The Origin of the Hass Avocado

Did you know that all Hass avocados descend from a single tree? The Hass avocado is a dark green fruit with bumpy skin. These are the avocados you are most likely to see in your local grocery store; Hass avocados account for 95% of the USA’s avocados. Most other avocados you see are Florida avocados. So how did the most popular avocado in the country originate from one single tree? Let’s discuss the origin of the Hass Avocado.

Origin of the Hass Avocado: A Chance Beginning

The original Hass tree was actually a mistake. In 1926, Mr. Rudolph Hass, a mailman in California, purchased three avocado seedlings from a Mr. Rideout in Whittier, CA. Mr. Hass intended to develop a 2-acre grove of Lyon avocados. Mr. Rideout would obtain seeds from any source he could find, even from restaurants’ discarded food bins.

According to history, as Mr. Hass’ avocado trees grew and began to bear fruit, one formed unique dark green, bumpy-skinned fruit. Mr. Hass’s children preferred this type of avocado to all others for its rich taste. As this tree grew larger, it produced more fruit than the family could eat, so Mr. Hass sold some of the avocados to his coworkers at the post office. He then began selling these fruits to the Model Grocery Store in Pasadena, California, for today’s equivalent price of $14.

Origin of the Hass Avocado: The First Tree Patent 

In 1935, the Hass avocado’s popularity led to Mr. Hass patenting the tree; this was the first US patent of a tree. Hass joined forces with local Whittier plant nursery owner, Harold Brokaw, to grow and sell grafted Hass avocado seedlings. 

In the end, despite the popularity of the Hass avocado, Mr. Hass only made about $5000 from his patented tree. This lower-than-expected-return results from single cuttings from Hass’s famous tree being used to graft entire orchards of Hass avocado trees. 

The Mother Tree

What happened to the original Hass mother tree? For many years, the original Hass tree sat in a front yard in La Sabra Heights. The tree lived to be 76 years old, dying from phytophthora, or root rot, in 2002.

Despite speculation, no one knows just what variety of avocado seed produced the original Hass tree. Still, it has since given rise to most of the avocado industry as we know it today.

What exactly made this unique avocado so famous, both then and now? In the late 1920s, the industry standard for avocados was set by the Fuerte variety. The Hass variety gained quick popularity due to several factors. Compared to the Fuerte, the Hass trees have a much higher fruit yield and can produce fruit all year long. The fruit also contains higher oil levels, giving them a longer shelf-life and, most importantly, better taste.