Every avocado starts as a little flower, but the road to the delicious fruit is more complicated that one might think. Avocado flowers might look unassuming but are in fact one of a kind. The flowers are female the first day and male the next!

Hermaphroditism

Flowers are often hermaphrodites meaning they have both female and male sexual organs. Plants that are hermaphrodites are self fertile and don’t need another plant for pollination. Tomatoes are a good example, with just one plant you can get a good crop. In fact with tomatoes you hardly need pollinators like bees, the wind is enough to bring the pollen from the male part of the flower to the female part.

Dichogamy

The avocado flowers are hermaphrodites, but what’s really unique with avocado flowers is that though the female and male parts are in the same flower they are not active at the same time. The first day the flower is female, the stigma is receptive to pollen and can be fertilized. The second day the stamens are shedding pollen but the stigma is nolonger active. This means that self pollination is not possible in a single flower.

female and male avocado flowers

A and B type flowers

To make matters even more interesting there are two kinds of flowers in avocado cultivars; type A en type B flowers. The difference between them is when the flowers are female and male. Type A flowers are female in the morning and male in the afternoon on the second day. Type B flowers are female in the afternoon and male in the next morning.

Avocado flower dichogam

So if you plant both A and B type of trees together you’ll be sure to get good cross pollination with hundreds of flowers opening in both female and male stages day after day.

Avocado cultivars

Type A flowers Type B flowers
Gwen
Hass
Pinkerton
Reed
Bacon
Fuerte
Shepard
Zutano

Effect of temperature on flowering

The flowers keep to their schedule best with an average temperature is around 21 °C. When temperatures fall, the opening of the flowers becomes erratic with flowers in both female and male stage opening at the same time. If you only have one avocado tree this will be very helpful as it increases the chances of self pollination. There might be no fruit set at all when temperatures drop below 15 °C.

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