Tree Species Highlight: Diospyros virginiana (common persimmon)
Bell shaped flowers of common persimmon, viewed from below.
In the late fall months when I drive up the turnpike to visit my family
in Tulsa, the scenery is always picturesque, as leaves begin to fade
from green into their brilliant hues of autumn. One species in
particular stands out at that time, but this has nothing to do with fall
foliage (although it does put on quite the show in that department
too). Every so often in the midst of the Cross Timbers forest by the
road I will spot a tree dotted with bright orange fruits that illuminate
from the sea of bare limbs. If I were on foot in the woods I would also
notice the distinctive, square bark that looks like stacks of blocks, a
very unique feature of this species.
Historically valued for
its edible fruit, use in textiles and furniture and later, golf club
heads, common persimmon is an Oklahoma native tree reaching 60 feet tall
with a 20 to 35 foot spread. Typically a bottomland tree in the wild,
persimmon is also drought tolerant and well adapted to urban conditions.
It boasts small, yellow, bell-shaped flowers in late spring that
attract quite the crowd of pollinators. The thick leaves are glossy and
dark green. Fruit valued by wildlife is also edible for humans, but if
you decide to go out foraging make sure it’s ripe! Persimmons if eaten
before prime ripeness are extremely bitter – sometimes a frost is needed
to really force fruits into ripening. If you’re thinking of adding one
to your landscape try to plant away from paved surfaces, as the fruit
can be messy to clean up.
As water conservation is a
continuous concern, it makes sense to seek out native species that are
already adapted to our environmental conditions for planting in the
landscape. Native trees such as persimmon can add many aesthetic
features with a natural look, and benefits to the local fauna.