The tree with split personalities
u200bAvocado trees have many of the characteristics found in softwoods and hardwoods, and both botanical sexes as well!

Who hasn't attempted to sprout an avocado seed and nurture it to maturity? Unless you happen to live in a region of consistent tropical warmth—or you have a green thumb—it's doubtful that your would-be tree ever reached its mature size of 20-30'. If it did, you would have witnessed fascinating dichotomies.

To begin with, the avocado botanically classifies as a fruit, although we think of it as a vegetable. And, while most plants produce flowers that are either male, female, or both at once, the avocado's blooms begin as male in the morning, and then turn female in the afternoon!

If its dual gender doesn't present enough confusion, botanists also classify the avocado (Persea americana) as deciduous and evergreen. That's because the avocado sheds its leaves once a year like a hardwood—but not until the season's new crop of leaves emerge. Therefore, like a conifer, the tree appears always green.

A cousin to the camphor tree (providing both cinnamon and camphor), as well as the sassafras, bay laurel, and nutmeg, the avocado bears fruit at various intervals, thereby producing a continual supply. In fact, a healthy, adult avocado tree may produce up to 500 fruits annually during its 50-year lifetime. But when a tree ceases to bear fruit, its rather ugly, grayish-brown wood normally does not begin another useful life as woodworking stock. True, avocado was once tested and found to be an excellent replacement for spruce in guitar and violin sounding boards, but the supply was irregular and limited. So now only local carvers benefit from the easily worked wood.

Illustration: Jim Stevenson