Monday, January 17, 2011

Ancient Stories of Unicorns and Avocado Trees......

A shrine before visiting the sacred avocado tree
 Sometimes we don't need to go very far to discover miracles. Today was such a day and I feel like such a little kid after the experience.  It's like when little bubbles of joy are trapped inside of you and then they suddenly explode.  Of the writings from this week, this has been my favorite and one that I have been itching to type out onto the screen.  Several days ago, during some exotic citrus research, a fellow gardener and myself were chatting near the avocado tree section.  I laughed outload and asked him if he ever heard of an avocado tree surviving in town. He laughed and said he was attempting for his 2 time. But then what he said afterwards, surprised me.  Not only were there some avocado trees in Tucson, but they were all located around my neighborhood! Not that he had seen them personally, but that he had heard  stories from other gardeners in town. It was an immediate challenge for me to get to the answers and find out.  Had I known about this sooner, I would have investigated  many years ago.  I just thought it was a myth. It is something we all dream about here.  It is something we plant and fail at miserably here. We pot it, ground it, cover it, grow it from seed......and it always concludes with the same disappointment. Death. Frustration. So for you people looking into the avocado....I warned you:) Some trees will just not grow here......or do they?
An old citrus grove
If you're from Tucson and have tried planting an avocado tree, you know that it's nearly impossible to grow one unless you have it in a pot.  It's a very picky plant to maintain....the soil has to be just right and forget about the winter!!  If temps get below 45 degrees, the tree will usually die. And it always gets below 45 degrees in winter......and so I began my search to find the truth of this miraculous tree that grew in midtown Tucson.  Wearing my docent cap, I went in search of this Holy Grail.....
Purple Prickly Pear is the best!
Two blocks away, I met one of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.  She was warm and welcoming to a stranger asking to see their heavenly avocado tree.  Our neighborhood is full of weirdos and crazies and while I think I don't look like a crazy man, people are still stand-offish.  First off, the gardens at this church are incredible and were created around the time of 1935.  There is a citrus grove and several formal gardens located on the grounds.  The unfortunate part is that the plants are aging and the signs of it are on the dead branches and small fruits. The Sister met me out back where she led me into a gated courtyard.  I slowly walked through the door absorbing everything around me. It was like taking a moment to savor something special.....a sip of  fine wine in your mouth, a bit of chocolate, or the first tiny rip off a gift before you tear open the entire package.

As I turned the corner, my heart began to beat as I saw a real large avocado tree.  Not a tiny one, but one that was really growing from the ground and it was HUGE!! I couldn't believe my eyes.  After all the years of living here(and in my own neighborhood!!), I see an avocado tree. This is the part that I am embarrassed about....I pulled out my camera to snap a pic and discovered I left the memory card in the computer!!!  I started to sweat and panic.  How could I do something like that??!!!  The Sister was really gracious to me and gave me a chance to run home(2 blocks away) and grab the card.  Like a little kid, I ran as fast as I could to get that card......and I did.  Here are the pics below for evidence.  Some people like their pics taken next to famous people; I like having mine taken next to miracles.
Burned leaves on the avocado tree

I think this may be another variety of avocado growing next to it.  The Mexican Avocado?
So, avocado trees do exist in the Old Pueblo.  Not many live here, and I imagine there are more trees in the Phoenix or Yuma areas as their climate resembles a hellish environment. Sorry Sisters, I couldn't resist:) The property is a very beautiful place, but it does show an aging population of plants.  I've offered my help when everyone gets together to do some pruning around the gardens.  My parents have gone to service here and have really enjoyed the mass, but they had mentioned to me that it was an older crowd. It is the same older crowd that is trying to manage a large property. The Sister informed me that they have several specialists coming down to inspect the trees and protect these sacred plants.  That was a relief because while I think it's good for some trees and bushes to be replaced, I don't think that special plants with history should be removed.  They instead should be treated and hopefully saved. I write about Indian cultures dying around the world, and in my own backyard, I see another culture disappearing....but of the spiritual kind.  The trees show their age;  even the avocado tree....the question is can they be restored back to full health? Can any of it be restored? Just a parting thought of what has turned out to be a beautiful day of positive outcomes.  Now about those unicorns.....
Evidence that I stood next to an avocado tree in Tucson:)


  1. Congratulations.

    To put Nature, in perspective, context, is not the rule among the majority of bloggers. This post has been a reading pleasure, for the related information and the avocados themselves.

    Until next.

  2. Hey Rohrbot,
    Great find. I've grown all 3 types of Avocados. I can tell you a lot about them, but it's the 'hunt' that makes it such fun. We have around 5 avocado trees around my part of Houston and it was adventure finding them all.
    Here's a quick check on identifying the 3 types:
    1)Largest leaves, frost damage on leaves at 30 degrees to 32 degrees...West Indian avocado
    2)Medium leaves, crushed leaves smell like anise or licorice..can take down to 20 degrees, prefers lower humidity....Mexican avocado
    3)Medium leaves, no scent when crushed, can take down to 26....Guatemalen avocado
    Hybrid between 2 & 3...usually no scent
    Good luck.
    David/ Tropical Texana

  3. There is an avocado tree, large, on the grounds of Westward Look resort. It is just south of the Palm Room and the Palm Terrace, tucked into a south east facing corner, with a building just to the south that provides additional protection. There is also a lime-quat tree next to it that bears the most delicious and sweet fruits, it is not a Eustis limequat. The gardener told me that the avocado bears fruit.

    1. That is a great tip!!! Thank you for sharing. I have heard about these random success stories around the city.....and they are "hiding". Sounds like another fun trek around town with my camera. Thanks for reading. Hope you have a great week!


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