California Almonds


Assorted AlmondsOriginated in Suisun, California, in 1879 by A. T. Hatch, Nonpareil continues to be the most important almond variety in California because of its consistently high productivity and high market demand. The tree is large, and upright to spreading, and harvests early. The nut has a paper shell that gives a high shelling percentage (65 to 70 percent). However, the nut is poorly sealed and this, with the paper shell, makes it susceptible to worm and bird damage.

Although non-infectious bud failure has affected trees within the variety, progress has been made in selecting away from this problem. Specific source clones are available that have been progeny tested in high-temperature growing areas for up to 13 years.

Nonpareil had a medium-size kernel (22 to 25 per ounce) and has been a high and consistent bearer, taking into account fluctuations due to adverse weather conditions in specific years. It tends to yield somewhat less in its earlier years of bearing than do some of its pollenizers, but at full bearing it produces well and continues to grow in size. The consistent yield reflects its bearing habits of producing on both spurs and long shoots, with good ability to renew fruiting wood. It is relatively resistant to frost damage and is vigorous but generally easy to train.

Mission (Texas)

A chance seedling originating in Texas about 1891, the Mission variety, originally known as Texas or Texas Prolific, was brought to California, where it was first grown at Acampo. Its continued popularity is due to its late bloom (which reduces its frost susceptibility), high productivity, and market demand. The tree is vigorous when young, but vigor decreases with age. It is upright in growth habit and easy to train. It may be short-lived, is quite susceptible to Ceratocystis (mallet wound canker), and is sensitive to salt injury. In sandy soils, Mission can also be susceptible to herbicide injury, but generally this is manageable. The hard-shelled nut is resistant to navel orange worm attack. Non-infectious bud failure has been detected in only a few scattered trees and it not considered a production problem.

Mission yields relatively small kernels (25 to 28 per ounce) and therefore needs to produce high numbers of almonds to compensate. It shows a pattern of bearing on spurs rather than on shoots, so very early production can be delayed slightly. However, its yield potential develops rapidly to a moderate to high level. Some decline in production often develops, as the tree gets older.

Ne Plus Ultra

This variety, selected along with Nonpareil and introduces by A. T. Hatch in 1879, is susceptible to frost, worm damage, and several diseases. In terms of market value, the kernel is generally considered inferior and is used primarily for manufactured products. It has a used primarily for manufactured products. It has a propensity to produce a high percentage (20 percent or more) of double kernels. The variety has been important because it is an early and good pollenizer for Nonpareil; it has also been a profitable producer for some growers. Trees have a spreading growth habit and are easy to harvest, though they tend to drop nuts prematurely. This variety is very susceptible to water stress, which is expressed as hull tights, nut and bud drop, and lack of shoot growth. The tree is also difficult to train. Non-infectious bud failure has not been detected in any tree or sources.

Ne Plus Ultra produces very large kernels (20 or few per ounce), which promotes yield. It produces nuts laterally on long, previous-season shoots, followed by heavy spur production. Consequently, it shows precocious bearing and potentially high yields on young trees-with good water management, it can out produce Nonpareil. On the other hand, erratic bearing may result form pollination and disease problems at bloom.


Selected before 1900 as a chance seedling near Davis, California, Peerless is of unknown origin. It has been used as an early-booming pollenizer for Nonpareil, but it is unfortunately susceptible to frost. It continues to be an important variety as a pollenizer and because there is a limited market for in-shell nuts. In an in-shell product, shell appearance is important, so rain staining can be a problem and care must be taken in hulling. The tree is of medium size, medium to upright in growth habit, and tends to drop nuts prematurely. Non-infectious bud failure occurs sporadically (symptoms can be pronounced); therefore, this disorder is a potential hazard. The yield of Peerless is dependent on its ability to produce good-quality in-shell almonds. Peerless is hard shelled and has a low shelling percentage, low susceptibility to worm damage, and a mediocre-quality kernel.


