Origin: Augustus T. Hatch

IXL almonds are Californian papershell almonds. It is a heavy cropper providing large nuts. Its inner yield is 45-55% and it's a tree that grows vigorously.

IXL (or I.X.L.) variety is among the four varieties first cultivated by Mr. Hatch, a rancher of Sulsun, California:

  • IXL,
  • Ne Plus Ultra
  • Extra (to later be famously known as Nonpareil)
  • and La Prima

History and rise to fame of the IXL variety

After growing these varieties on Hatch home place near Sulsun,  Mr. Hatch set up a large orchard with them in the Sacramento Valley in 1884. This establishment is now the G. F. Hansen ranch, near Biggs. It feels oddly satisfying to know that the original trees on this ranch are still bearing.

IXL has an attractive appearance in the shell which brought made it popular at the time. Since the year 1888, IXL kept its popularity and prominent place in California nursery catalogues.

IXL compared to Nonpareil and Ne Plus Ultra (Image source: Pacific Rural Press)

Let's read what Pacific Rural Press had to say about IXL variety on September 14th, 1895:

Probably the best of Mr. Hatch's varieties from all points of view is the IXL, the first of all of them to be made widely known. He has others which have points of shell and kernel which may be finer, but for thrift and vigor of tree and satisfactory bearing under various conditions there is none perhaps better than the IXL. The engraving, from a photograph by B. M. Lelong of the State Board of Horticulture, shows the nut as it appears on the twig, with its overcoat on. The smaller engravings show the clean nut and the kernel of the IXL as compared with the Nonpareil and Ne Plus Ultra, which are also famous seedlings of Mr. Hatch's.
The IXL has an ideal almond shape and a perfect shell. The kernels are, as a rule, single and of excellent flavor. It is a very attractive variety for a table nut unshelled, and by careful tests has been shown to be superior to popular imported nuts.

Growing interest in the region eventually led to other States and even Australia to list the variety in 1900. However, frosts in spring caused the plantings of IXL in Oregon, Washington, Texas, Utah, Nevada, Georgia and Missouri to fail.

IXL tree. Characteristic twist of the trunk and large branches. (Image source: Almond Varieties in the United States)

Since IXL blooms a week before Nonpareil, it is more exposed to the danger of frost. This early-blooming nature of the tree limited IXL to become a local variety despite its popularity. It can grow fine in only the most favorable weather conditions. Contrary to its widespread cultivation in almost every almond-producing section in California, it's hard to come by IXL trees outside of California.

Tree characteristics

IXL is a tall, upright tree and a tree with vigor. The tree has a stocky, long and very twisted trunk which gives its characteristic appearance. Average in roughness, the bark cracks close together and exfoliates in thin patches.

Bearing habit of the I.X.L. is: on spurs on wood 1 to 5 years old; many spurs on 1-year-old wood. Some nuts are borne on laterals. Sometimes spurs live and bear 2 years. Buds free, large, plump, rather short; scales medium in size, dark brown, thin, tough, with very short, gray pubescence on edges. Ripens between August 12 - September 5, depending on locality and season. [1]

Nut characteristics

Hulled nut size is medium to large, ranging between 1.125 x 0.875 x 0.625 inches and 1.5 x 1.125 x 0.75 inches.

  • Number of nuts to the pound: 140-200
  • Percentage of kernel to shell in hand-cracked samples: 51%
  • In orchard run, machine-cracked sample: 47%

Looking at the shell, the outer surface is light to dark brown. Outer shell is soft and crumbling, easily breaking away from the thin harder portion of the inner shell. There are numerous, round pits varying in size on the same nut.

Double kernels are only occasional and the kernel size is medium to large as well, with size ranging between 1 x 0.625 x 0.25 and 1.25 x 0.75 x 0.3125 inches. After drying it wrinkles a lot and rarely fills the shell. Its flavor is slightly sweet.

Distinguishing features

  • Early-blooming (between February 10 and March 15, according to conditions)
  • growing well in the Banning district in Southern California and in the foothill sections west of the Sacramento River
  • nut rather flat, quite wide and short
  • ventral edge sharply curving
  • wing prominent
  • base ventrally sloping or at right angles to axis
  • apex blunt with small point
  • kernel short, wide, with square or humped dorsal shoulder
  • aboundant, short pubescence

IXL nut is distinguished from similar nuts by the base, which is sloping ventrally or at right angles to the axis. Shapes of Batham, Henle, Smith and Trembath are similar to IXL nut.

When compared to the Smith, IXL kernel is shorter and wider, without the deep longitudinal crease in the side of the Smith kernel.

IXL kernels are also shorter and less pubescent than the Trembath kernels. Dorsal shoulder of IXL kernel is square or humped vs. a round dorsal shoulder observed in Trembath.

Pollination

IXL is a good pollinizer for Ne Plus Ultra but IXL and Nonpareil do not pollinize each other. IXL is partially self-fertile.

Pollinators: Ne plus Ultra, Mona Vale, Drake, Peerless varieties.

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[1] Almond Varieties in the United States:  https://books.google.com.tr/books?id=hWdIAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA73&lpg=PA73&dq=ixl+almond+hatch&source=bl&ots=FK-LVL5RmB&sig=ACfU3U0N6A4tzzF9T_s8JdqsyLgyjU6K5g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi2r4j6o_fzAhVYhf0HHZq0DygQ6AF6BAgYEAM#v=onepage&q=ixl almond hatch&f=false

[2] Pacific Rural Press, Volume 50, Number 11, 14 September 1895 https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=PRP18950914&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN--------1

Cover image source: Greenleaf Nurseries - Almond IXL