City Trees

July/August 2013

City Trees is a premier publication focused on urban + community forestry. In each issue, you’ll learn how to best manage the trees in your community and more!

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Page 37 of 39

TREE OF MERIT Common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) Common persimmon, possum wood, or just plain simmon, is a tree that is native from Connecticut to Florida and west to Texas and Kansas. Hardy from USDA Zone 4 to Zone 9, it can be grown in almost every state and at least a few Canadian provinces. Persimmon is an adaptable tree and is often a pioneer. The species can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. It can grow in mine reclamation areas and in dry, infertile soils. Common persimmon can endure saline soils and some salt spray. While persimmon tolerates occasionally wet soils, it does better on well drained soils and once established can be fairly drought tolerant. This is one of the easiest fruit trees to grow. Persimmon is almost completely free of serious pests and diseases. It flowers late; therefore, flowering and subsequent fruit set are rarely affected by late spring frosts. The fruit is delicious when ripe, but do not try to eat it before it is ripe, when it can be very astringent and downright inedible. Wait until the flesh is soft; many folks wait until after frost to harvest, as frost is thought to sweeten the fruit (but too much frost exposure will simply make it rot). The fruit is high in important minerals, vitamins A and C, and other antioxidants. Persimmon makes a mouthwatering pudding. Persimmon fruit • Photo by Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia, A number of cultivars have been developed for fruit production. 'Early Golden' is a good variety for the northern extent of the range and 'John Rick' is tasty and prodigious. Persimmon is usually dioecious. My neighbor gave me two trees several years ago. Fortunately for me, I have a male and a female and have enjoyed the fruit for the past few years. I estimate the trees were six years old when they started bearing fruit. I wait until the first hard frost and eat them right off the tree. The leaves are not usually browsed by deer, a sought-after trait where deer populations have exploded (like where I live!) However, the fruit attracts deer and other wildlife such as foxes, coyotes, possums, and raccoons—and, once lured into your yard by the smell of persimmon fruit, the deer can turn their attention to your other landscape plants. Young persimmon leaves • Photo by Andy Hillman Persimmon has many attractive qualities. The alternate, simple leaves are dark green and lustrous, four to six inches (10 to 15 cm) long and up to three inches (7.6 cm) wide. The bark is distinctive, looking like alligator hide. Fall color can be quite nice, with orange, red, and purple. The trunk is rarely straight, but the tree usually develops a single leader, giving it a distinctive look. Trees can mature up to about 66 feet (20 m), depending on climate and growing conditions. Persimmon is in the Ebenaceae family; like the ebony of commerce, the wood is heavy, hard, and strong. It has been used for golf club heads, billiard cues, flooring, and veneer. Here is a tree that tolerates a wide range of soil conditions and climates, tolerates salt spray, and has good fall color and strong and valuable wood. It produces excellent fruit and is practically free of pests and diseases. I call that a tree of merit! —Andy Hillman, SMA Past President; Northeast Business Developer, Davey Resource Group 38 Persimmon bark looks like alligator hide. Photo by Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, City Trees

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