Desert peach (Prunus andersonii) blooming near Mayberry Park, Reno. Photo: K.Fitzgerald.
- Leaves: Small, with pointed tips.
- Branches: with sharp spines.
- Flowers: Sweet-smelling, pink (Mar – May).
- Fruits: Small fuzzy “peaches”.
It is rare to find a desert peach growing alone; more often, you will find them growing in large clusters. Similar to stands of Aspen, desert peach grow in clonal colonies — groupings of genetically identical “individuals” that are actually part of one larger organism, connected via underground roots and stems (Mozingo 1987).
Desert peach are native to the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, and are especially common in the Reno-Carson City area (Mozingo 1987). Along the Truckee River, this shrub can be found growing on dry upland slopes, usually outside the flood zone, where it blooms with beautiful pink flowers from late March until early May.
Desert peach flowers are pollinated by insects, and seeds are dispersed by squirrels and small mammals (Gucker 2007). This plant is named for its peach-like fruits, which develop on the branches a few weeks after flowering. The Paiute traditionally used twigs and leaves of the desert peach (called tsanavi) to brew a tea for treating colds and rheumatism (Murphey 1959).
In the scientific name, Prunus comes from the Latin word for “plum”, and andersonii in honor of Charles Lewis Anderson (1827-1910), a botanist, doctor, and early resident of Carson City who published the “Catalog of Nevada Flora” in 1871 (Mozingo 1987).
References & Links
Gucker, Corey L. 2007. Prunus andersonii. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/shrub/pruand/all.html#31 [2016, April 3].
Jaeger, E. C. 1967. Desert Wild Flowers. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Mozingo, Hugh. 1987. Shrubs of the Great Basin: A Natural History. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press.
Murphey, E. V. 1959. Indian Uses of Native Plants. Fort Bragg, CA: Mendocino County Historical Society.
USDA. 2016. Prunus andersonii. USDA Plants Database: http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=PRAN2