Commercially introduced in 1958, Merced is a chance seedling of a Nonpareil-Mission cross. It has been valuable as a pollenizer for Nonpareil and produces heavy yield on young trees. Merced is very susceptible to navel orange worm and is difficult to knock. Severe non-infectious bud-failure expression, particularly in the warmer growing areas, has become a factor in limiting plantings. Even without appreciable bud failure, a lack of tree vigor accompanied by declining production has become evident as orchards become older. The tree is small to medium in size and somewhat upright in its growth habits. The medium-size kernel is considered a standard for the California category, in market terms.


A chance seedling found in Clovis, California, Thompson is apparently a Nonpareil ?Mission cross; it was introduced commercially in 1957. Thompson has been relatively important because of its late bloom (close to that of Mission, for which it is a pollenizer) and high productivity. However, with time several faults have become evident, including difficulty in nut removal, gummy nuts, susceptibility to navel orange worm, and some non-infectious bud failure. Although bud failure in individual trees can be pronounced, it is not widespread and thus is not considered a serious problem in this variety.

Thompson has small kernels (25 to 30 per ounce) that fit well into the California marketing category. Thompson produces a medium-size upright tree that develops an extensive spur system and bears heavily when young. Its very high nut sets are generally considered to be the factor-promoting yield.


This variety was discovered as a single tree in a commercial orchard near Le Grand, California. Although originally thought to be a mutation of Nonpareil, genetic evidence indicates that it is a seedling of Nonpareil-Mission. Carmel was introduced in 1966. It blooms just after Nonpareil does, and its crop matures ahead of that of Mission. The tree is more upright that a Nonpareil tree and is of medium size. The nuts are quite resistant to worm damage. The variety is susceptible to foamy canker. Brown rot can be a problem and should be properly controlled with fungicide sprays. Carmel has also shown great sensitivity to non-infectious bud failure, which has become particularly evident in recent years. Carmel is a good pollenizer for Nonpareil and is highly productive when young, but its yields may decline along with tree vigor over time. Carmel has large, elongated kernel, which is sometimes marketed in the California group, but some processors handle it separately because sufficient volume has developed, and because it has its own positive marketing attributes.

Price (Price Cluster)

A chance seedling discovered in a Durham, California, orchard, Price is apparently yet another seedling of Nonpareil-Mission. It was introduced commercially in 1965. The variety blooms within a day of Nonpareil, for which it is a popular pollenizer, and its crop matures shortly after that of Nonpareil. The tree generally has good vigor, and is somewhat spreading but more upright that a Nonpareil tree. Price may have a low bloom density in alternate years and thus bear light crops in those years. During ?off? years it may not be particularly satisfactory as the only pollenizer in a Nonpareil planting. To some extent, Price bears on long shoots as well as on spurs. Nut clustering occurs both towards the end of shoots and on spurs. Apparently this clustering is a result of higher-than-normal set of blossom density the following years. Non-infectious bud failure has been found periodically but is not considered a serious problem. Price fits into the California marketing category and tends to produce a moderately high percentage (10 to 20 percent) of double kernels, especially on younger trees.


Originating from a controlled Nonpareil-Mission cross, Butte was introduced in 1963. This variety blooms relatively late and ahead of Mission; the crop also matures ahead of Mission crops. Butte is often planted as a pollenizer for Mission, though recently some growers have planted it as a main variety. The tree is spreading and has reasonable vigor. Non-infectious bud failure had not been detected. Brown rot can be a problem in Butte and should be properly controlled.

Both early-bearing and mature Butte trees show a high yield, even though the kernels are relatively small. Its high yield appears to result from the combination of early bearing on long shoots, a marked tendency to produce spurs, and sufficient vigor to maintain tree size. The kernel fits with the mission-marketing category.


