Heritage Orchard

Pomegranite Fruit
Pomegranate fruit
Tumacácori National Historical Park is working toward the reconstruction of a portion of the historic mission orchard. The park continues to strive to do the research necessary to identify, obtain, and propagate historic fruit tree stock that will be planted at the park. This is a monumental task requiring both funding and labor. The following article gives a synopsis of much of what is involved in making the reconstructed mission orchard as historically accurate as possible.

The Kino Heritage Fruit Trees Project
By Jesús Garcia, Principal Investigator

In 2004 Tumacácori National Historical Park acquired significant adjacent property, including the original 5-acre mission orchard and a significant portion of the original agricultural area. The challenge now is to replant the Spanish Mission Era orchard and garden. Why not use fruit tree stocks (cultivars) that can be traced to those introduced in the late 17th and early 18th centuries by Jesuit missionaries such as Father Kino, and/or those introduced in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by Franciscans?

Thus began, in late 2003, the Kino Heritage Fruit Trees Project, the ambitious brainchild of a talented team of researchers at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the University of Arizona, the National Park Service, and other Tucson area organizations.

The first task of the project was to identify fruit trees from the Spanish Mission Era. This was accomplished by reviewing Father Kino's accounts, Forty-niner documents and journals, and the work of contemporary local ethnobotanists and horticulturalists to trace the legacy of these fruit trees. By some accounts, trees included peach, quince, pear, apple, pecan, walnut, fig, and pomegranate. Together, they made up a portion of the mission community's agricultural livelihood that also depended upon grape vineyards, grain fields, vegetable and pharmacy gardens, as well as livestock.

Many of the fruit trees and other plants identified are native to the Old World, many originating from the Mediterranean region, as well as a significant number from central and eastern Asia (these are "Old World-exotics"). Some are native to North America or southern Mexico, but not endemic to the Sonoran Desert ecoregion (these are "New World-exotics"). Still others are native to the Sonoran Desert or Apache Highlands ecoregions that were brought under cultivation by the Jesuits and Franciscans upon their arrival in this region.

The goal of this research is to identify stocks, not individual trees. A few of the trees (fig, pomegranate, quince) are long-lived (80-100 years), although most live no longer than 20-40 years. Therefore, old trees that can be traced back to stocks introduced or assimilated 150-300 years ago are sought. Thus far stocks have been identified in mission orchard communities in Sonora (Mexico), on the campus of the University of Arizona, at Quitobaquito Springs in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, at historic houses, and in backyards of private residences. Cuttings and seeds are being propagated at the Native Seeds/SEARCH farm in Patagonia, Desert Survivors nursery in Tucson, Spadefoot nursery in Cochise County, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

The goal of the Kino Heritage Fruit Trees Project is to research, locate, propagate, and re-establish historically appropriate fruit tree cultivars to the original orchard and garden at Tumacácori National Historical Park and other historic sites. These reintroductions will directly contribute to the interpretive, educational, and preservation objectives of these historic sites.

Sonoran farm fields
Milpas de Sonora (Sonoran farm fields)

Last updated: May 13, 2015

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P.O. Box 8067
Tumacacori, AZ 85640


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