Cook Islands Biodiversity & Natural Heritage

Persea americana



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General Information

COMMON NAMES: Avocado, Alligator Pear, Avocado Pear, Poor-man's Butter; German Avocado

TRADITIONAL NAMES: ‘Āpuka (RR MG AT MT AK), ‘Āvota (MK); Other Polynesian - ‘Avoka (SAM), ‘Āvota (TAH)


COOK ISLANDS STATUS: Introduced - Recent, Not naturalised; Land, lowlands - mountains (+)

SIGNIFICANCE LIST: Food (Fruit 4+) Export

KEY FEATURES: A tree to 15m. LEAVES terminal cluster, alternate, oval, large, to 30x15cm, dark green above; stalk 5cm. FLOWERS dense clusters, small, without petals. FRUIT usually pear-shaped or oval, skin usually smooth, ripen green to purple; flesh green to yellow, buttery. SEED large.

Enlarged Image of 'Persea americana'

Cook Islands Distribution

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Southern Group: Present    Makatea: Present

Northern Group: Present

Key to Symbols

Scientific Taxonomy

Persea americana Mill.
SYNONYMS: Persea gratissima [incl. TC]; Laurus


More Information

SIGNIFICANCE NOTES -. Comment: NBSAP - Atiu (4 of 5 domestic)
POSITIVE SIGNIFICANCE: Food (Fruit 4+) Export. Comments: The flesh has a nutty flavour and high oil content (~25%). The oils/fats are mainly monounsaturated (17% sat., 66% monounsat., 17% polyunsat.), and it contains NO cholesterol. It is rich in vitamins (folacin, vit. A, B6, and C) and minerals (K). And beta-sitosterol which reduces cholesterol absorption. Eaten raw, often in salad, or as a spread on bread, hence "poor-man's butter'; and it is a principal ingredient in guacamole, a Mexican sauce.

IDENTIFICATION: Much-branching tree to 15m. LEAVES terminal clusters, alternate, wide-oval, to 30x15cm, dark green above, margins smooth; stalk 5cm. FLOWERS dense clusters, small, 15mmØ, without petals. FRUIT several dinstinctive varieties, usually pear-shaped or oval, skin smooth, ripening green to purple; flesh green to yellow, buttery. SEED single, large.

GENERAL NOTE: Avocado was cultivated by the native Americans in Peru from at least 750BC, and presumably earlier in Mexico where the tree is native. The name Avocado comes from the Spanish Aquacate which is from Aztec Ahuacacuauhitl, meaning 'testicle tree'. It was thought to have aphrodisiac qualities, and this may have been the reason by it was not planted in the Spanish missions in the Americas. Introduced to Rarotonga from Tahiti in the 1870s [Cheeseman]. And had been introduced to Tahiti in 1846 by Admiral Hamelin. In Hawaii by 1825 on Bloxam [misnomer: Andrew Bloxam was on HMS Blonde] from Rio de Janeiro, or slightly earlier by Spanish settler Don Marin [Wagner]. Probably introduced to Fiji in the 1880s [A.C.Smith, Flora]. Avocado is used in salads, and is also a butter substitute because it is rich in fats. It is a good source of vitamin E, potassium, the antioxidant oleic acid, and dietary fibre. It also contains folic acid and vitamin B6. Although it contains 15% fats, they are mostly heart-friendly fats. The 5 grams of fat in a 30 gram serving are: 3 g of monounsaturated fat and 1g polyunsaturated fat which are both heart-friendly by lowering your dangerous LDL cholesterol and raising your beneficial HDL cholesterol; the 1g of saturated fat is heart-unfriendly. As a heart-friendliness spread for bread and toast, avocado is a little better than sour cream, much better than cream cheese and immeasurably better than butter. In addition, compared to most fruits avocado is high in a phytosterol (beta-sitosterol) and an anti-oxidant (glutathione): the first is linked to reduced cholesterol absorption through the gut wall, and the second is linked to a reduction on some types of cancers.

Vouchers & References

None Recorded.

p.847 Wagner et al.- Flowering Plants of Hawaii
p.363 Neal - In Gardens of Hawaii
p.848 Hortus 3rd
p.866 Royal Hort. Soc. Index of Garden Plants
p.463 Tropica
p.2/115 A.C.Smith - Flora Vitiensis Nova
p.293 R* Cheeseman - Flora of Rarotonga
p.51 Wilder - Flora of Rarotonga
p.357b Whistler - Ethnobotany of the Cook Islands
p.18 McCormack/Kunzle - Rarotonga's Mountain Tracks and Plants

Data Update History (information):
zTX, zB02, zM02, zD02

Web Resources

Citation Information

McCormack, Gerald (2007) Cook Islands Biodiversity Database, Version 2007.2. Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust, Rarotonga. Online at Copy citation to system clipboard
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