A chance seedling, apparently from Nonpareil-Mission parentage, Ruby was commercially introduced in 1958. This variety blooms late and after Mission, for which it is a pollenizer. As the tree gets older, bloom time may be later in relation to Mission bloom. Harvest is concurrent with, or slightly after, that of Mission. The tree is small, with an upright growth habit. Non-infectious bud failure had not been detected, and Ruby follows the Mission-bearing pattern in developing large numbers of spurs. With age, its vigor may be reduced enough that there is some potential for yield decline.


A chance seedling, Fritz was probably a cross of Mission with Drake; it was commercially introduced in 1969. The variety blooms concurrently with Nonpareil and harvest late, often after Mission. Normally it is not difficult to knock unless the harvest is attempted too early. The tree is of medium size, upright, vigorous, and a prolific bloomer. Non-infectious bud failure has not been found in Fritz. In terms of the market, its kernel fits into the California classification. Like Butte, Fritz has shown a tendency for high, consistent yields despite its relatively small kernel size. This results from its tendency to bear early on long shoots, following by spur formation; it also has sufficient vigor to maintain tree size.


Monterey was a chance seedling, apparently of Nonpareil-Mission parentage, that was commercially introduced in 1974. It blooms a little after Nonpareil does and is harvested about when Mission is. The tree is spreading. Non-infectious bud failure has not been found. Monterey is a very productive variety that has a large, elongated kernel with a rather dark pellicle. It has a propensity to produce a high percentage (20 percent or more) of double kernels. Growers should consult their handlers to determine the market classification of this variety.


A second-generation seedling from a cross of Nonpareil and Eureka, Sonora was introduced in 1983. This variety blooms with or ahead of Peerless and ahead of Nonpareil. The blossoms are more frost resistant than those of many other early-blooming varieties. The crop matures after that of Nonpareil but before that of Ne Plus Ultra. The tree is medium to round in shape and usually a little smaller than a Nonpareil tree. The kernel is large and elongated, and the skin is smooth and light colored. The blond color and smooth pellicle of this variety are considered positive marketing attributes.

Sonora has a tendency to bear heavily on long shoots, especially as a young tree, with lesser development of spurs. Apparently for that reason, the tree begins to bear early and produces excellent crops when young. The large kernel size of Sonora promotes a high yield. This productivity continues as the trees mature. Sonora needs special attention and good management to maintain vigor and subsequent fruit wood production. When exposed to drought stress during bud formation the previous season, or after heavy crops, Sonora tends to produce low bloom densities, but it usually sets a high percentage of that bloom. However, because it blooms early and may have years of light bloom densities, it should not be used as the only pollenizer in a Nonpareil planting.


A seedling of a Mission-Swanson cross, Padre was introduced in 1983. The variety usually blooms with or slightly ahead of Mission. The crop matures just ahead of Mission?s and about the same time as Thompson?s. The tree resembles Mission but with more branching; it is of moderate size and vigor and is easy to train. Yields approximate those of Mission and are consistent, though production during the first few years of bearing may be less. Like Mission, Padre bears on spurs, but it also produces flower buds on longer shoots, which enhances production. Blossom densities on Padre are High. Non-infectious bud failure has not been found in any trees or sources. The kernel is similar to Mission?s but slightly smaller, and it fits into the Mission market classification.

Le Grand

Introduced in 1972, Le Grand has been planted commercially. Although it is partially self-fertile, orchard experience and research have shown that it sets better crops when bees are placed in its orchards. Even bigger crops are produced when other varieties are planted with it for cross-pollination. It blooms just before Mission does. The variety tends to mature late (but before Mission), over an extended period. Le Grand is very difficult to knock, so doubles harvesting may be beneficial. This variety is susceptible to jacket rot, brown rot, and shot hole, and its shell can be quite open, making it susceptible to worm damage. The tree is vigorous and upright. The bearing habit is quite similar to Padre?s, and this variety also has high blossom densities. The kernel fits into the Mission marketing category.

This information was acquired through the U C Davis Extension