Diosppyros virginiana, possum tree, possumwood, common persimmon
I've been thinking about planting a persimmon tree. Persimmon trees are native to this area (and to the entire southeastern United States.)
Around here, people call them "possum trees" because possums love the fruit and will climb the tree to get it. The fruit is popular with raccoons, skunks, foxes, mice, deer, and various birds as well.
|Persimmon leaf and bark|
The tree is a member of the ebony family, and its very distinctive bark helps to identify it when fruit is not present. The bark is black with blocks arranged in a grid pattern. If you look between the plates, you can see an orange coloration (more obvious on younger persimmon trees.) The bark on older persimmons looks like a wooden representation of alligator skin!
Here's something interesting from history about the flavor of the persimmon: Captain John Smith of Jamestown fame wrote in 1607, "...the fruit [the persimmon] is like a medlar; it is first green, then yellow and red when it is ripe: if it is not ripe, it will drive a man's mouth awrie with much torment, but when it is ripe, it is as delicious as the apricot.."
I know where a persimmon tree grows in the backyard of an old store building. I had been thinking about looking around for a seedling or collecting some seed next fall when the fruit drops.
However, I read somewhere tonight that the tree is best propagated with a root cutting. So I don't know! This old store building sits next to someone's house, and maybe they won't want me to dig around in the yard looking for a root! I would have to ask permission even to look for a seedling.
It may be best to just buy a persimmon tree. A cultivar called "Meador" has been selected for sweetness and is available from nurseries.
Persimmons are not too fussy about where they're planted. They send down a deep taproot, so they can tolerate a dry location. They don't mind heavy soil but they don't like shade. A persimmon should do OK in the site I can offer it, a well-drained south-facing spot on the edge of a broad ridge.