The life cycle of an avocado is something that I find really fascinating and often when we tell people how it all works they find it really interesting, too. So, over the next year I’ll take you through the life of the avo.
Our avocados hang on the tree for around 12 months, a much longer period than avocados grown in tropical areas. This is because our cooler Winters result in a slower maturation period.
There are a few really key things that happen in that 12-month period. This post is all about pollination which is the first and most important step in the life of the avocado.
In our region, pollination for the Hass variety occurs from mid-October to mid-November. Basically what happens is bees and other insects take pollen from the male flowers, which they drop on the female flowers and pollinate them which then produces a little fruit, but there is quite a lot to getting that process of events to occur.
Did you know that avocados trees actually have male and female flowers on the one plant? A lot of people think you need to have two avocado trees planted together to get fruit, but this is not the case, it will increase your chances of getting fruit if you have a pair but it is not essential. A fully grown avocado tree can have over 2 million flowers. But, the tricky bit is getting the right conditions for female flowers to open. The males open easily (surprise, surprise) but to get the female flowers to open we need to have 3 nights in a row over 10ºC. This year we have had lots of lovely warm weather and high overnight temps which we love for getting those girls active!
Female flowers open in the morning and close early in the afternoon. Male flowers open around midday and close late afternoon. So there is not much of a window for the bee to go to a male flower first to collect the pollen and then to a female flower to pollinate it. This is why it is a good idea to have pollinator trees which are of a different variety and flower in reverse (male in the morning and female in the afternoon). This means you have both male and female flowers open at the same time close by to each other, kind of like a dating service…
The other thing that is really great for pollination is a thunderstorm. Apparently it send the trees a bit crazy and male and females start opening all over the place, which is great for increased chances of pollination.
We get extra bee hives in every year so that we can make sure we have every chance of getting those flowers pollinated. Interestingly new research is showing that some flowers are opening and some pollination is occurring at nighttime by other insects and not just bees. Which is good for us because the bees tend to like the next door neighbour’s oranges better than our avocados anyway!
Once the pollen is taken from the male to the female flowers — all going well — the females will set fruit and after a few days to a week we will see little fruit appearing. I love walking round the orchard and seeing all the new little babies on the trees and watching them grow in to beautiful big avocados.