Yes, you can eat the fruits of a wild persimmon tree. But don’t try to do so before they are fully ripe, as they have a highly astringent taste that will dry out your mouth. This is due to the high tannin level of the wild persimmon trees. Native persimmons are also called “Dear Candy” and are an excellent way of attracting deer onto your land.
What You'll Learn Today
- Do Persimmon Trees Grow Wild?
- How Do You Identify A Wild Persimmon Tree?
- Are Wild Persimmons Good For You?
- How To Grow Your Own Persimmon Tree?
- How To Care For A Persimmon Tree?
- How To Tell If A Persimmon Tree Is Male or Female?
Do Persimmon Trees Grow Wild?
There are two types of persimmon trees growing wild in the United States. The common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) and the Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana). Persimmons are members of the Ebony family.
The Texas persimmon grows in central and southern Texas and southwestern Oklahoma. It is endemic to the Edwards Plateau, the Rio Grande Plains, and the Trans-Pecos region in its southeastern corner. It is also found in parts of Mexico.
The common persimmon is native in the central and eastern U.S from Connecticut to Florida, Oklahoma, Kansas, and throughout North Carolina, except for the high mountain areas.
How Do You Identify A Wild Persimmon Tree?
There are a variety of ways to identify a wild persimmon tree:
Persimmon can typically be found growing under the canopy of other larger trees. In this habitat, they tend to form large shrubs, but where they are out in the open can grow into trees of between 40 to 70 feet in height.
It has a symmetrical oval form and dense foliage which grows in the spring. The tree then loses its leaves in the fall.
As they are members of the ebony family, they have dark trunks and branches ranging from grey/brown to black. The leaves also tend to have a darker green color than many other trees. The leaves may also be red, orange, or even purple in fall.
The bark of the tree is heavily scaled and peels off throughout the year. According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences the under bark, when exposed to the air, will take on a yellowish hue, although this can vary in shade.
The leaves are oval and measure two to three inches wide and four to six inches in length. We will look at these in more detail below.
Only female persimmon trees will bear fruit. The flowers appear on both sexes in the late spring and early summer. They are tiny with four waxy yellow petals that can range from creamy yellow to a deep orangey-yellow, depending on the type of tree.
As the petals unfurl, the flower takes on a bell-like appearance before opening up as it matures.
The fruits will begin to form and are green, to begin with. They grow steadily into a rounded form of about 2.5 inches wide. As they mature, the fruits turn orange. This can vary in shade from a pale orange to a deep reddish-orange. They don’t fully ripen until the outer skin wrinkles, and the fruit becomes soft.
Persimmons often grow in upland sites and valleys, in abandoned fields and clearings. They are regularly found among other species such as oaks, sycamores, hickories, yellow poplars, sugar maples, and loblolly pines.
They adapt to many different soil conditions, and although they prefer it to be moist, they will also grow in rocky, sandy, or clay soils.
Like several other fruit trees such as plum or cherry, persimmons send out suckers from their roots, so you will often see smaller trees emerging from older ones’ roots.
In this video, you can see how to identify a wild persimmon tree:
Persimmon Leaf Identification
What to look out for when identifying persimmon leaves:
- Common persimmon – the size varies from between 2.5 to 6 inches in length and can be between 1.5 to 3 inches in width.
- Texas persimmon – has smaller leaves than the common persimmon and grows to an inch and a half in length and 3/8 to 3/5 of an inch in width.
- Common persimmon – The leaf is a different color on the top and bottom. When the fresh spring leaf matures, it becomes dark green on the upper surface and pale silvery-white on the underside.
- Texas persimmon – This leaf is shiny and dark green on top with a dull green on the underside.
The leaf is single, and has a smooth edge with no serrations. It is elliptical, and the tip is pointed. Some have a notch where the leaf connects to the tree.
Other Things To Note
The underside of the leaves has tiny, fine hairs. Although the leaves can have streaks of orange, yellow, red, or purple in fall, they often just become a washed-out green before falling off.
Common persimmons are not as astringent as their Texas relatives. Even so, it is best to leave them until they are very ripe before eating, at which point they become sweet and juicy.
There are non-native varieties of persimmons that are not astringent such as the Fuya permission from Asia. This is grown commercially in California.
Are Wild Persimmons Good For You?
Scientifically, persimmons are berries, but due to being quite large, are usually thought of more like apples or plums.
As with other berries, they are good for you because they are packed with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins and contain a high level of soluble dietary fiber.
Persimmons are good for you and can help with:
- A healthy heart
- Stable blood sugar
- Eye health
- A strong immune system
Due to their fiber, antioxidants, and minerals, persimmons effectively lower the risk of heart disease, as they help keep arteries clear of plaque and support the immune system. This makes them a useful component in an antiatherosclerotic diet.
Then eaten regularly, the tannin-rich fiber is effective at lowering high cholesterol.
Stable Blood Sugar
The fiber is also great at slowing down the rate at which carbohydrates are digested. This helps prevent blood sugar spikes.
