Divine Fruit

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common/American/Eastern persimmon; possumwood
Diospyros virginiana
Ebenaceae (ebony family)

Not in flower now, of course, but look at those lovely fruits! The flowers in spring are inconsequential, or maybe they’re just too high up to see, but the leaves have lovely color in autumn and of course those orange globes are quite eye-catching. The tree pictured here is on the banks of the Potomac along the Billy Goat B trail.

Our native persimmons are edible, but don’t try to pick them; they have to be completely ripe, otherwise the astringency will make you gag.  The sensation in your mouth after eating an underripe persimmon is rather like having a vinegar-soaked wad of cotton crammed in.  The best way to tell if they’re ripe enough to eat is to wait for them to fall.  Of course, that leads to other problems, like having squished fruits.

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I’m lucky enough to have a persimmon tree in my front yard.  I think it’s a lovely landscape tree, with a distinctive bark pattern and nice dark green leaves (when the weather isn’t droughty).

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Those fruits would be a nuisance in a lawn or near a patio.  Fortunately my tree is streetside. After thoroughly washing a few fallen fruit and gingerly tasting them, I decided not to let them go to waste.  A length of deer netting, some garden stakes, and a few cable ties later, I’m catching one to two dozen a day. The pulp seems to freeze well.

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Common persimmon is a medium-sized tree, usually growing 30 to 60 feet tall in the wild, and larger in the landscape if properly maintained.  Its native range, per the USFS, is from southeastern Pennsylvania south into Florida, and westward to east Texas and Kansas.  USDA lists it further north, into New York (threatened) and Connecticut (special concern).

The wood is very strong and close-grained, making it valuable for golf clubs, among other things.  Also it has an extremely high BTU value, so if you know of one being removed for some reason, collect the wood! And rent a hydraulic splitter.

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