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Biennial bearing can be a problem, with heavy crops in one year being followed by poor yields the next.
The avocado tree does not tolerate freezing temperatures, and can be grown only in subtropical or tropical climates.
The tree grows to 20 m (66 ft), with alternately arranged leaves 12–25 cm (4.7–9.8 in) long.
The flowers are inconspicuous, greenish-yellow, 5–10 mm (0.2–0.4 in) wide.
The earliest known written account of the avocado in Europe is that of Martín Fernández de Enciso (circa 1470–1528) in 1519 in his book, Suma De Geographia Que Trata De Todas Las Partidas Y Provincias Del Mundo. The plant was introduced to Spain in 1601, Indonesia around 1750, Mauritius in 1780, Brazil in 1809, the United States mainland in 1825, South Africa and Australia in the late 19th century, and Israel in 1908.
Before 1915, the avocado was commonly referred to in California as ahuacate and in Florida as alligator pear.
This evidence was found in an earth mound intended to be a ceremonial structure called Huaca Prieta, 600 kilometers north of Lima, Peru.
These soil and climate conditions are available in southern and eastern Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Crete, the Levant, South Africa, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, parts of central and northern Chile, Vietnam, Indonesia, parts of southern India, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, California, Arizona, Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, Hawaii, Ecuador, and Rwanda. Commercial orchards produce an average of seven tonnes per hectare each year, with some orchards achieving 20 tonnes per hectare.
Most cultivars are propagated by grafting, having originated from random seedling plants or minor mutations derived from cultivars.
Modern breeding programs tend to use isolation plots where the chances of cross-pollination are reduced.
The use of an ethylene gas "ripening room", which is now an industry standard, was pioneered in the 1980s by farmer Gil Henry of Escondido, California, in response to footage from a hidden supermarket camera which showed shoppers repeatedly squeezing hard, unripe avocados, putting them "back in the bin," and moving on without making a purchase.
In some cases, avocados can be left on the tree for several months, which is an advantage to commercial growers who seek the greatest return for their crop, but if the fruit remains unpicked for too long, it falls to the ground.
The species is only partially able to self-pollinate because of dichogamy in its flowering.