Jan Boyce has been called “the connoisseur’s avocado.” What earned it that title? And does the variety’s tree quality match the fruit quality?

In this profile, I’ll answer these questions and more so that you can decide if Jan Boyce is an avocado tree you would like to grow.

Jan Boyce fruit

Jan Boyce avocados are small to medium in size, and in shape they are not as curvy as most avocados. They remind me of cones, or candy corn.

A basket of Jan Boyce avocados.

Their color is deep green while on the tree as well as once ripe.

But they ripen rapidly, as fast or faster than any other avocado variety I know. In less than a week from harvest, a Jan Boyce avocado will be soft enough to eat. While this might be desirable for a home grower, it does create a challenge for a farmer, who has little time to get the fruit from the tree to a market or a consumer.

A further reason that you will never see a Jan Boyce avocado in a grocery store bin is that it has thin, fragile skin. Even though the skin is not as thin as some varieties, it is not pliable, making it difficult to impossible to peel off the flesh. The thin skin also does not protect it well during transportation. And the skin will occasionally split while the fruit is on the tree.

Jan Boyce avocado with split skin.

The skin of Jan Boyce is the variety’s one important imperfection. Inside, however, all is nearly flawless.

The seed is even smaller than Pinkerton’s. It’s so small it’s cute. The flesh is vividly colored, green to yellow. The texture is firm. The flavor is outstanding, with a smoky, roasted tone. I really enjoy the flavor, and I’ve tasted a similar flavor in a few other avocados, one of which is Ardith.

This is a video I made showing the eating qualities of the Jan Boyce avocado:

Variety history

​​​​​​​Little is known to me about the woman, Jan Boyce, for whom this avocado was named other than that she was the wife of Al Boyce. He was well known to California avocado growers of the 1950s and 60s because he was the director of the Citrus Experiment Station in Riverside, later becoming the dean of the College of Agriculture when the Station grew into the University of California at Riverside. Al Boyce supported research on avocado problems and developments of new varieties at Riverside, earning the Award of Honor from the California Avocado Society in 1961 and eventually retiring in 1968.

Despite its high quality, most of us would never have heard of the Jan Boyce avocado if it weren’t for the efforts of members of the Orange County chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers. Jan Boyce is one of hundreds of avocado varieties developed by the University of California and maintained in the collection at their research station in Irvine (now called the South Coast Research and Extension Center), and beginning in the early 1990s it was Orange County CRFG members who volunteered to do much work with the collection. They grafted new trees and recorded observations and performed historical research and lead tours of the variety collection.

It was one of the CRFG volunteers, Frank James, who started calling Jan Boyce “the connoisseur’s avocado.”

A “connoisseur’s avocado” hanging on a tree in San Diego County.

Another CRFG volunteer, Julie Frink, also grew to love the Jan Boyce avocados that she was able to taste while she helped in the Irvine collection. Frink ultimately did so much work with the collection that in 2002 she earned an Oliver Atkins Award from the California Avocado Society: she helped get the University to release the XX3 variety to backyard growers, the variety later becoming known as Holiday; she compiled the most exhaustive resource on avocado varieties that I’m aware of, forms of which can be accessed here as the Variety Database on AvocadoSource and here as the Variety List on the UC site; and she propagated numerous uncommon varieties (including Jan Boyce) from the collection in order to share them with other avocado enthusiasts far beyond Orange County.

The first time I visited the avocado collection in Irvine in 2012, Julie Frink lead my tour. And the first Jan Boyce tree I grew was grafted by Julie Frink.

My first JB tree, grafted by Julie Frink.

(Watch a classic video featuring Julie Frink and Tom Spellman of Dave Wilson Nursery discussing the Jan Boyce variety while standing at one of the trees in the collection at the Irvine research station. Go to 5:30 here.)

​​​​​​​Jan Boyce flowering and fruitfulness

Jan Boyce has an A-type flower, blooming in the early to mid season compared to other avocados.

Flowers emerging on a Jan Boyce tree in March 2023.

And young Jan Boyce trees are moderately precocious, that is, they will flower at a slightly younger age than some varieties but not as quickly as some others. In my experience, they are more precocious than Sharwil, about as precocious as Hass, and less precocious than GEM.

In terms of overall fruitfulness, I can say that I have seen Jan Boyce trees in many locations growing in proximity to other varieties and I would estimate that although they are certainly productive, and more productive than many other varieties, they are not quite as productive as Hass.

Cluster of Jan Boyce avocados on a mature tree.

Jan Boyce harvest season

The harvest season for Jan Boyce avocados is late winter through spring. Early Jan Boyce might be ready in January or February, prime Jan Boyce season is March and April, even May. But I don’t know how much beyond May the fruit will hang with quality as I’ve never picked them later than May. However, I am told by some growers in Southern California that Jan Boyce can hang even into July from mature trees in locations that aren’t too far inland.

Jan Boyce tree architecture

Avocado trees can have growth habits that are upright or dense and bushy, but Jan Boyce is not one of them. Jan Boyce trees are open, spreading, rangy, leggy. Even in full sun, they look like they’re growing in partial shade.

Young Jan Boyce tree showing open growth habit.
Another Jan Boyce tree showing a slightly denser growth habit.

An avocado tree with this architecture is acceptable in a climate with mild summers, such as near the ocean, or perhaps even on a north-facing slope. And an avocado tree with this architecture makes for a great climbing tree once mature (think: Fuerte).

Jan Boyce avocado trees performing wonderfully at Bobcat Ridge Avocado Farm’s mild climate near Monterey Bay.

However, this kind of tree architecture is a disadvantage in a climate with hot summers and intense sunlight, as it makes the branches and fruit more susceptible to sunburn. Such an open canopy is also not ideal if you want to plant numerous trees close together (so called “high density” planting).

Another mature Jan Boyce tree at Bobcat Ridge, showing the variety’s open growth habit.

Should you plant a Jan Boyce avocado tree?

Jan Boyce is a worthy variety to add to a collection, as it has delicious fruit and the tree is productive. While it can be successfully grown inland, it is best suited to locations closer to the ocean that have milder summer weather where its open canopy is less likely to get sunburned.

What if your yard has space for only one or two avocado trees? Should Jan Boyce be one of them? I would say yes if you are inclined toward trying something new. But I would say no if your main goal is high quality avocados on the most productive tree.

There are varieties that taste just as good, have better skin, and grow on trees that produce as much or more fruit. Hass, Gwen, and GEM, I would put in that category.

Baby Jan Boyce tree: worthy of adding to a collection, but might not be the best single tree in a yard.

Where to buy a Jan Boyce avocado tree

Jan Boyce trees are still not easy to find these days despite the efforts of Julie Frink and others. I try to keep my post, “Where to buy an avocado tree,” updated so check it out for the latest on what I know about Jan Boyce availability.

I’ll also add that at the time of writing, I know that Epicenter Avocado Nursery is making Jan Boyce trees with limited availability and Louie’s Nursery in Riverside had some in stock recently (call to check current availability).

Read my other avocado variety profiles here.

All of my Yard Posts are listed here.

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