There are some avocado trees in Southern California that survive on rainfall alone. Some that I know were once part of old groves while others appear to have grown as wild seedlings from the beginning. Have they tapped into an underground water source? Are they on a particularly drought tolerant rootstock?

Here’s a video of one such feral tree that I’ve been visiting for many years. As you’ll see, it’s having a great bloom this year despite the low rainfall we had last winter. In fact, it’s blooming better than some of the trees that I pamper with irrigation in my yard!

What lessons can we learn from this tree?

One is that we might be overwatering some old trees, especially if we water them much during winter.

Two is that allowing weeds to grow as a living mulch beneath an old avocado tree is clearly not a big problem.

This tree also makes me think of the old avocado trees in residential settings throughout California that are declining and that it seems more likely that the decline is related to changes around the tree than it is to neglect. The changes I’m thinking of (and that I’ve seen recently) include putting in a new pool near an old avocado tree, or building a patio under and around an old avocado tree. Both such changes kill many roots and compact soil over others.

This tree also makes me think of the leaf burn phenomenon that many of us see on our avocado trees in Southern California. Did you notice in the video that this feral tree has almost no leaf burn? (Though I have to note that I have seen it with more leaf burn in past years.) This lends credence to the explanation that it is mainly chloride buildup in the leaves that causes the burned tips. Chloride levels are far higher in our imported irrigation water than they are in rainfall. This tree only receives rainfall.

There must be more. What lessons am I not seeing?

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