Prunus persica
Rose family (Rosaceae)

Description: This is a small deciduous tree about 10-30' tall that has a trunk up to ' 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 growing from 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 -1" across; they are elliptic-lanceolate to elliptic-oblanceolate in 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 -" 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 flowers are produced along young branches before the vernal leaves develop; they usually occur individually or less often in pairs. Each flower is 1-1" 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 -" long, ovoid in shape, and slightly flattened; their surfaces are red to reddish brown and deeply pitted. The root system is woody, spreading, and relatively shallow.

Cultivation: 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 -10 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 various problems.

Range & Habitat:
Naturalized trees of Peach are relatively uncommon in Illinois, occurring in scattered counties across the state (see Distribution Map). 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.

Faunal Associations: The flowers are cross-pollinated by bees and other insects. Insects that feed destructively on various parts of peach trees include Brachycaudus persicae (Black Peach Aphid) and Myzus persicae (Green Peach Aphid), wood-boring caterpillars of Synanthedon exitiosa (Peachtree Borer Moth) and Synanthedon pictipes (Lesser Peachtree Borer Moth), leaf-eating caterpillars of the moths Haploa reversa (Reversed Haploa) and Haploa clymene (Clymene Moth), Acrosternum hilare (Green Stink Bug) and Lygus lineolaris (Tarnished Plant Bug), wood-boring larvae of Phloeotribus liminaris (Peach Bark Beetle) and Scolytus rugulosus (Shothole Borer), and the larvae of Phytomyza persicae (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 Table.

Some vertebrate animals also feed on peach trees and their fruit, but this is less well-documented. Voles (Microtus spp.) gnaw on the bark of young trees, while some mammals and birds undoubtedly eat (or peck at) the fruit.

Photographic Location: A thicket in NW Ohio.

Comments: 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.