There are so many wonderful trees in the Arboretum, sometimes it is hard to see the trees for the ‘forest’. Among the wonderful trees that you will find in the Arboretum is Diospryros virginiana, aka ‘divine fruit’. It is one that you would not readily accept If your only contact with D. virginiana, (persimmon) was tasting the astringent fruit, or stepping on the messy fruit, it would be the last tree you would want to plant. It is all how you look at it.
In the fall, its foliage of gold, yellow, orange and purple foliage, simply glows. Its winter silhouette exposes alligator bark and picturesque branches, and apricot-colored fruit that will hang on through the winter or until the wildlife eat it.
Michael A. Dirr, “Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs”, says ‘it will not win a landscape beauty contest’, however, once established the long tap root ensures it will survive the worst of conditions and it will have a long life. Severed roots will regenerate, are good soil builders, enabling the tree to adapt to drought, flood, heat, shade, and wind, though it loves rich, organic soil, plenty of moisture and full sun.
Culture is simple. Avoid planting were fruit will drop on hard surface. The dense wood, member of the ebony family, resists and survives persimmon wilt a systematic disease and twig girdling insect. Simply rake fallen branches and leaves and burned the area under the tree.
When to eat the fruit? Most consider the astringent D. virginiana(American native) must go through a freeze to be edible. Guy Sternberg, author of “Native Trees of North America”, states that it is not temperature but the length of time that causes it to sweeten.
It is a wonderful apricot-tasting fruit that is a delight as fruit, the basis of bread, pudding, preserves and brandy. Sternberg considers it as the most diverse and useful tree in the landscape. It is an excellent wildlife wood, attracts two spectacular moths Regal and Swallow-tail Luna. While the dense black core-wood has many uses (shuttles and veneer), don’t build a child’s boat – it will sink due to its density.