Cherokee Snowball Peach

I spent the holiday at my parents house in middle/east Tennessee and I had an experience that likely won’t lead to much, but just COULD be the kind of thing fruit tree legends are born from. You see, I had always heard about a peach Orchard that was about 45 minutes from my parents house, and since we had some spare time and wanted to get out of the house, I got my dad to ride with me to the area where the orchard used to be to see if we could find any remenants of it or whatever. Well, we did find it and about all that was left was apple trees. There were a few peach trees in the peach tree area, but it was pretty obviously that they were from seedlings which had grown up around the abandoned and now dead original peach trees.

Anyway, we saw a neighbor outside and stopped to ask him what had become of the orchard owner, etc. They said that he was still alive but was basically not mentally capable of remembering anything and he is in a nursing home and the nursing home actually owned the orchard property now to settle his bill. They said the orchard was started by this man’s grand dad in late 1800’s and was kept going until the 70’s or maybe even 80’s.

ANYWAY, here (finally) is where things get interesting. The neighbor says "well, I guess you are here looking for the “Cherokee Snowball” peach? My interest is picking up. He goes on to tell me that every few years someone from The Uniersity of Tennessee or some other researchers shows up and asks about the peach that this orchard was famous for. This neighbor is incredibly helpful and friendly and tells the rest of the story. He says that back right around 1915 the man who started this orchard heard about a “wild peach” that grew in the mountains (there are some super-big mountains about 45 minutes from this location. He says that the orchard founder went up there and fund 2 of the “wild peach trees” out in the woods. He says they were in poor condition so rather than trying to transplant them he spend 2 years pampering them by cutting nearby trees to get more sun, tilling around them, fertilizing, and pruning. Somehow, when he tilled it must have buried a lot of old seeds and the next spring lots of seedlings came up. The old guy also got some peaches (I’ll describe them in a minute) off the adult trees and went crazy over them. Since the adults were too big to move, he transplanted some seedlings with the hope that they would retain some characteristics and make decent fruit, which they did. In fact, according to the old man I was talking to, one of the most remarkable things about this peach was the fact that seedlings planted near other seedlings always produced trees that produced the same unusual, wonderful peaches. In other words, the seeds almost always were “true”.

Now, the peaches themselves were known far and wide to be very, very strange looking peaches. He swears that they are all quite small- only a little bigger than an apricot based on him showing me stones that were the size of the peaches. He said everyone called them a “white” peach and they were closer to white than yellow but not quite either. Most remarkable of all, he says, is that the seeds are much, much smaller AS A PERCENTAGE of the flesh than any other peach anyone every saw. He said they (seeds)had a very unusual shape and texture as well, But that they took up a lot less of the whole fruit (as a ratio) than normal peach seeds do. He went on and on describing this strange peach, and then came the most exciting part of all. By then we had talked almost an hour and sort of become well acquainted.I’d talked a lot about my own love of fruits and how I’m part of a group of other people (meaning you guys) who are equally devoted to growing and finding unique fruit. Right about there he says “you know, last year I potted up one of those trees to sell to some guy in a suit who had been here once and called and told me if I’d pot one up he would come get it this summer but he never did. Do you want it?”. Big Smile. Long story short he walks me back behind his house and points to the little tree in a pot. It had rooted through the drain holes into the ground pretty hard but hopefully it will be fine. The old man absolutely would not even take money, he just said if I promised to try and save this line of peaches that’s all he wanted, and maybe if I’d let him know later how impressed I was then he’d appreciate that. Of course it was a deal.

He called me an hour after I left to tell me a little more details about the peach and to make sure I understood that unlike any of the other peaches the old orchard family had ever grown, this one did not need to be grafted- quote “just one of those little tiny seeds with the pointed end down and it will make another tree just like this one”. haha

OK, we all know how time cam affect stories like these. And we all know some parts of this one almost certainly can’t be true (there are no true “wild peaches” growing in the mountains of Tennessee now or 100 years ago. Other parts of the story are unlikely or impossible. But I told you the whole, very long story because some parts- even some unusual parts- could be true or could ring a bell with you. There is always a chance that it isn’t even a peach (perhaps its some unusual plum that resembles a peach or something??. Who knows what the real truth is here. But I am 100% that the old man telling me all this was being honest and telling what HE BELIEVED to be the truth.

Anyway, this is just another one of my infamous, rambling stories. But the whole situation really does sound like the kind of thing you read about in a book or article describing how some incredible new fruit was found/discovered and I thought it was a neat story for us fruit lovers. Last but not least, I wondered if anyone had heard of a peach called “Cherokee Snowball”.? A great deal of the things he described also sounded to me like Indian Blood Peach, so it is very possible that all this thing will turn out to be is an Indian blood. But time will tell!


Great story.

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You will have to update this thread as this story evolves

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Great find. Hopefully, it is the real deal and you can share this special peach scions with Us down the road

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I have seen some peaches with these really small seeds, I used to grow one called Eagle Beak. That peach doesn’t sound the same as your peach as it is very pointed, not round.

Let us know how it turns out!

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I have a rootstock peach that makes real small peaches and tiny pointed seeds but the peaches tast horrible lol. I do use the seeds to make new rootstock

That does sound interesting Kevin. I’ve tried a few wild peaches, but not a whole bunch. I suspect wild peaches are like wild mulberries. Some are really sweet and tasty and others are bland or practically inedible.

Bravo for tracking down a rare old peach possibly with Cherokee roots. Very important to get to these trees while the people nearby who can tell the story are still alive. They and the old rarities are dying off as we speak.

