Amygdalus Persica (Peach Tree)
The common peach tree is a well-known medium-sized tree, with spreading branches and a brown, smooth bark. Its leaves are from 3 to 5 inches long and about one-third as wide, bright-green, smooth, lanceolate, and serrate, with all the serratures acute. They are borne on short petioles with 1 or 2 glands. The flowers are axillary, solitary, subsessile, and of a beautiful rose-color, and have the odor of hydrocyanic acid. The petals are 5 in number, and the stamens 25. The fruit is a sub-globular, fleshy, tomentose, yellowish-drupe, tinged with purple, and contains an ovate, compressed, acute, stony putamen which is rugosely grooved and perforated on the surface. The seed enclosed by the putamen resembles the almond in odor, taste, and appearance.
The leaves are lanceolate, finely serrate, from 3 to 5 inches long, smooth on both sides, short petiolate, and green in color. They have a bitter taste and faint odor of hydrocyanic acid. The seeds, though smaller, resemble almonds, chemically and physically.
The peach tree is commonly considered to be a native of Persia. It is cultivated in all parts of the United States, where its fruit reaches a greater degree of completion and excellence than in any other country. Its height is from 8 to 15 feet, its fruit is large, being from 1 to 3 inches in diameter, juicy, containing sugar, malic acid, etc., and of a delicious flavor. There are about 200 varieties of this fruit, of which probably one-third are clingstones, the flesh adhering to the stone, and the remainder freestones, or clearstones, the flesh free or separating from the stone. The kernels somewhat resemble bitter almonds, but are smaller, and, probably, possess similar medicinal virtues. They contain amygdalin. Hydrocyanic acid can be obtained from most all parts of the tree. Gmelin procured by distillation of the leaves a yellow volatile oil which was heavier than water, and contained hydrocyanic acid. The fixed oil of the seeds is used to adulterate oil of almond, which it resembles. It is known as "peach oil." A liquor known as peach brandy is distilled from the fermented fruit.