271 Diospyros virginianaCommon Names: American persimmon, common persimmon Family: Ebenaceae (ebony Family)
The persimmon is a slow-growing deciduous tree, rarely exceeding 50 ft (15 m) in height. The leaves are generally elliptic, 4-6 in (10-15 cm) long, dark green on top and pale green underneath. The bark on older trunks is black and broken up into distinctive, regular square blocks. The flowers are greenish and inconspicuous, with each tree having only male (staminate) or female (pistillate) flowers, a condition called dioecious. The female lowers develop into showy orange fruits, up to 2 in (5 cm) in diameter, that are very astringent during maturation, but deliciously sweet when fully ripe. Several cultivars selected for fruit quality, seedlessness, cold hardiness and disease resistance are available.
Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is native to eastern North America from New England, west to Kansas, and south to Texas and Florida. It is one of the most widely-adapted of trees, growing naturally in bottomland swamps, along stream banks, in upland forests, in fields, piney woods, and even dry scrub lands.
CultureLight: Prefers full sun, but also does well in partial sun. Moisture: Highly adaptable, tolerates drought and even brief flooding. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 10. Certain cultivars, like the 'Meador' persimmon shown here are hardy to Zone 5. Propagation: Easily propagated from seed, but named cultivars are grafted onto seedling rootstock.
Wild persimmons and their seedlings vary greatly in fruit quality and size. For the cultivated landscape, it is best to obtain named cultivars, and for most of these, you will need two or more trees. Plant persimmon trees in the natural area of your landscape where their fruit will can be shared with wildlife as well as children.
When you gently shake a persimmon tree, the ripe fruits fall to the ground. If you have to pull the fruit off the tree, it will surely pucker your mouth inside out! Ripe persimmons are delicious out of hand, and can be made into puddings and cakes. Frozen, they satisfy like ice cream, while dried persimmons are like dates. Persimmon wood is prized for its beauty and extreme density, and used for golf club heads and pool cues.
Fallen fruit on a walkway or patio can be a messy nuisance.
Steve Christman 02/26/98; updated 11/28/99, 2/14/03, 2/20/03, 9/4/03