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Peaches Were America's First Invasive Species  RSS feed

 
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To discuss native plants versus invasive species, we already have these threads:
the dark side of native plant enthusiasm
Natives Only and Moonscaping.

Plus, we even had an author visit permies.com who wrote a book on going beyond how we typically think about invasive species:
Welcome to Tao Orion author of Beyond the War on Invasive Species.

This article, however, knocked my socks off.

Peaches Were America's First Invasive Species



Who knew peaches were invasive?

I'm not from southeast America, so I had no clue.

And this paragraph captivated me:

The peach orchards of the Cherokee, Lenape, Iroquois, and others did not resemble the orchards we are familiar with. Today, all commercial peach orchards are grown with grafted trees: two trees are spliced together, the bottom one with good roots, and the top with good fruits. In this way, a single peach variety can be grafted onto rootstock anywhere in the world. A seedling tree that isn’t grafted, however, will have traits from both of its parents, and will produce a completely different fruit from either. Planting an orchard of seedling trees today would create a population of unique trees with variable quality and disease resistance - something modern agriculture cannot economically cope with. Indigenous peoples throughout eastern North America, however, did plant orchards by the thousands with seedling trees. Even if some of these trees produced inferior fruit, some would also produce peaches of exceptional quality (remember the accounts of peaches with a girth of 13 inches?). In essence, growing peaches from seed didn’t just produce fruit, it could produce superior genetics that would be passed on and planted in new orchards and villages. The East Coast was a massive peach breeding project enacted over centuries by indigenous farmers, and the peaches we have today are often the descendants of these seedlings.



 
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Thank you for sharing this article.  It is very interesting.

de Soto is also believed to have introduced two species that came to define the Deep Southern wilderness: hogs and peaches. Both rapidly spread, even becoming invasive in the landscape. A few years later, we have records of Spanish missionaries introducing the peach again in Florida and Mexico. Native peoples in the Southeast immediately recognized what we know today: that the peach is a truly wonderful fruit.



 
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Thank you for starting this thread!  I had been meaning to start one about this article since seeing it via one of my other channels a few days ago.

When I saw it I immediately thought of Judith Browning's long-running thread about her beloved peach trees that she calls, among other names, "Cherokee or Indian" peaches.  The naming is very suggestive...

The thought of peaches 13 inches in diameter really fires my imagination. 

I have feral peach trees in my own yard that fruit every year (albeit in unreliable amounts and subject to all manner of defects, pests, and diseases) that grew up from pits that fell from a tree that in turn grew up from pits tossed by a man who died two decades before I ever set foot on this property.  So I don't find the article all that implausible. 

The other thing that had primed me to be receptive to this article is having encountered a peach tree at an estate sale about a month ago with a trunk more than eight inches thick.  Nobody present could tell me what if any fruiting history it had, but it was clearly a well-cared-for tree.  Every other peach tree I've ever seen has been (I figure) on dwarfing root stock or is young (most seem to die within a few decases from the various insect pests) but this tree was magnificent.  I'm going to drive by next spring and see how it flowers.

The way I figure, the "these few insect pests evolved to attack peaches and that's why we don't have invasive peach forests any more" story is a bit too facile and simple to be a complete explanation.  Indeed, from various examples given, it sounds as if we really do have quite a few wild peach trees left in America, in strange forested corners here and there.  A huge part of why we don't have wild peach forests may simply be that we don't have many wild forests period. 

I find myself wondering if anybody is maintaining a library or seed bank of wild peach pit/seed genetics.  The wild and feral peaches that do survive must surely be a reservoir of genetics that are most resistant to the insect, bacterial, and other pests that knocked back the invasive forests described in the article, right? 

I have this vision of setting up a central seed bank of wild peach pits by inviting everybody who knows where to find a wild peach tree to collect pits and send them in along with suitable metadata (description of the wild peach tree from which the pits were collected and the peaches that yielded up the pits) and a small sum of money for postage.  Then once a year their "deposit" would be repaid with a return of a similar (but lesser, so that the bank can grow) number of seeds from other depositors.  In this wise we might eventually recover some of those marvelous genetics like the volleyball-sized peaches.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Dan Boone wrote:Thank you for starting this thread!  I had been meaning to start one about this article since seeing it via one of my other channels a few days ago.

When I saw it I immediately thought of Judith Browning's long-running thread about her beloved peach trees that she calls, among other names, "Cherokee or Indian" peaches.  The naming is very suggestive...


Wow, that is an amazing thread! Thanks for the link.

Dan Boone wrote:I find myself wondering if anybody is maintaining a library or seed bank of wild peach pit/seed genetics.  The wild and feral peaches that do survive must surely be a reservoir of genetics that are most resistant to the insect, bacterial, and other pests that knocked back the invasive forests described in the article, right? 


I wonder if part of the loss of the diversity is because peaches have shorter lives than some other trees. Someone here, off the cuff, thought they live about 35 years, though several online sources report 10 to 20 years, or even only 12 years as the life for most peach trees.

 
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Thank you for posting this article.  I found it enlightening and disturbing.

Jocelyn Campbell wrote:I wonder if part of the loss of the diversity is because peaches have shorter lives than some other trees. Someone here, off the cuff, thought they live about 35 years, though several online sources report 10 to 20 years, or even only 12 years as the life for most peach trees.



This guy talks about pruning shortening the lifespan of peach trees by a lot, meaning to about ten years or thereabouts.  He has a peach tree growing from seed that looks big and healthy, and he's not pruning it; it would be interesting to see how a naturally grown peach tree looks in a couple of decades, and if this system keeps it alive significantly longer.



I'm interested in growing a peach from seed and seeing if it survives for a longer time and with less care.  That might be an option in future, but it isn't now.  Right now I have a dwarf peach tree, and a super dwarf peach tree.
 
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