The peach (
Prunus persica) is a deciduous tree native to the region of
Northwest China between the
Tarim Basin and the north slopes of the
Kunlun Mountains, where it was first domesticated and cultivated.
It bears an edible juicy fruit called a peach or a nectarine.
The specific epithet persica refers to its widespread cultivation in
Persia (modern-day Iran), whence it was transplanted to Europe. It
belongs to the genus
Prunus which includes the cherry, apricot, almond
and plum, in the rose family. The peach is classified with the almond
in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by
the corrugated seed shell.
Peach and nectarines are the same species, even though they are
regarded commercially as different fruits. In contrast to peaches,
whose fruits present the characteristic fuzz on the skin, nectarines
are characterized by the absence of fruit-skin trichomes (fuzz-less
fruit); genetic studies suggest nectarines are produced due to a
recessive allele, whereas peaches are produced from a dominant allele
for fuzzy skin.
China alone produced 58% of the world's total for peaches and
nectarines in 2016.
3 Fossil record
5.4 Flat peaches
5.5.1 Interaction with fauna
7 Cultural significance
8 Nutrition and research
11 External links
Prunus persica grows to 4–10 m (13–33 ft) tall and 6 in.
in diameter. The leaves are lanceolate, 7–16 cm
(2.8–6.3 in) long, 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 in) broad,
pinnately veined. The flowers are produced in early spring before the
leaves; they are solitary or paired, 2.5–3 cm diameter, pink,
with five petals. The fruit has yellow or whitish flesh, a delicate
aroma, and a skin that is either velvety (peaches) or smooth
(nectarines) in different cultivars. The flesh is very delicate and
easily bruised in some cultivars, but is fairly firm in some
commercial varieties, especially when green. The single, large seed is
red-brown, oval shaped, approximately 1.3–2 cm long, and is
surrounded by a wood-like husk. Peaches, along with cherries, plums
and apricots, are stone fruits (drupes). There are various heirloom
varieties, including the Indian Peach, or Indian Blood Peach, which
arrives in the latter part of the summer, and can have color ranging
from red and white, to purple.
Cultivated peaches are divided into clingstones and freestones,
depending on whether the flesh sticks to the stone or not; both can
have either white or yellow flesh. Peaches with white flesh typically
are very sweet with little acidity, while yellow-fleshed peaches
typically have an acidic tang coupled with sweetness, though this also
varies greatly. Both colors often have some red on their skin.
Low-acid white-fleshed peaches are the most popular kinds in China,
Japan, and neighbouring Asian countries, while Europeans and North
Americans have historically favoured the acidic, yellow-fleshed
The scientific name persica, along with the word "peach" itself and
its cognates in many European languages, derives from an early
European belief that peaches were native to
Persia (modern-day Iran).
Ancient Romans referred to the peach as malum persicum "Persian
apple", later becoming French pêche, hence the English "peach".
The scientific name,
Prunus persica, literally means "Persian plum",
as it is closely related to the plum.
Fossil endocarps with characteristics indistinguishable from those of
modern peaches have been recovered from late
Pliocene deposits in
Kunming, dating to 2.6 million years ago. In the absence of evidence
that the plants were in other ways identical to the modern peach, the
Prunus kunmingensis has been assigned to these fossils.
Dried date, peach, apricot, and stones. From Lahun, Fayum, Egypt. Late
Middle Kingdom. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Although its botanical name
Prunus persica refers to
Iran) from where it came to Europe, genetic studies suggest peaches
originated in China, where they have been cultivated since the
early days of Chinese culture. Until recently, it was believed that
the cultivation started circa 2000 BC. More recent evidence
indicates that domestication occurred as early as 6000 BC in Zhejiang
Province of China. The oldest archaeological peach stones are from the
Kuahuqiao site. Archaeologists point to the
Yangtze River Valley
Yangtze River Valley as
the place where the early selection for favorable peach varieties
probably took place.
