Asked February 09, 2017, 4:23 PM EST
Onondaga County New York
Your ancestors’ red-leafed peach trees were probably one or more varieties of Prunus persica. Although not all P. persica varieties have red leaves, several common and easily obtainable red-leafed varieties have the word “Bonfire” in their names, such as ‘Bonfire’ ‘Patio Bonfire’, ‘Crimson Bonfire’, etc.
Most of these red varieties are on the compact side, usually reaching to about six feet in both width and height, making them more the size of a shrub than a full-sized tree. Other varieties, such as ‘Royal Red Leaf’ or ‘Foliis Rubris’ which are often used as rootstock, can grow to be much taller but are harder to find. The trees you first knew as a child were possibly among these latter varieties, which have generally been replaced in today’s catalogs by the more compact and easier to harvest varieties.
P. persica is hardy in USDA Zones 5 - 9, usually tolerating temperatures down to -10 or even -20 degrees F., so it should be able to withstand even the mighty winds and snows coming off Lake Ontario.
The foliage of these peaches is striking, and the plants will bear fruit that can be juicy and delicious. It is important to know, however, that the wilted leaves, twigs or stems, and seeds can be very toxic. Symptoms of poisoning from ingesting these parts can range from shortness of breath to convulsions, coma and respiratory failure resulting in death.
Here is a chart that gives you a lot of information about P. persica from North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/prunus-persica/
If your local nursery does not stock these trees, you should easily be able to find specimens for sale online.