The avocado (Persea americana) is a major crop commodity worldwide. Moreover, avocado, a paleopolyploid, is an evolutionary “outpost” among flowering plants, representing a basal lineage (the magnoliid clade) near the origin of the flowering plants themselves. Following centuries of selective breeding, avocado germplasm has been characterized at the level of microsatellite and RFLP markers. Nonetheless, little is known beyond these general diversity estimates, and much work remains to be done to develop avocado as a major subtropical-zone crop. Among the goals of avocado improvement are to develop varieties with fruit that will “store” better on the tree, show uniform ripening and have better post-harvest storage. Avocado transcriptome sequencing, genome mapping and partial genomic sequencing will represent a major step toward the goal of sequencing the entire avocado genome, which is expected to aid in improving avocado varieties and production, as well as understanding the evolution of flowers from non-flowering seed plants (gymnosperms). Additionally, continued evolutionary and other comparative studies of flower and fruit development in different avocado strains can be accomplished at the gene expression level, including in comparison with avocado relatives, and these should provide important insights into the genetic regulation of fruit development in basal angiosperms. BioEssays 30:386–396, 2008. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.