Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the January 14, 2007 Newsletter issued from Yerba Buena Clinic just outside Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 1740 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 17° 11' 27"N, LONG. -92° 53' 35"W

wild avocados, Persea cf. shiedeana

What do you think about the sliced-open avocado shown above?

Probably you think that that's an awfully scrawny avocado -- all seed and no "meat" -- and that avocados are supposed to be pear-shaped, not spherical like this one.

To me what's interesting is that instead of buying that fruit from the market I picked it up next to my tent in the cloudforest. This is a "wild avocado," a fruit dropped from the tree I camped below.

Avocados are fruits of the genus Persea. My old Bailey's Manual of Cultivated Plants says that about 50 Persea species exist, mostly in the Americas but a few in Southeast Asia, and there's one in the Canary Islands. Breedlove's Flora of Chiapas lists 14 Persea species for Chiapas. The University of East Anglia 1986 expedition to the reserve identified PERSEA SHIEDEANA as an emergent member of the high cloudforest so I'm assuming that that's what I have.

In traditional markets here you see all kinds of avocados -- black ones, green ones, spherical ones, pear-shaped ones, really long ones, big ones, small ones, smooth ones, bumpy ones... As with bananas and many other fruits, once you start paying attention you realize that there's a lot more out there than you ever dreamed could be. The market Avocado, Persea americana, is native to the American tropics, and from that single species many horticultural variations have been developed.

A fellow I met in the woods called my fruit an "aguacate de mono," or "monkey avocado." I don't think I'll ever see a monkey eating Yerba Buena's wild avocados but a really nice bird reported from here, which I've not seen yet, is the Emerald Toucanet, a smallish, green toucan with a big, yellow-and-black bill. Since toucans love this kind of fruit, finding this monkey avocado next to my tent encourages me to think it won't be long until I spot an Emerald Toucanet.