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Common Persimmon Diospyros virginiana

Phonetic Spelling
dy-OS-pe-res ver-jin-ee-AY-nah
Description

American persimmon is a woody, deciduous tree in the Ebenaceae (ebony) family. It is native to the central and eastern United States and can reach 30 to 80 feet high and 20 to 35 feet wide.  The name persimmon comes from 'putchamin', a phonetic rendering of the name used by the Algonquin tribe of the American Indians.

Persimmons are dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female trees, and you need both in order to get fruit. The persimmon flowers in spring to early summer and produces fruits in the fall. The fruits are very sweet when ripe and are a food source for many birds and mammals. The fruit has a distinctive beak at the base of the fruit.  Persimmon grows best in moist, well-drained, sandy soils in full sun to partial shade. It will tolerate hot, dry conditions, poor soils, urban conditions, and wind. Under poor conditions, the tree may maintain a 15-foot shrub-like appearance. The tree can be propagated by grafting, root cutting, or seed, but a deep taproot makes it difficult to transplant.  American persimmons will not bear fruit right away.  Trees propagated from seeds begin producing fruit in 4-9 years.  Grafted trees need 3 years. It may take as many as 10 years for trees to come into full production.  

Branches do not contain terminal buds. A new leaf forms where a terminal bud usually appears.  That is because this tree never goes fully dormant.  Another distinctive characteristic of this tree is its bark.  It has a thick, dark gray bark that is divided by furrows into square blocks resembling a checkerboard, sometimes called “alligator bark.” Fall leaf color ranges from yellow to orange to bright red. 

It can be grown as an ornamental or fruit tree in the home landscape, or in naturalized areas for wildlife. Thus, it can be placed in many types of gardens: a butterfly, children's, native, nighttime, pollinator, or rain garden.  With spectacular autumn foliage and fruit that extends the harvest late into the fall, they are an excellent addition to an edible landscape.  Fruit can stay on the tree after the leaves have fallen unaffected by freezing temperatures, giving an attractive addition to a winter garden.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: Leaf spot may occur.  Fruit drop can be messy.

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Nuts" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Woodland Backyard Garden Walk
Cultivars / Varieties:
'C-100', 'Killen', ‘Meader’, 'Morris Burton', 'Prok', Var. mosieri, Var. platycarpa, Var. pubescens
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#rain garden#interesting bark#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#medicinal#showy fruits#food source wildlife#highly beneficial coastal plants#cpp#wind tolerant#fire low flammability#NC native#foxes#black bears#deer resistant#nighttime garden#children's garden#playground plant#edible fruits#fruits fall#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#moth larvae#ebh#ebh-fn#hickory horndevil moth#vhfn#vhfn-f#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'C-100', 'Killen', ‘Meader’, 'Morris Burton', 'Prok', Var. mosieri, Var. platycarpa, Var. pubescens
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#rain garden#interesting bark#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#medicinal#showy fruits#food source wildlife#highly beneficial coastal plants#cpp#wind tolerant#fire low flammability#NC native#foxes#black bears#deer resistant#nighttime garden#children's garden#playground plant#edible fruits#fruits fall#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#moth larvae#ebh#ebh-fn#hickory horndevil moth#vhfn#vhfn-f#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Diospyros
    Species:
    virginiana
    Family:
    Ebenaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The inner bark and unripe fruit has been used in the treatment of fevers, diarrhea, and hemorrhage, indelible ink made from fruit, flowers used for honey. The fruit was used for food and medicinal purposes by Native Americans. The heartwood is nearly black, extremely hard and is used to make golf club heads, billiard cues and shoe lasts.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Grafting
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central and eastern North America
    Distribution:
    New England to Florida, west to Texas and Kansas.
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    A larval host plant of the Luna moth and Hickory Horndevil (Citheronia regalis) larvae which have one brood and appear from May to mid-September. Adult Hickory Horndevil moths do not feed. The fruit of the persimmon is a food source for birds, small mammals, white-tailed deer, foxes, raccoons, and black bears. Deer browse the leaves and twigs.
    Play Value:
    Edible fruit
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Resistant to fire in landscape. This tree is moderately deer resistant.
    Edibility:
    The fruit is astringent when green, but sweet when soft and ripe and may be eaten raw. Used in syrups, jellies, ice cream and pies.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 20 ft. 0 in. - 35 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Columnar
    Oval
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Edible, yellowish to orange fruit on female trees in fall. Globular berry, 1 to 1 ½ inch long, yellowish/peach/pale orange with a waxy bloom. Astringent unless overripe. Displays from September to December.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Orange
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Bell
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    fused petals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Persimmons are usually dioecious (separate male and female trees), but some trees have perfect flowers. Fragrant, small, white to greenish-yellow flowers bloom in late spring, with the tubular male flowers appearing in 2 to 3 flower clusters and the female flower appearing solitary and bell or urn-shaped with 4 recurved petals. Blooms from May to June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are broadly oblong and pointed with smooth edges or some serration. They are 2 to 6 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide with an acuminate apex and rounded base. The lower surface is usually lighter-colored and may have hairs, especially on young leaves. The fall color is yellow to reddish-purple. Leaves have a broad mid-rib with dark veins on the underside.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Square
    Bark Description:
    It is one of the easiest trees to identify in winter because of its distinctive thick, dark grey bark that is divided by furrows into square blocks resembling a checkerboard, sometimes referred to as "alligator bark."
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Bud Scales:
    Enclosed in 2 scales
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    Stems are pubescent. Buds are single, sessile, 2 overlapping scales, 1/4" long, dark reddish - almost black, no terminal bud. Branchlets slender, zigzag, at first light reddish-brown and pubescent. They vary in color from light brown to ashy gray.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Recreational Play Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Nighttime Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Poor Soil