Peaches were mentioned in Chinese writings as far back as the 10th
century BC and were a favored fruit of kings and emperors. The history
of cultivation of peaches in
China has been extensively reviewed
citing numerous original manuscripts dating back to 1100 BC.
An apparently domesticated peach appeared very early in Japan, in
6700–6400 BP (4700–4400 BC), during the Jōmon period. It was
already similar to modern cultivated forms, where the peach stones are
significantly larger and more compressed than earlier stones. This
domesticated type of peach was apparently brought into
China. Nevertheless, in
China itself, this variety is currently
attested only at a later date of ca. 5300 to 4300 BP.
In India, the peach first appeared by circa 3700 BP (1700 BC), during
the Harappan period. 
It is also found elsewhere in Western Asia in ancient times. Peach
cultivation also went from China, through Persia, and reached Greece
by 300 BC. It is often claimed that Alexander the Great introduced
the fruit into Europe after he conquered the Persians , although
there is no historical evidence for this belief. Peaches were,
however, well known to the Romans in first century AD, and were
cultivated widely in Emilia-Romagna.
Peach trees are portrayed in the
wall paintings of the towns destroyed by the
Vesuvius eruption of 79
AD, while the oldest known artistic representations of the fruit are
in the two fragments of wall paintings, dated back to the first
century AD, in Herculaneum, now preserved in the National
Archaeological Museum in Naples.
The peach was brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 16th
century, and eventually made it to England and France in the 17th
century, where it was a prized and expensive treat. The horticulturist
George Minifie supposedly brought the first peaches from England to
its North American colonies in the early 17th century, planting them
at his Estate of Buckland in Virginia. Although Thomas Jefferson
had peach trees at Monticello, American farmers did not begin
commercial production until the 19th century in Maryland, Delaware,
Georgia, South Carolina, and finally in Virginia.
In April 2010, an international consortium, the International Peach
Genome Initiative (IPGI), that include researchers from the United
States, Italy, Chile, Spain, and France announced they had sequenced
the peach tree genome (doubled haploid Lovell). Recently, IPGI
published the peach genome sequence and related analyses. The peach
genome sequence is composed of 227 millions of nucleotides arranged in
eight pseudomolecules representing the eight peach chromosomes (2n =
16). In addition, a total of 27,852 protein-coding genes and 28,689
protein-coding transcripts were predicted.
Particular emphasis in this study is reserved to the analysis of the
genetic diversity in peach germplasm and how it was shaped by human
activities such as domestication and breeding. Major historical
bottlenecks were individuated, one related to the putative original
domestication that is supposed to have taken place in
4,000–5,000 years ago, the second is related to the western
germplasm and is due to the early dissemination of the peach in Europe
China and to the more recent breeding activities in the United
States and Europe. These bottlenecks highlighted the strong reduction
of genetic diversity associated with domestication and breeding
A peach flower with a bee pollinating it
Peaches grow in a fairly limited range in dry, continental or
temperate climates, since the trees have a chilling requirement that
tropical or subtropical areas generally could not satisfy except at
high altitudes (for example in certain areas of Ecuador, Colombia,
Ethiopia, India, and Nepal). Most cultivars require 500 hours of
chilling around 0 to 10 °C (32 to 50 °F). During the
chilling period, key chemical reactions occur, but the plant appears
dormant. Once the chilling period is fulfilled, the plant enters a
second type of dormancy, the quiescence period. During quiescence,
buds break and grow when sufficient warm weather favorable to growth
The trees themselves can usually tolerate temperatures to around −26
to −30 °C (−15 to −22 °F), although the following
season's flower buds are usually killed at these temperatures,
preventing a crop that summer.
Flower bud death begins to occur
between −15 and −25 °C (5 and −13 °F), depending on
the cultivar and on the timing of the cold, with the buds becoming
less cold tolerant in late winter.
Another climate constraint is spring frost. The trees flower fairly
early (in March in western Europe) and the blossom is damaged or
killed if temperatures drop below about −4 °C (25 °F).
