Crimson Rocket peach trees look like tall, thin cousins of the more classically-shaped peach trees. These "skinny" trees provide an attractive, space-saving tree that produces full-size peaches that could make their way to consumers in 2008.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) horticulturist Ralph Scorza and his colleagues in the Appalachian Fruit Research Station at Kearneysville, W.Va., developed the "columnar" variety. The tree was patented and released in 2001 for experimental evaluation in orchards across the United States.
Crimson Rocket has been licensed by several commercial nurseries in Missouri, Pennsylvania and California. The trees have been in commercial orchards for the last three years and Crimson Rocket fruit may begin to appear in local marketplaces next spring.
A fully grown Crimson Rocket tree has a diameter of about five feet and fits neatly into a small yard. In commercial settings, the compact trees can be planted much closer together than conventional trees that spread out to a width of 16 feet. Crimson Rocket's columnar shape translates into more peaches per acre, while land and production costs are similar.
According to Scorza, Crimson Rocket was bred for high-density production systems, allowing for a new concept in peach production. Its shape also makes it a novel and useful fruit tree for home gardens.
Crimson Rocket has two copies of a naturally occurring gene that sends the branches skyward. It produces yellow-fleshed, dessert-type peaches that are firm, sweet and aromatic. The medium-sized fruit stores well and softens when completely ripe.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.