There are flavonoids in the peel of persimmons that have not only an antioxidant effect, but an antidiabetic one too.
They help stop the formation of AGEs, which are damaging compounds formed by the combination of sugar, fat, and protein in the blood. These compounds have been linked to diabetes and other diseases.
Vitamin A is beneficial for maintaining good vision by keeping the eyes healthy. A single serving of persimmons contains half the recommended daily amount required by the body.
If you also eat the peel, it has a high level of lutein, which protects the eyes from disease.
Persimmons contain manganese, a blood-clotting agent. They are also a great source of vitamin C and other antioxidants, which may help with the prevention of strokes or cancer.
How To Grow Your Own Persimmon Tree?
If you don’t live in one of the areas where Persimmon grows wild, you could grow one in your yard.
The Japanese persimmon variety “Fuyu” is hardy in zones 7 through 10. American persimmons can be grown in regions 5 to 9.
Not only will a Fuyu tree bear sweet fruit you can eat, but it has ornamental appeal too. It has small yellow flowers during the spring and leaves that turn orange, gold, red, and maroon in fall.
Both the native American varieties of Persimmon need a male and a female tree to develop fruit. The Fuyu is a self-fertile tree, so you only need one.
The tree will grow to around 25 to 30 feet in height and has a pleasing, rounded appearance.
A Fuyu persimmon will grow best in moist but well-drained soil. So something that is humus-rich is ideal. Amend the soil by adding compost or well-matured manure.
Ensure the area you choose has full sun, is large enough to allow the tree to grow to maturity, and has some wind protection, as high winds will break off branches.
The Fuyu is a non-astringent type of persimmon, which means that it doesn’t need to be as ripe before you can eat it like the native species do.
The fruits are rich in vitamin A and contain more vitamin C than oranges. They keep very well and are deep orange on the outside with pale orange flesh.
When it is very ripe, the skin can be cut open and the custardy center eaten with a spoon.
If you want to eat your Fuyu persimmons or wild ones, then it’s best to harvest them before they fully ripen, which happens with the first frosts in fall. If they are left on the trees you run the risk that they will be eaten by birds and other hungry creatures.
Because Fuyu persimmons aren’t astringent, you can also pick them to eat like an apple when they are still firm, once they have started to ripen in the summer.
How To Care For A Persimmon Tree?
Caring for a persimmon tree isn’t difficult, and once it is well established, it will pretty much take care of itself.
- Tree Type – Depending on the type of permission tree you have, it may be necessary to plant another of the opposite sex so that one will pollinate the other.
- Fertilizer – During the spring, the tree will benefit from some organic, slow-release fertilizer with four to six percent nitrogen, eight to ten percent phosphorus, and three to six percent potassium. Be careful not to over-fertilize as this can result in fruit drop.
- Watering – In summer, water according to the amount of heat in your location. Long hot days will dry the soil, especially if accompanied by wind. Young trees need to be kept moist but not wet to help them grow. If you live in a cooler area, you’ll only need to occasionally water your tree to produce a good crop of fruit, but as with over-fertilizing, over watering can cause fruit drop.
- Drought Tolerance – Once established, the trees are quite hardy and drought tolerant. They may not thrive in areas that experience very harsh winters.
- Pests and Disease – The persimmon is a hardy tree and doesn’t really suffer from pests or disease. Should you notice any mealy bugs, then get an insecticide that deals with them but won’t cause harm to the tree.
- Pruning – To promote the healthy growth of strong limbs and improve fruit production, prune young trees each spring. Cut branches back by one-third and take out any dead limbs.
If you don’t want to grow your persimmons into trees, they can be pruned each year to create hedges and screens.
How To Tell If A Persimmon Tree Is Male or Female?
If you want to get lots of fruits from native persimmon trees then you need to know how to tell which are the males and which are the females. If they are growing on your land, you can get rid of an excess number of males as they don’t produce any fruit.
Don’t get rid of them all though, as you’ll need some males to fertilize the females.
When the trees begin to produce flowers in spring, you can distinguish the males from the females by looking closely at them.
Male persimmon trees grow their flowers in little clusters where usually three flowers will all grow together around the same stalk. The flowers are very small.
When you compare this to the flowers on female trees, they don’t grow in clusters but are separate flowers that are spread out. The flowers themselves are also larger in size than those on the male tree.
Persimmons are something of a forgotten fruit, but they are utterly delicious. The Japanese varieties when eaten before fully ripe are rather like a cross between a mango and a pear. When the fruits turn custardy at full ripeness, they take on a sort of caramel flavor more like a date.
If you can’t find them in the wild and don’t have the space to grow some, don’t worry. They are becoming more popular and can often be found in grocery stores during the fall.
Don’t forget that the laws regarding foraging wild fruits differ depending on where you live, so be sure to check them all out first!
If you’ve enjoyed reading about the amazing persimmon trees and their edible fruits then you’ll want to discover our other articles on foraging.