Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Avocado Tree Adventures

In Douala, soon after starting my life in Cameroon, I planted an avocado tree from a pit, in the back yard, in the empty area between the two houses in the family compound. Fulfillment of a dream, after years of trying to grow plants from avocado seeds as a student in Paris.

A couple of years later, the tree was as tall as me, and thriving. Unfortunately, my father-in-law decided he needed the space to build an annex to his house. I protested. He informed me that my tree was none of his concern--just a silly little tree, in a country where many plants grow very fast and very tall. However, this avocado tree had enormous sentimental value for me!

While I was stewing, an American agricultural engineer, Ben, on a business trip to Douala, came to our house for lunch. Upon my inquiry whether there was any way of saving my tree, he instructed us to cut off all the leafy branches, dig a large hole around the tree, and gently remove the tree with its roots in order to re-plant it elsewhere. So one hot afternoon, post-lunch, when everyone else was napping, my brother-in-law followed the instructions and together, we moved the tree to another available space near our office (which was in the same building as our home).

2012: the descendant of the 1st avocado tree
Fast-forward a few more years: the tree was 10 years old, and was towering over the roof. However, it had yet to produce a single avocado. I went to ask my mother-in-law why the tree was still barren after so many years; the tree seemed to have recovered from the transplant trauma a long time ago. After listening to the story, she took out her machete, went to the tree and started hitting its trunk with the blade. I was flabbergasted--and worried. Then she threatened the tree out loud: "If you don't bear fruit soon, I'll cut you down!"

Lo and behold, the tree grew a couple of avocados a few months later; and the next year we had so many avocados, that we were giving away bags of them to people. They were delicious and plentiful. As far as I know the tree is still producing to this day a yearly harvest.


  1. Susan CergolOctober 03, 2009

    When I was a 19-year-old undergraduate student it was all the rage to "root" avocado pits--pierced three ways with toothpicks to create a tripod perch and set over a glass of water. I don't recall it ever working for me! Of course I can understand how dear this avocado tree was to you. Perhaps the moral of the story is this: we all need a kick in the butt (or a gentle blade chop?) every now and then to keep moving forward and developing our potential.

  2. Susan--I did the same with my avocado pits and they never amounted to much... until this Douala avocado tree.

  3. This is not even a joke. My mother grew a tree from a pit and six years later it never had produced. She told my father to cut it down but before ge got around to it she heard that if you smack it, it might produce. Dad caked the tree and five months later we have eaten five of the seven it grew!

  4. To vicmilt: Certainly not a joke... but I thought perhaps an exception/coincidence. It's interesting to know the threats worked on your avocado tree too! Bon appétit!


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