Knowing the parts of a fruit tree helps grow healthier trees and improves fruit production. Even with hundreds of different species and varieties of fruits, fruit trees all have the same basic structure. From tropical lime and citrus trees to cold hardy apples, fruit trees are found in many different climates.
Roots provide fruit trees with nutrients and water. If the fruit tree has been grafted, the roots will be a different species than the fruit bearing branches. The root is then called a rootstock. The rootstock will determine the size and shape that the tree grows in. The roots need to be planted in well-drained soil. Wet roots will kill fruit trees. With more than 90 percent of the tree's roots in the top 2 feet of soil, do not to disturbing the soil around the tree.
The trunk is the tree's main stem. Also called the leader, the trunk grows to the top with many branches growing from it. With grafted trees, a graft bud will be present on the trunk. Tree trunks are sometimes covered with a paper tree wrap to protect younger trees from cold weather.
Branches grow from the trunk. Branches coming off the main are called laterals. Most of the fruit grows on lateral branches. Knowing the branching structure leads to proper pruning and lessens the loss of fruit-bearing branches. On fruit trees like apples and cherries, a small fruiting branch called a spur will grow on the leader. The short spurs sometimes produce fruit.
Leaves feed the tree through photosynthesis, the process that takes the sun, carbon dioxide and water to feed the tree with sugars and oxygen. The leaf of a fruit tree also helps to identify the tree. Leaf patterns, veins, number of lobes and fall color are characteristics that vary for each type of tree.
The flowers on the fruit tree are responsible for the fruit. Flowers attract pollinators to the pollen. Bees pollinate most trees. Many fruit trees like apples, cherries and pears will need two or more varieties for cross pollination to give the trees the ability to bear fruit. Citrus trees, peach and apricots are a few of the fruit trees that are self-fertile and do not need another tree to produce fruit.
When the flower is pollinated, the ovary grows and matures into the fruit of the tree. Most fruit trees produce fruit at 2 to 7 years of age. Apples and apricots will produce fruit faster than a sweet cherry or pear. Trees planted in the full sun and kept disease free will reward the grower with fruit for years to come.