However, if the flowers are not fully open, they can tolerate a few
Climates with significant winter rainfall at temperatures below
16 °C (61 °F) are also unsuitable for peach cultivation as
the rain promotes peach leaf curl, which is the most serious fungal
disease for peaches. In practice, fungicides are extensively used for
peach cultivation in such climates, with >1% of European peaches
exceeding legal pesticide limits in 2013.
Finally, summer heat is required to mature the crop, with mean
temperatures of the hottest month between 20 and 30 °C (68 and
Typical peach cultivars begin bearing fruit in their third year. Their
lifespan in the U.S. varies by region; the University of
Davis gives a lifespan of about 15 years while the University of
Maine gives a lifespan of 7 years there.
Peach (fruit) § Varieties
Hundreds of peach and nectarine cultivars are known. These are
classified into two categories—the freestones and the clingstones.
Freestones are those whose flesh separates readily from the pit.
Clingstones are those whose flesh clings tightly to the pit. Some
cultivars are partially freestone and clingstone, so are called
semifree. Freestone types are preferred for eating fresh, while
clingstone types are for canning. The fruit flesh may be creamy white
to deep yellow; the hue and shade of the color depends on the
Peach breeding has favored cultivars with more firmness, more red
color, and shorter fuzz on the fruit surface. These characteristics
ease shipping and supermarket sales by improving eye appeal. However,
this selection process has not necessarily led to increased flavor.
Peaches have a short shelf life, so commercial growers typically plant
a mix of different cultivars to have fruit to ship all season
Different countries have different cultivars. In the United Kingdom,
for example, these cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural
Society's Award of Garden Merit:
'Duke of York'
'Lord Napier' (nectarine)
White nectarines, whole and cut open
The variety P. persica var. nucipersica (or var. nectarina), commonly
called nectarine, has a smooth skin. It is on occasion referred to as
a "shaved peach" or "fuzzless peach", due to its lack of fuzz or short
Peacherine is claimed to be a cross between a peach and a nectarine,
and are marketed in Australia and New Zealand. The fruit is
intermediate in appearance between a peach and a nectarine, large and
brightly colored like a red peach. The flesh of the fruit is usually
yellow, but white varieties also exist. The Koanga Institute lists
varieties that ripen in the Southern Hemisphere in February and
Main article: Flat peach
Flat peaches or pan-tao have a flattened shape in contrast to ordinary
The developmental sequence of a nectarine over a 7 1⁄2-month
period, from bud formation in early winter to fruit ripening in
Most peach trees sold by nurseries are cultivars budded or grafted
onto a suitable rootstock. Common rootstocks are 'Lovell Peach',
Prunus besseyi, and 'Citation'. This is done to
improve predictability of the fruit quality.
Peach trees need full sun, and a layout that allows good natural air
flow to assist the thermal environment for the tree. Peaches are
planted in early winter. During the growth season, peach trees need a
regular and reliable supply of water, with higher amounts just before
Peaches need nitrogen-rich fertilizers more than other fruit trees.
Without regular fertilizer supply, peach tree leaves start turning
yellow or exhibit stunted growth. Blood meal, bone meal, and calcium
ammonium nitrate are suitable fertilizers.
The number of flowers on a peach tree are typically thinned out,
because if the full number of peaches mature on a branch, they are
undersized and lacking in flavor. Fruits are thinned midway in the
season by commercial growers. Fresh peaches are easily bruised, and do
not store well. They are most flavorful when they ripen on the tree
and are eaten the day of harvest.
The peach tree can be grown in an espalier shape. The Baldassari
palmette is a palmette design created around 1950 used primarily for
training peaches. In walled gardens constructed from stone or brick,
which absorb and retain solar heat and then slowly release it, raising
the temperature against the wall, peaches can be grown as espaliers
against south-facing walls as far north as southeast Great Britain and
Interaction with fauna
The first pest to attack the tree early in the year when other food is
scarce is the earwig (Forficula auricularia) which feeds on blossoms
and young leaves at night, preventing fruiting and weakening newly
planted trees. The pattern of damage is distinct from that of
caterpillars later in the year, as earwigs characteristically remove
semicircles of petal and leaf tissue from the tips, rather than
internally. Greasebands applied just before blossom are effective.
