The persimmon is a common native tree in the Ozarks. It grows in rocky, dry open woods, edges of woods, glades, prairies, old fields, thickets, bottomland woods and valleys along streams.
Homeowners that want to grow persimmon trees successfully need to plant both male and female trees according to Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
“Folks often question why their persimmons do not bloom or fruit. If you have a male tree, it may serve as a pollinator for the female but never produce fruit of its own. The female may be barren likewise if a male pollinator is not in the vicinity,” said Byers.
Gardeners considering planting a female persimmon tree might consider an improved cultivar such as Yates, Early Golden, or Killen, all of which produce large, sweet fruit with few seeds according to Byers.
The persimmon is an important food for wildlife. The fruit is eaten fresh when ripe or used to make jam, pudding, and nut bread. The dried leaves can be made into a tea rich in vitamin C.
Many Ozarkers can share stories about their first experience sampling an unripe persimmon.
“The astringent and puckery flavor of green persimmons will give you an experience you may want to share with your own grandkids,” said Byers.
A common theory that persimmons must experience a frost or freeze to eliminate the astringent character is not true.
“Some persimmons have pleasant flavors when ripened prior to cold exposure,” said Byers.
For more information on persimmons, or answers to your specific lawn and garden questions, contact Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist, University of Missouri Extension or the Greene County Master Gardener Hotline at (417) 881-8909. Information can also be found on the Greene County Extension website at http://extension.missouri.edu/greene.