The persimmon is a popular species of tree in America, as people covet the tree's wood and fruit for their high quality. The persimmon tree is a member of the ebony family of trees and two types grow native in the United States---the common persimmon and the Texas persimmon. These trees are deciduous in nature, meaning that the leaves fall off in the autumn and replaced by new growth the following spring.
The common persimmon has a range that covers from New Jersey southward to the tip of the Florida Peninsula and westward to Nebraska. Mid-Ohio represents the northern part of its range near the Great Lakes states and the distribution of the common persimmon extends west from Florida to eastern Texas, encompassing the Gulf Coast. The Texas variety grows in the southern half of that state into northern portions of Mexico.
The largest persimmon trees grow as tall as 60 feet and have a crown spread of 30 feet. The trunk can reach two feet in diameter. The leaves of the persimmon are oblong in shape and from 4-6 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. The fruit, called a persimmon, is less than 2 inches wide.
The leaves of the common persimmon tree are a dark shade of green in the summer before the cold weather causes them typically to turn a lighter hue. In some instances the leaves will have some orange, yellow or violet red in them before they fall from the branches. The dark green leaves make the persimmon an appealing tree to the eye. The bark is nearly black in color and divided into rectangular-shaped blocks. The fruit is green before ripening into an orange-pink color.
The persimmon fruit is very bitter before ripening and full of tannic acid but as it matures, it becomes much softer and sweeter. Native Americans and early settlers gladly ate the persimmon, as do many types of animals. The wood is so hard that it compares to hickory and for years, before the advent of metal alloys, persimmon wood comprised the heads of golf clubs and pool sticks. The Cherokee Indians would take the fruit from the Texas persimmon, which is smaller and much darker, and treat sores in their mouths as well as hemorrhoids with it.
Botanists describe trees like the persimmon as dioecious, which simply means that there are male persimmon trees and female persimmons. The flowers show up in the latter part of spring or in early summer and are green and yellow. Only the female trees bear the persimmon fruit. The persimmon thrives in moist and well-drained areas but has the ability to grow in poorer conditions. It is not subject to many diseases and has few pests that bother it in nature.