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Searcy, Ark. –
If you have ever eaten a common persimmon before a frost, you know the definition
of “pucker power”. The fruits can be quite astringent. But this year the trees are
loaded with fruit and if you like persimmons, let them fully mature, and then start
The common persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is a slow-growing, mid‐sized native tree with fruits that ripen in the fall. The
Latin name means “food of the gods”. While a frost is really not needed to ripen
the fruits, they do require a long season to get fully ripe, and if not ripe, they
will be astringent, bordering on inedible.
The native persimmon is a very adaptable tree, growing in most soil types in full
sun to partial shade. Persimmon trees will withstand short periods of drought, but
the fruit will be larger and of higher quality with regular watering. Extreme drought
will cause the leaves and fruit to drop prematurely. At maturity a common persimmon
tree can be 40 feet tall. It has hard, dark and beautifully grained wood. A lot of
the large old trees were cut to make golf clubs during the early years of the 20th
century and are still used in specialized furniture pieces.
Our native persimmon tree is dioecious, which means there are separate male trees
and separate female trees. You need one of each to have fruit, and only the female
tree will bear fruit. While persimmons can be grown from seed, it can take 4‐9 years
before they begin to bloom and then you need to determine if they are male or female.
Most trees in the trade are grafted, and can begin to bear fruit in 3‐6 years. A
few varieties of the native persimmon have been found to be self‐fruitful, but a bit
hard to find. ‘Meador’ is one that is self‐fruitful.
Mature fruit may be yellow, orange, bright red, or bluish in color. Fruit becomes
soft and mushy when ripe. Unripe fruit, which is high in tannins, has a bitter astringent
flavor, thus the pucker‐power. The mature fruit are very sweet when fully ripened
and astringency is reduced. Some pointers to help you know when to harvest is that
when the fruit is ripe it will pull away easily from the branch, turn a deep color
and be soft to the touch.
Edible fruits often hang on the trees through fall, and even into winter, unaffected
by freezing temperatures. Songbirds, raccoons, squirrels, and deer are some of the
animals which enjoy the extra fruit in the late fall and winter.
A slightly, more decorative cousin to the common persimmon is the oriental persimmon tree. The oriental persimmon is native to China, where it has been grown for centuries.
It is also the national fruit of Japan. It came to the United States in the mid‐1800’s
starting in California, and now they are grown in roughly half of the US. Oriental
persimmon fruit ripens from late August until early December, depending on the variety
and weather conditions. Fruit size can vary from squatty round fruits to large almost
grapefruit‐sized fruits. Fuyu‐Gaki persimmon is the most widely planted cultivar
in the world. When fully ripe, this fruit turns a crimson red with a blue blush.
It is also self‐fruitful. Other self‐fruitful varieties include Gionbo with very
large (4‐5") orange conical, astringent fruits, Great Wall, and Matsumoto. Most oriental
persimmon trees grow about 15 feet tall and wide. With the oriental persimmons, some
are self‐fruitful and others need another variety for pollination. These are smaller
trees at maturity, so fit into a landscape a bit easier.
If you like persimmons, you can’t go wrong with either type of tree. If you are into
folklore, now is also a good time to look for the weather prognosticator. Harvest
the fruit of the native persimmon, find the seeds and cut them in half. This is not
easily done since they are quite slippery. Inside each seed will be a white embryo
in the center. They are generally shaped as either a "fork", "knife", or "spoon".
If you see a fork, it means a mild winter. A spoon means lots of snow—a spoon for
shoveling, and a knife means a cold winter ahead—it will cut like a knife! So far,
we have seen all spoons, so if the persimmons are right, it will not be a pleasant
winter! But to be honest, it said that last year and we didn’t have a winter!
For more information you can contact your local county extension service, you can also follow Sherri Sanders on Facebook @UADA.WhiteCountyAgriculture
By Sherri Sanders White County Extension Agent - AgricultureU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service2400 Old Searcy Landing Road Searcy AR 72143 (501) 268-5394 email@example.com