Avocados, The Toxic Berry

By Jamie Frater on Monday, July 15, 2013
avocado
“The avocado is a food without rival among the fruits, the veritable fruit of paradise.” —David Fairchild

In a Nutshell

Avocados are toxic to almost all animals (including cats and dogs). Humans are a rare exception. It is the only fruit to contain persin, a fatty acid, which, when eaten by animals causes vomiting, diarrhea, and other nasty symptoms. Consumption of large quantities can cause death within twelve hours.

The Whole Bushel

Avocados are berries (fleshy fruits coming from a single ovary). Interestingly, this broad definition of a berry means that bananas, pumpkin, tomatoes, watermelon, and coffee are also berries (you can tell that to the next person who tries to argue that tomatoes are vegetables). Curiously this also excludes strawberries as berries.

Eighty percent of modern avocados originate from one “mother” tree which was patented by mailman Rudolph Hass from California in 1935. The tree survived until 2002 when it died of root rot. Unfortunately Hass only made $5,000 in his lifetime from his patent on the tree because his partner sold cultivars to anyone who wanted to buy them. Subsequently Hass spent the remainder of his life working for the California Mail Service.

Avocado also has an interesting characteristic: it is the only berry with no living animal large enough to spread it through consumption and release as dung. This has led scientists to believe that it co-evolved with prehistoric megafauna that were large enough to eat the fruit whole. The megafauna went extinct but the avocado remained as an unusual monument to an unknown dinosaur.

Show Me The Proof

Quora: Are Bananas Berries?
Mashable: Are Tomatoes Fruits or Vegetables?
ASPCA: Avocado Toxicity

  • Nikki M

    This is so interesting! I’ve never read this anywhere before (except the berry part)! Well done!

    • http://listverse.com/ Jamie Frater

      That’s definitely what we want to hear! 🙂

  • rhijulbec

    Very informative! Had no idea.

  • Enumscratch

    I did know they were poisonous, but did not know they were a berry!

  • Malcolm Garrison

    Avocado is a Berry? and even watermelon? Wow! new Knowledge, Thanks ^_^

  • Jelly Dots

    Good information that I didn’t know, but I did find the article itself odd as it basically gave a summary and then instead of a more detailed/longer version of that summary, the article then gives three paragraphs that didn’t have anything to do with avocados being toxic.
    This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the article, as I learned more about avocados in general than just them being toxic, but I did find the ‘In a nutshell’ and ‘The whole bushel’ a bit misleading here. 🙂

  • Arimathean

    Most of the veterinary sites on the Web say avocados are NOT toxic to dogs and cats. They are toxic to many other animals, including birds, rabbits, horses, and cattle.

  • Peregrination

    At least one species of bird eats Avocados http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resplendent_quetzal.

  • Tad Pole

    Better not tell the folks at the AvoDerm dog food company. I had a cat who loved avocado so much that I always had to share some of mine with her. There were times when she probably got about 20% to 25% of my avocado. I eat 2 to 3 Hass avocados a week and the cat lived to be 16.

    • Dixie Lee

      My dog TOO. 10 pound toy poodle

    • LukeFlegg

      I thought it was the pip only?

  • Ramesh Dvindra

    It is my understanding that avocados are not, per se, toxic. It’s the persin which is toxic, and that is found in the skin and the stone. Persin is a fungicidal toxin. C23H40O4. Interestingly, for those who like this kind of information, not all varieties of avocado appear to be toxic to the same degree.

    • http://www.yogamagick.com/ Yoga Mayi

      So grateful to know that an intelligent rational person with more sense than the author clearly has, graced this thread with reality..

  • Kimberlee McCarta Hamilton

    Squirrels eat my avocados, all of my avocados!!