The pomegranate (Punica granatum) grows as a tree with multiple stems. The tree averages from 6 to 15 feet in height. Its branches develop a graceful, drooping habit as the tree ages. In the summer months, 2-inch-long trumpet flowers appear in shades of orange-red or red. Depending on the variety or cultivar, the flowers are single petaled or double petaled with ruffles. In the fall, globe-shaped fruit appear in shades of red or yellowish-green.
Pomegranate trees made their way into the United States via Mexico. After 1521 a large influx of Spanish missionaries entered Mexico carrying the pomegranate tree. As they migrated into California in 1769 they brought the colorful trees with them to plant outside their missions. It is also believed that the pomegranate was introduced into St. Augustine, Florida, in this manner, according to Texas A&M University. Today, the pomegranate is grown predominantly in regions of California and Arizona for commercial purposes.
The deciduous pomegranate tree is available in its standard form and dwarf varieties. Numerous cultivars exist. Despite its deciduous nature, in certain areas the tree's leaves often persist despite the winter months. In Europe, trees have been known to live more then 200 years but they decline in fruit production after only 15 years, according to the California Rare Fruit Growers.
The pomegranate tree is self-fertile but cross-pollination can also occur. In order for the flower to be pollinated it requires insect activity because wind pollination does not occur with the pomegranate tree. Beehives are utilized in commercial pomegranate fields to ensure that pollination takes place. Fruit appears five to seven months after the flowers are pollinated.
Fruit harvest must take place when pomegranates are first ripe. If they remain on the tree too long they will crack open in an attempt to disperse their seeds. Once ripe, cracking of the fruit often occurs during rainy weather. Growers tap the fruit and listen to the resonating sound. If the fruit makes a metallic sound then it is considered to be ripe and ready for harvest.
The pomegranate tree's fruit is technically a berry. Within its globular depths the fruit contains many juicy seeds and a yellow pulp which is bitter to the taste. The seeds are consumed raw, used as a garnishment in dishes or juiced. The juice is also made into a syrup substance commonly referred to as grenadine.
Pests and Disease
A hardy tree, the pomegranate suffers from few diseases. Often a fungal leaf problem will occur but is never serious. White thrips often feed on the tree but rarely require treatment. Scale often occurs on the stems and branches of the tree but an application of horticultural oil quickly takes care of the infestation.