Mission Heritage Fruit Tree Project

In 2004 the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum approached Desert Survivors to assist with growing the trees for this unique project. The concept involved reproducing the oldest known heirloom fruit trees in southern Arizona and northern Sonora and Baja.  The goal was to possibly find trees that were grown by spanish missionaries who first introduced them to the region in the 1680’s. These trees are reproduced by vegetative propagation to ensure that they are identical genetic copies of the original plants. We are growing an assortment of pomegranates, figs, quince, lima and mission grapes. Some of the original trees have persisted on private properties, while others have been found growing in wild, riparian areas.

Jesus Garcia-Yanez and Robert Emanuel of the Desert Museum were instrumental in starting the program and have provided much direction.  Jesus is responsible for obtaining genetic stock for most of these trees, and has spoken extensively to the public about this project.  Other hugely significant partners and leaders in the project over the years have included the Santa Cruz Heritage Alliance, Jonathon Mabry, Tumacacori National Historical Park, Native Seed SEARCH, and the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace.  

The orchard at Tumacori National Historic Park was replanted for the first time in over 200 years in the spring of 2007, using trees grown at Desert Survivors as part of this project. Then in 2012, the historic Mission Gardens was replanted under the direction of the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace, along the historic banks of the Santa Cruz River at the base of Sentinel Peak. 




Sosa - Black Mission, planted in 1880’s from Tucson

Ruby - found near perennial spring near ghost of Ruby near border, White Fig

Oro Blanco - Ghost Town of Oro Blanco, Santa Cruz County, Kadota Fig

Presidio - Black Mission fig from Presidio de San Augustin, old Downtown Tucson


Sosa  - A delicious soft-seeded Pink pomegranate, that appears to have been originally grafted onto a white pomegranite, planted in 1880’s in Tucson

Ruby - White pomegranate found near spring near ghost town of Ruby near Border, Santa Cruz County

Josefina - White pomegranate from Tucson, extremely sweet with white fruit

Quitobaquito - White pomegranate from the iconic Quitobaquito Springs in Organpipe National Monument

Edgar Canyon - Red pomegranate occuring in a lush riparian area on the east side of the Santa Catalina Mountains

San Xavier - Bright red pomegranate found at the San Xavier mission on the southwest side of Tucson


San Pedro - An old tree from settlement along historic San Pedro River Valley

Oracle - An old tree from close to old post office in town of Oracle, growing near a spring at a residence on the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains

Aravaipa - From the riparian canyon in the Galiuro Mountains

Kihe’ - Sweet sonoran quince from the historic ranch along the San Pedro River Valley



Doña Adelina - An old tree from an old Tucson barrio neighborhood

© Desert Survivors 2016