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The peach (Prunus persica) is a deciduous tree, native to Northwest China, in the region between the Tarim Basin and the north slopes of the Kunlun Shan mountains, where it was first domesticated and cultivated. It bears an edible juicy fruit also called a peach. Peaches and nectarines are the same species, even though they are regarded commercially as different fruits. In contrast to peaches, whose fruits present the characteristic fuzz on the skin, nectarines are characterized by the absence of fruit-skin trichomes (fuzz-less fruit); genetic studies suggest nectarines are produced due to a recessive allele, whereas peaches are produced from a dominant allele for fuzzy skin.

Cultivated peaches are divided into clingstones and freestones, depending on whether the flesh sticks to the stone or not; both can have either white or yellow flesh. Peaches with white flesh typically are very sweet with little acidity, while yellow-fleshed peaches typically have an acidic tang coupled with sweetness, though this also varies greatly. Both colours often have some red on their skin.

Peaches grow very well in a fairly limited range, since they have a chilling requirement that low altitude tropical areas cannot satisfy. Typical peach cultivars begin bearing fruit in their third year and have a lifespan of about 12 years. Most cultivars require between 600 and 1,000 hours of chilling; cultivars with chilling requirements of 250 hours (10 days) or less have been developed enabling peach production in warmer climates. Certain cultivars are more tender, and others can tolerate a few degrees colder. In addition, summer heat is required to mature the crop, with mean temperatures of the hottest month between 20 and 30 °C (68 and 86 °F). Another problematic issue in many peach-growing areas is spring frost. The trees tend to flower fairly early in spring.

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