Extremely adaptable and ecologically significant, the Persimmon is a wildlife tree with remarkable fall colors that you just can’t miss. Cloaked by glossy deciduous foliage which shifts from summery dark green to beautiful autumnal hues of copper-orange and reddish-purple, the Persimmon is a gorgeous addition to any garden or landscape. Like most other species of the Ebenaceae family, this tree also produces lovely little flowers from May to June. These are usually creamy-yellow with fused petals, shaped like tiny bells, which underpin the Persimmon’s popularity as a marvelous decorative tree. Yet the Persimmon is actually best known for its fruit, a globular berry that is famous for its intense astringency when unripe and its surprising sweetness when mature.
As quite the handsome specimen, the fruit-bearing Persimmon tree—binomially classified as Diospyros Virginiana—is understandably widespread throughout the eastern United States, found sporadically from Connecticut to Florida and as far westward as Oklahoma and Texas; its largest population has been identified in the Mississippi River basin. Fossil remains of the Persimmon have been discovered even in Nebraska, Greenland, and Alaska, harking to an evolutionary lineage that indicates this plant’s consumption by the megafauna that prowled the earth 10,000 years ago.
With a 4-9 hardiness zone rating, the Persimmon is best cultivated in full sun to partial shade, and grows best in uplands with medium to dry, well-drained soils. A mature tree’s rounded canopy can extend up to 35-60 ft., with a 25-35 ft. spread. Its bark is dark gray and blocky, its serious color almost serving as a reminder that this species is as hardy as it is lovely. The Persimmon is disease- and pest-free, and is actually very easy to take care of and prune as long as they are properly propagated.
This tree’s binomial name actually springs from the Greek words “Dios” and “pyron”, translating to “divine fruit” (or literally, “Zeus’ fire”). “Persimmon” is derived from the Powhatan term “putchamin” or “pessamin”, words that are construed to mean “dry fruit”. This fruit is extremely coveted, though it can be notoriously bitter when unripe due to its high levels of tannin. As the reddish-bronze berry matures, these tannin levels decrease, resulting in a very sweet flavor that is most traditionally enjoyed in steamed puddings (a common recipe in the Midwest). These berries are chockfull of antioxidants, flavonoids, and phytonutrients, but also secrete a fair amount of fructose.
“My mother said every persimmon has a sun inside, something golden, glowing, warm as my face.” –Li-Young Lee
Photos Copyright © Horticopia, Inc. 2017
This Tree's Zone: 4 to 9
Your Growing Zone:
|Fall Foliage||Orange to reddish purple|
|Bloom||White to greenish-yellow|
|Bloom Time||May to June|
|Shape||Round to oval|
|Size||35 to 60 feet|
|Spread||25 to 35 feet|