The avocado tree (Persea americana) is an evergreen flourishing in tropical forests near water. Originally native to Central America, it has spread to many other tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world. The main avocado exporting regions are Mexico, Chile, Dominican Republic, California, Indonesia, Israel, southern Spain, Kenya and South Africa. Quantities exported from Sri Lanka are insignificant.
In Sri Lanka, the avocado tree was introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century, but this is not well-documented. It was probably known under Dutch occupation in the 18th century. But the first recorded introduction was made as late as 1927 under British rule.
Avocados are grown mainly in the hillcountry and in the wetzone (south-western lowlands). Varieties of the Mexican race are grown in the Uva region at elevations above 1,200 metres. Avocado became a popular fruit in Sri Lanka. It is also a commonly grown fruit in home gardens, particularly in the wet zone. It can be be grown under the condition of plenty of room as its roots spread. It should be planted at least 7 metres from the house and from boundary walls. The tree grows to 20 m.
The avocado is also known as butter fruit, butter pear and laurel peach. The Sinhalese call it Aligata Pera, echoing its name of Aligator Pear in the USA.
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