are helping me preserve these grand, old trees and these fabulous heritage avocados. Please check out the photos below - as they help tell this awesome story.

The Davis Family home in Ventura, California - tree on the right

The tree was probably planted in about 1930 - the home is now surrounded by industry (oil firms, warehouses) and a few apartment houses. It will most likely be sold and torn down to be replaced by something similar. 

This is one of the avocados from the tree - the family got to name the variety (which is traditional). Mr. Davis named it for his grandson, Matthew Davis.  I took this photo on a local beach in Ventura. 

Here is one of the nursery's tag's for a scion, noting the newly named variety's name (Matthew Davis), where it came from (Ventura) and the date the scion was cut. 

Here is my little tree along with one of the immature fruits from the "mother tree". (Feb 2012)


  1. Interesting. It's probably not it, but you may want to check the 1963 Avocado Yearbook report on the Duke Avocado. The Duke was born in Bangor, which is near Oroville, in Butte County. The first seeds were planted in 1912. Scions were taken from the most promising trees about ten years later. One of the scions would become the Duke. Dukes were grown extensively in Ventura County (rumor has it that every old avocado tree in Hemet, Riverside County, is a Duke). I've compared pictures of Duke trees up here with what you have on your blog. It doesn't look all that similar.

  2. Thanks Bill! I will research that. We did have the fruit (leaves, bark, too) examined by UC Riverside - that's how the determined it was an "undocumented" (new) cultivar. I'll keep my eyes open for some Dukes around here!!