This is a small deciduous tree about 10-30' tall that has a trunk up to
½' across and a relatively broad crown with ascending to spreading
branches. Trunk bark is gray with horizontal lenticels, becoming
increasingly rough and scaly with age. Larger branches are also gray,
while young branches (or twigs) are burgundy and smooth. New shoots
the tips of branches are light green, terete, and usually glabrous.
Alternate leaves occur along the young branches and new shoots,
sometimes growing in dense clusters. Occasionally, more than one leaf
may develop from the same bud. Individual leaves are 2-6" long
and ½-1½" across; they are elliptic-lanceolate to
shape and their margins are serrated. Upper leaf surfaces are medium to
dark green and glabrous, while lower leaf surfaces are pale to medium
green and usually glabrous (or sparsely hairy). The petioles are ½-¾"
long, light green, and usually glabrous. The leaves have a tendency to
fold upward longitudinally along their central veins, and
they often droop downward from their petioles. Nearly sessile
produced along young branches before the vernal leaves develop; they
usually occur individually or less often in pairs. Each flower
is 1-1½" across, consisting of 5 spreading pink petals (rarely white
petals), a burgundy calyx with 5 rounded lobes, 15-30 stamens, and a
pistil with a single style. The petals are oval to orbicular in shape,
although their bases are clawed (becoming abruptly contracted and
narrow). The long slender filaments of the stamens are usually light
pink and glabrous, while the long slender style is usually light green,
becoming hairy toward its base.
The blooming period occurs during
mid-spring for about 2 weeks before the vernal leaves develop. The
flowers have a pleasant fragrance. Afterwards, fertile flowers are
replaced by fruits that become mature during the summer or fall.
Initially, these fruits are relatively green, ovoid in shape, fuzzy
from dense hairs, and small in size. At maturity, these fruits are up
to 3" long and 3" across, yellow to deep orange-red, globoid or
globoid-ovoid in shape, and still fuzzy from dense hairs (however, the
dominance of a recessive gene can produce glabrous fruits that are
called nectarines). The fruits of wild Peach trees tend to be smaller
in size than those of cultivated trees. The juicy flesh of mature
fruits is sweet to sweet-tart in flavor and either white or yellow.
Mature fruits also produce a distinctive peach-like aroma. The drupes
of these fruits are ½-¾" long, ovoid in shape, and slightly flattened;
their surfaces are red to reddish brown and deeply pitted. The root
woody, spreading, and relatively shallow.
This tree prefers full sun, well-drained moist conditions,
and a fertile loamy soil. While it can tolerate partial shade, drier
conditions, and less fertile soil, fewer and smaller fruits will be
produced. Longevity of individual trees is typically 10-15 years; fruit
can be produced as early as the third year. Peach is regarded as a
relatively difficult tree to cultivate because it is vulnerable to
various disease organisms and insects. One common disease, peach curl,
can cause defoliation of trees. Peach is also intolerant of severe
winter cold (temperatures below -10º F) and it is vulnerable to late
spring frosts. These environmental problems can interfere with fruit
set. Different cultivars of Peach vary in their resistance to these
Naturalized trees of Peach are
uncommon in Illinois, occurring in scattered counties across the state
However, such trees rarely persist in the
environment and they are not invasive. Peach was introduced into North
America from China as a fruit tree. It is still widely cultivated.
Habitats include thickets, abandoned homestead
sites, roadsides, and other disturbed habitats.
The flowers are cross-pollinated by bees and
insects. Insects that feed destructively on various parts of peach
trees include Brachycaudus
(Black Peach Aphid) and Myzus
(Green Peach Aphid), wood-boring caterpillars
(Peachtree Borer Moth) and Synanthedon
(Lesser Peachtree Borer Moth), leaf-eating
caterpillars of the
moths Haploa reversa
Haploa) and Haploa
(Green Stink Bug) and Lygus lineolaris
(Tarnished Plant Bug), wood-boring larvae of Phloeotribus liminaris
Beetle) and Scolytus
(Shothole Borer), and the larvae of
(Peach Leaf-Miner Fly). In addition, Aculus cornutus
(Peach Silver Mite) feeds on the leaves, forming a silvery sheen. For a
more complete list of insects feeding on peach, see the Insect
Some vertebrate animals also feed on peach trees and their fruit, but
this is less well-documented. Voles (Microtus spp.
on the bark of
young trees, while some mammals and birds undoubtedly eat (or
peck at) the fruit.
A thicket in NW Ohio.
Peach trees have attractive flowers during the spring and
their large fuzzy fruits can be delicious. It should be noted that the
smooth fruits called 'nectarines' are from the same tree species as
peaches. Peach can be distinguished from other similar trees by its
large pink flowers (1" across or more), its distinctive fruits, and its
long leaves that have a tendency to droop from their petioles and to
fold upward along their central veins.