See text. Complete list
Machilus Nees (possible synonym)
Persea is a genus of about 150 species of evergreen trees belonging to
the laurel family, Lauraceae. The best-known member of the genus is
the avocado, P. americana, widely cultivated in subtropical regions
for its large, edible fruit.
2 Distribution and ecology
2.2 Formerly placed here
4 Line notes
6 External links
They are medium-size trees, 15–30 m (49.2–98.4 ft) tall
at maturity. The leaves are simple, lanceolate to broad lanceolate,
varying with species from 5–30 cm (1.97–11.81 in) long
and 2–12 cm (0.79–4.72 in) broad, and arranged spirally
or alternately on the stems. The flowers are in short panicles, with
six small greenish-yellow perianth segments 3–6 mm
(0.12–0.24 in) long, nine stamens and an ovary with a single
embryo. The fruit is an oval or pear-shaped drupe, with a fleshy outer
covering surrounding the single seed; size is very variable between
the species, from 1–1.5 cm (0.39–0.59 inches) in e.g. P.
borbonia and P. indica, up to 10–20 cm (3.94–7.87 inches) in
Distribution and ecology
Persea americana flowers
The species of
Persea have a disjunct distribution, with about 70
Neotropic species, ranging from
South America to
Central America and Mexico, the Caribbean, and the southeastern United
States; a single species, P. indica, endemic to the Macaronesian
islands, in the North West coast of Africa area, including
the Canary Islands; and 80 species inhabiting east and southeast Asia.
None of the species are very tolerant of severe winter cold, with the
hardiest, P. borbonia, P. ichangensis and P. lingue, surviving
temperatures down to about −12 °C (10.4 °F); they also
require continuously moist soil, and do not tolerate drought. A number
of these species are found in forests that face threats of destruction
or deforestation; for example, P. meyeniana in Central Chile.
Lauraceae was part of the land flora of Gondwana, and many
genera had migrated to
South America via
Antarctica over ocean
landbridges by the time of the Paleocene. From
South America they
spread over most of the continent. When the North American and South
American tectonic plates joined in the late Neogene, volcanic mountain
building created island chains which later formed the Mesoamerican
landbridge. Pliocene elevation created new habitats for speciation.
While some genera died out in increasingly xerophytic mainland Africa,
starting with the freezing of
Antarctica about 20 million years ago
and the formation of the Benguela current, others, which also reached
South America and Mesoamerica, such as
still surviving today in Africa in a number of species. The genus,
however, died out in Africa, except for P. indica, which is, today, a
threatened species that survives in the fog-shrouded mountains of the
Fossil evidence indicates that the genus originated in West Africa
during the Paleocene, and spread to Asia, to South America, and to
Europe and thence to North America. It is thought that the gradual
drying of Africa, west Asia, and the
Mediterranean from the Oligocene
to the Pleistocene, and the glaciation of
Europe during the
Pleistocene, caused the extinction of the genus across these regions,
resulting in the present distribution.
Since this habitat is constantly threatened by encroaching
agriculture, the laurel forest animal or vegetal species have already
become rare in many of its former habitats and are threatened by
further habitat loss.
Persea proliferated into many new species, and the
berries of some of them constitute a valuable food supply for
quetzals, trogoniform birds that live in the montane rainforests of
Mesoamerica. In particular, the resplendent quetzal's favorite fruits
are berries of wild relatives of the avocado. Their differing maturing
times in the cloudforest determine the migratory movements of the
quetzals to differing elevation levels in the forests. With a gape
width of 21 mm (0.83 in), the quetzal swallows the small
berry (aquacatillo) whole, which he catches while flying through the
lower canopy of the tree, and then regurgitates the seed within 100
meters (328 ft) from the tree. Wheelright in 1983 observed that
parent quetzals take far less time intervals to deliver fruits to the
young brood than insects or lizards, reflecting the ease of procuring
fruits, as opposed to capturing animal prey. Since the young are fed
exclusively berries in the first 2 weeks after hatching, these berries
must be of high nutritional value. Usually only the total percentage
of water, sugar, nitrogen, crude fats and carbohydrates are reported
Persea species are also used as food plants by the larvae of some
Lepidoptera species including giant leopard moth, Coleophora
octagonella (which feeds exclusively on P. carolinensis) and
Persea macrantha leaves
The avocado fruit,
Persea is treated in three subgenera. The Asian subgenus
Machilus is treated in a separate genus
Machilus by many authors,
including in the Flora of China, while graft-incompatibility between
Persea and subgenus Eriodaphne suggests that these too may be
better treated as distinct genera, in fact Kostermans (1993) founded
the genus Mutisiopersea for these. Another closely related genus,
Beilschmiedia, is also sometimes included in Persea.
Persea — Central America. Two species.
Persea americana Mill. – Avocado
Persea americana var. drymifolia (Schltdl. & Cham.) S.F.Blake
Persea americana var. floccosa (Mez) Scora
Persea americana var. guatemalensis (L.O.Williams) Scora
Persea americana var. nubigena (L.O.Williams) L.E.Kopp
Persea americana var. steyermarkii (C.K.Allen) Scora
Persea schiedeana Nees – Coyo
Subgenus Eriodaphne (Mutisiopersea) — The Americas, Macaronesia.
About 70 species, including
Persea brevipetiolata van der Werff from Mexico
Persea borbonia (L.) Spreng. – Redbay
Persea caerulea (Ruiz & Pav.) Mez
Persea donnell-smithii Mez
Persea indica (L.) Spreng. – Viñátigo (possibly better treated in
a fourth subgenus of its own)
Persea lingue (Ruiz & Pav.) Nees – Lingue
Persea longipes (Schltdl.) Meisn.
Persea meyeniana Nees
Persea palustris (Raf.) Sarg. – Swampbay
Machilus — Asia. About 80 species, including
Persea japonica (Siebold & Zucc.) Kosterm.
Persea nanmu Oliv.
Persea thunbergii (Siebold & Zucc.) Kosterm.
Formerly placed here
Cinnamodendron cinnamomifolium (Kunth) Kosterm. (as P. cinnamomifolia
Kunth or P. mexicana (Meisn.) Hemsl.)
Laurus azorica (Seub.) Franco (as P. azorica Seub.)
Philip Miller derived
Persea from the Greek name Περσέα. It was
Hippocrates to an uncertain Egyptian tree,
Cordia myxa or a
^ a b "Genus:
Persea Mill". Germplasm Resources Information Network.
United States Department of Agriculture. 2007-10-05. Retrieved
^ André Joseph Guillaume Henri Kostermans. 1993
^ a b "GRIN
Species Records of Persea". Germplasm Resources
Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture.
Retrieved 2011-02-05. [permanent dead link]
^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of
Plant Names. 3
M-Q. CRC Press. p. 2015. ISBN 978-0-8493-2677-6.
André Joseph Guillaume Henri Kostermans. 1993. Mutisiopersea
Kostermans, a new genus in Lauraceae. Rheedea 3: 132–135.
C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Chilean Wine Palm: Jubaea chilensis,
GlobalTwitcher.com, ed. Nicklas Stromberg
Lucille E. Kopp. 1966. "A taxonomic revision of the genus
the Western Hemisphere (Persea-Lauracese)" Memoirs of the New York
Botanical Garden 14(1): pp. 1–117
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Persea.
Wikispecies has information related to Persea
Avocado source Extensive information on the
Avocado and the genus
generally, particularly the subgenera
Persea and Eriodaphne
Flora of North America: Persea
Flora of China:
Machilus Full list of species in
Machilus in China