A stone fruit, also called a drupe, is a fruit with a large stone inside. The stone is sometimes mistakenly called the seed; the seed is, in fact, inside the stone.

Not all drupes have single large stones. Raspberries, which have a multitude of small stones, are a good example of the exception to the rule.

Stone fruits include peaches, nectarines, plums, lychees, mangoes, coconuts and cherries. Interestingly, coffee beans, olives, almonds, dates and pistachios are also classified as drupes.

Stone fruit occupies an honorary position in South Africa’s fresh fruit export history. The first fruit to be exported from this country were 14 cases of peaches that left Table Bay harbour on 13 January 1892, destined for England on board the Drummond Castle. When the consignment arrived 19 days later, less than 5% of the fruit had suffered damage; the balance was sold at London’s Covent Garden market at a price that exceeded all expectations.

“The public sale of this fruit created a great sensation in the fruit world,” wrote Percy Moleteno, the father of South Africa’s fruit export industry, at the time. The event proved that South African fruit could reach the United Kingdom in good condition, and launched the local export industry.

“South African stone fruit growers produce plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines and cherries – a total of around 350 000 tonnes per year.” Hortgro Science

Fast facts 

  • Noyaux is the French word for the kernels found in the pits of cherries, apricots, plums and peaches. They can be used to make almond extract and liquors, and to add flavour to jams and creams.
  • The value of the South African stone fruit industry amounts to more than R2 billion, of which 70% are generated by fresh fruit sales.
  • The per capita consumption of fresh stone fruit in South Africa is calculated at 1,14kg.
  • According to the 2015 tree census, 18 025ha of stone fruit are established in South Africa, with 91% of these plantings situated in the Western Cape and 3% in the Eastern Cape.
  • Two small peaches have slightly more potassium (key for proper nerve and muscle function) than a medium banana.

Today South African stone fruit growers produce plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines and cherries.  Approximately 350 000 tonnes apricots, nectarines, peaches and plums are produced per year. Apricots contribute 16% to the total production, peaches and nectarines collectively account for 60%, and plums a further 23%.

South Africa exports only 22% of its total stone fruit production, as the greatest proportion of apricots and cling peaches are processed. Half of all peaches and nectarines destined for the fresh market are sold on the local market. Plums are the exception, with 74% of production exported to mainly the European Union, United Kingdom and the Middle East.

The major stone fruit cultivars produced in South Africa are:

Apricots: ‘Bulida’, ‘Soldonne’, ‘Imperial’/’Palsteyn’ and ‘Bebeco’.

Dessert peaches: ‘Transvalia’, ‘Summersun’ and ‘Temptation’.

Cling peaches: ‘Keisie’, ‘Kakamas’ and ‘Sandvliet’.

Nectarines: ‘Alpine’, ‘August Red’ and ‘May Glo’.

Plums: ‘Laetitia’, ‘Songold’ and ‘Angeleno’/’Suplumsix’. ‘Fortune’ plantings have shown significant growth over the last five years.

RESEARCH PROJECTS 2018 – currently conducted

  1. Lipopeptides for the biological control of postharvest phytopathogens
  2. Ethyl formate fumigation technology – upscaling application towards commercialization


  1. Investigating the potential of ethyl formate fumigation for phytosanitary control of the grain chinch bug on pome and stone fruit.
    Read article: Vapormate sends grain chinch bug packing
  1. Variations of temperature regimes for cold-sterilisation markets.
    Read article: Smart solution to plum conundrum
  1. The prevalence of Botrytis in plums and other hosts in the orchard – a preliminary investigation using molecular technology.
    Read article: Come out, come out, wherever you are!
  1. Broken stones in plums.
    Read article: What breaks a plums heart?
  1. Moisture loss in nectarines.
    Read article: Moisture maketh the nectarine
  2. CATTS as a post-harvest treatment for chill-sensitive plum cultivars and associated phytosanitary insect pests.
    Read article: Setting the CATTS among the pests
  3. Establishment of proof of concept for innovative post-harvest digital quality management in the form of an APP. to assist technology transfer for fruit.
    Read article:  Technology transfer goes online
  4. Production of antimicrobial lipopeptides by Bacillus spp.for biological control of postharvest phytopathogens in the perishable fruit industry.
    Read article: Fungicides from the soil


  1. Certification of plum packaging formats for export of South African fruit to markets that accept irradiation in combination with insect barrier bags, as mitigation treatment.
    Thanks to a successful partnership between gamma rays and insect barrier bags, a greater variety of local plums could soon be welcome in the United States.
    Read article: SA plums head for the Big Apple
  1. Environmentally friendly post-harvest disease control methods for peaches and avocados.
    Thyme oil used in new-generation packaging not only keeps avocados safe from disease, it also extends their shelf life.
    Read article:  Anoint the avocado (and peach)


  1. Packaging solutions for citrus and deciduous fruits
  2. The effect of elevated storage temperatures on plums