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The use of an ethylene gas "ripening room", which is now an industry standard, was pioneered in the 1980s by farmer Gil Henry of Escondido, California, in response to footage from a hidden supermarket camera which showed shoppers repeatedly squeezing hard, unripe avocados, putting them "back in the bin," and moving on without making a purchase.In some cases, avocados can be left on the tree for several months, which is an advantage to commercial growers who seek the greatest return for their crop, but if the fruit remains unpicked for too long, it falls to the ground.The species is only partially able to self-pollinate because of dichogamy in its flowering.This limitation, added to the long juvenile period, makes the species difficult to breed.The earliest known written use in English is attested from 1697 as "avogato pear", a term which was later corrupted as "alligator pear".Because the word avogato sounded like "advocate", several languages reinterpreted it to have that meaning.When even a mild frost occurs, premature fruit drop may occur, although the 'Hass' cultivar can tolerate temperatures down to −1 °C.
Before 1915, the avocado was commonly referred to in California as ahuacate and in Florida as alligator pear.
The pear-shaped fruit is 7–20 cm (2.8–7.9 in) long, weighs between 100 and 1,000 g (3.5 and 35.3 oz), and has a large central seed, 5–6.4 cm (2.0–2.5 in) long. The subtropical species needs a climate without frost and with little wind.