The larvae of such moth species as the peachtree borer (Synanthedon
exitiosa), the yellow peach moth (Conogethes punctiferalis), the
well-marked cutworm (Abagrotis orbis), Lyonetia prunifoliella,
Phyllonorycter hostis, the fruit tree borer (Maroga melanostigma),
Parornix anguliferella, Parornix finitimella, Caloptilia zachrysa,
Phyllonorycter crataegella, Trifurcula sinica, Suzuki's Promolactis
moth (Promalactis suzukiella), the white-spotted tussock moth (Orgyia
thyellina), the apple leafroller (Archips termias), the catapult moth
(Serrodes partita), the wood groundling (Parachronistis albiceps) or
the omnivorous leafroller (Platynota stultana) are reported to feed on
The flatid planthopper (Metcalfa pruinosa) causes damage to fruit
The tree is also a host plant for such species as the Japanese beetle
(Popillia japonica), the unmonsuzume (Callambulyx tatarinovii), the
promethea silkmoth (Callosamia promethea), the orange oakleaf (Kallima
inachus), Langia zenzeroides, the speckled emperor (Gynanisa maja) or
the brown playboy (Deudorix antalus).
It is a good pollen source for honey bees and a honeydew source for
The European red mite (Panonychus ulmi) or the yellow mite (Lorryia
formosa) are also found on the peach tree.
Main article: List of peach and nectarine diseases
Peach trees are prone to a disease called leaf curl, which usually
does not directly affect the fruit, but does reduce the crop yield by
partially defoliating the tree. Several fungicides can be used to
combat the disease, including
Bordeaux mixture and other copper-based
products (the University of
California considers these organic
treatments), ziram, chlorothalonil, and dodine. The fruit is
susceptible to brown rot or a dark reddish spot.
Peaches and nectarines are best stored at temperatures of 0 °C
(32 °F) and high humidity. They are highly perishable, and
typically consumed or canned within two weeks of harvest.
Peaches are climacteric fruits and continue to ripen after
being picked from the tree.
Peach and nectarine production
2016 (millions of tonnes)
Source: United Nations, FAOSTAT
In 2016, world production of peaches and nectarines was 25 million
tonnes, led by
China which produced 58% of the world total (table).
In 2013, 1.9 million tonnes of peaches and nectarines were exported
worldwide, led by Spain's export volume with 39% (0.75 million tonnes)
of the total.
Italy (0.3 million tonnes),
Greece and the United States
also had significant export volumes of 0.1 million tonnes each.
The U.S. state of Georgia is known as the "
Peach State" due to its
significant production of peaches as early as 1571, with exports
to other states occurring around 1858. In 2014, Georgia was third
in US peach production behind
California and South Carolina.
Peaches are not only a popular fruit, but are symbolic in many
cultural traditions, such as in art, paintings and folk tales such as
Peaches of Immortality.
See also: Peaches of Immortality
Peach blossoms are highly prized in Chinese culture. The ancient
Chinese believed the peach to possess more vitality than any other
tree because their blossoms appear before leaves sprout. When early
China visited their territories, they were preceded by
sorcerers armed with peach rods to protect them from spectral evils.
On New Year's Eve, local magistrates would cut peach wood branches and
place them over their doors to protect against evil influences.
Peachwood was also used for the earliest known door gods during the
Han. Another author writes:
The Chinese also considered peach wood (t'ao-fu) protective against
evil spirits, who held the peach in awe. In ancient China, peach-wood
bows were used to shoot arrows in every direction in an effort to
dispel evil. Peach-wood slips or carved pits served as amulets to
protect a person's life, safety, and health.