It sounds like you are thinking there may really be “wild peaches” in the USA. Is that true? I was under the impression that all peaches evolved from wild peaches found only in the east (China). I thought any “wild” peaches found here were simply “escapees” from planted trees. Do (or did) some kind of wild peaches really exist here? Maybe this question simply turns on the definition of “wild”. I suppose if a domesticated tree was left alone and several generations of seedlings were born and reproduced and grew for several generations someone might call them wild, whereas I was thinking “wild” meant a tree that existed in nature by itself for thousands of years like an oak or cedar tree.

This is why I said there really couldn’t be a “wild” peach tree here, but from you said I wonder if I was wrong. I’d appreciate any clarification about the existence of wild peach trees in USA. Thanks!

That’s a good point Kevin. I probably shouldn’t have used the term wild. Naturalized is probably a more accurate term. There were a lot of peaches that were “naturalized” from seedlings of seedlings in the U.S. Tennessee Natural is one. Bailey is another. (Both rootstocks in this case.)

As you mention, original peaches in the U.S. came from China in a very round about way.

The thought is that at first peaches traveled from China to Persia (hence the Latin name Prunus Persica). When Alexander the Great conquered Persia, he introduced the peach to France and Spain. The Spanish introduced the peach to South America. From there the peach traveled to England. English settlers then brought the peach to North America.

I hope you know I wasn’t trying to be picky or act as the definition police or be overly precise about the words “wild peach”- I was genuinely curious and wanted to be sure there wasn’t some kind of true wild peach that grows here.

That is a fascinating history of the peach, btw!


Cool story Kevin. Good luck and keep us posted.

Hedrick (in “The Peaches of New York”, 1917) mentions “Snowball” peaches. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“Some say the color of the petiole is correlated with that of the fruit, as it certainly is in such extreme sorts as Snowball and Indian Cling, but it is doubtful whether this correlation goes further than groups and even here does not always hold.”

“Prunus persica is variously divided by botanists and pomologists. Quite commonly two botanical varieties of edible peaches are split off, as shown in the synonomy, to separate the nectarine and the flat peaches from the pubescent and globular peaches. But these sub-species, originating over and over in the case of the nectarine as a bud or seed-mutation and the flat peaches probably having originated as a mutation, are not more distinct from the parent species than the red-fleshed sorts, the snowball peaches, the Yellow Transvaals from South Africa, the nippled peach, the cleft peach, the beaked peach, the winter peaches of China, or the pot-grown dwarfs from China; in fact, are not more different from other peaches than a clingstone is from a freestone, a yellow flesh from a white flesh or a large-flowered from a small-flowered sort. All constitute merely pomological groups, which, more and more, are becoming interminably confused by hybridization.”

Hedrick also describes a peach named “Snow”:

“This unique peach is of American origin. The blossoms and the fruit are white, without a trace of color, and the flesh is white to the stone. Tree hardy, productive; glands reniform; flowers small, white; fruit large, round, with a slight suture; skin thin, clear white; flesh white to the pit, juicy, melting, rich, sprightly, free; ripens the first of September.”

He also describes the Snow peach’s possible offspring named “Summer Snow” and writes:

“Albino peaches date back to the early records of this fruit and seem to be known wherever peaches are grown. Whenever seedling peaches are grown in large numbers, an occasional albino appears.”


That is fascinating information, and now I’m more intrigued than ever with this peach. I had already suspected it might just be Indian cling or Indian free based on the “Cherokee” and the description of it, so seeing your first quote is interesting.

I have to hand it to you in terms of research (and memory). I don’t imagine there are not too many people who could come up with such obscure references from so long ago. The fact that the seem to very closely match what I was told about these peaches makes my new tree all the more exciting. Apparently it had been potted for over a year so hopefully it will turn out to be something really special. If so, having your information will make things even more rewarding and exciting. I will keep you posted. Thanks again.

Ooookay cityman, I was just looking through some posts on growing peaches and found this old post. I assume It was a bust, but going on 3 years later, what was the outcome of that seedling?


Just to make sure he sees this, I’ll tag him… @thecityman

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Gentlemen, It absolutely does appear to be a bust! I had such high hopes! The story I was given was so great, the old orchard looked so promising, there was just enough oral history to make the whole thing seemed so promising! I cant 100 % rule it out, but I’m at about 95 % to saying it was BS. I say that because last year was the first year it tried to fruit. The year before the blooms were killed by frost so that doesn’t count and there were only about 4-6 blooms. Last year the tree was about 4 feet and fairly well spread and had about 25 blooms and set about 15 fruit. By the end of seasons there were about 10 fruit, but they hung on forever but never got any larger than gold ball size, if that. THey stayed hard and green until late fall and never ripened and finally fell off.

Because it was only a 3 year old tree and it was the first time ever to try and fruit, I decided not to cut it down and to give it a last chance this year. That’s why i say I’m only 95% sure its a bust- but no doubt that is overly optimistic. There is also a tiny part of me that wants to thing this was just a bad luck from a bad pairing and another seed might have been closer to the fruit I was told about-but that is just romanticizing I’m sure!

I’ll update this one last time this fall but I’m sure its going to be the same bad news! Sorry if I gave everyone false hope, but no one is more disappointed than me!


Thank you

I appreciate the update! The story was enjoyable, hopefully this year will produce, at least enough to verify what you’ve been told. I had a similar story about an old growth peach that was in a private garden that I was invited to by accident and the owner let me take a handful of ripe peaches home, I tried to get the seeds to take off and none of the 6 made it. I was pretty bummed. The story was from a grounds keeper that told my wife and I that the peach tree was planted years ago in a private garden in the the city of Rochester, no other peaches around the downtown area and fruited prolifically yearly. Flavor was amazing and the keeper didn’t treat the tree at all. Almost all the fruit would go to waste. Because only the groundskeeper would pick from it, and it was a large tree. Oh well, good luck on yours.

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