Peach-wood seals or figurines guarded gates and doors, and, as one Han
account recites, "the buildings in the capital are made tranquil and
pure; everywhere a good state of affairs prevails". Writes the
Another aid in fighting evil spirits were peach-wood wands. The Li-chi
(Han period) reported that the emperor went to the funeral of a
minister escorted by a sorcerer carrying a peach-wood wand to keep bad
influences away. Since that time, peach-wood wands have remained an
important means of exorcism in China.
Peach kernels (桃仁 táo rén) are a common ingredient used in
traditional Chinese medicine to dispel blood stasis, counter
inflammation and reduce allergies.
It was in an orchard of flowering peach trees that Liu Bei, Guan Yu,
Zhang Fei took an oath of brotherhood in the opening chapter of
the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Another peach
Peach Blossom Spring” by poet
Tao Yuanming is the
setting of the favourite Chinese fable and a metaphor of utopias. A
peach tree growing on a precipice was where the Taoist master Zhang
Daoling tested his disciples.
Old Man of the South Pole
Old Man of the South Pole one of the deities of the Chinese folk
religion fulu shou is sometimes seen holding a large peach,
representing long life and health.
The term "bitten peach", first used by Legalist philosopher
Han Fei in
his work Han Feizi, became a byword for homosexuality. The book
records the incident when courtier
Mizi Xia bit into an especially
delicious peach and gave the remainder to his lover, Duke Ling of Wei,
as a gift so that he could taste it as well.
Momotaro, one of Japan's most noble and semihistorical heroes, was
born from within an enormous peach floating down a stream.
Peach Boy" went on to fight evil oni and face many adventures.
In Korea, peaches have been cultivated from ancient times. According
to Samguk Sagi, peach trees were planted during the Three Kingdoms of
Korea period, and
Sallim gyeongje also mentions cultivation skills of
peach trees. The peach is seen as the fruit of happiness, riches,
honours and longevity. The rare peach with double seeds is seen as a
favorable omen of a mild winter. It is one of the ten immortal plants
and animals, so peaches appear in many minhwa (folk paintings).
Peaches and peach trees are believed to chase away spirits, so peaches
are not placed on tables for jesa (ancestor veneration), unlike other
A Vietnamese mythic history states that, in the spring of 1789, after
marching to Ngọc Hồi and then winning a great victory against
invaders from the
Qing dynasty of China, the Emperor Quang Trung
ordered a messenger to gallop to
Phú Xuân citadel (now Huế) and
deliver a flowering peach branch to the Princess Ngọc Hân. This
took place on the fifth day of the first lunar month, two days before
the predicted end of the battle. The branch of peach flowers that was
sent from the north to the centre of
Vietnam was not only a message of
victory from the King to his wife, but also the start of a new spring
of peace and happiness for all the Vietnamese people. In addition,
since the land of Nhật Tân had freely given that very branch of
peach flowers to the King, it became the loyal garden of his dynasty.
It was by a peach tree that the protagonists of the Tale of Kieu fell
in love. And in Vietnam, the blossoming peach flower is the signal of
spring. Finally, peach bonsai trees are used as decoration during
Vietnamese New Year (Tết) in northern Vietnam.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, A still life painting of peaches
Many famous artists have painted still life with peach fruits placed
in prominence. Caravaggio, Vicenzo Campi, Pierre-Auguste Renoir,
Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Henri Fantin-Latour, Severin Roesen,
Peter Paul Rubens,
Van Gogh are among the many influential artists who
painted peaches and peach trees in various settings. Scholars
suggest that many compositions are symbolic, some an effort to
introduce realism. For example, Tresidder claims the artists
of Renaissance symbolically used peach to represent heart, and a leaf
attached to the fruit as the symbol for tongue, thereby implying
speaking truth from one's heart; a ripe peach was also a symbol to
imply a ripe state of good health.
Caravaggio paintings introduce
realism by painting peach leaves that are molted, discolored or in
some cases have wormholes – conditions common in modern peach
Nutrition and research
Peach (fruit) § Nutrition and research
A peach tree in blossom
Peach (cultivar 'Berry') – watercolour 1895
Claude Monet, A jar of peaches
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