When it comes to choosing landscape trees, I look for trees that have multi-season interest. I’ve seen too many fleeting beauties that bear a fireworks display of flowers in the spring that lasts for a week or two, and then they disappear into the landscape.
I like trees that make you look twice. Spring flowers, lustrous green leaves in summer and yellowish to reddish-purple leaves in the fall. When the leaves drop, brilliantly colored edible fruits hang from the limbs like Christmas ornaments. Then in winter, the thick, nearly black bark cut into neat squares looks like the back of an alligator.
I’m writing about persimmons. You’re probably familiar with our native persimmon (Diospyros virgininana), which can reach a height of 35 to 60 feet, with a spread up to 35 feet. They’re often found in abandoned fields, along highways, pastures and roadside ditches. It’s prone to suckering wildly, so if you have one, chances are you’ll have a grove in short time. The fruit is very small, seedy, and astringent until the fruit is fully ripe.
I’m especially fond of the Oriental or Kaki persimmons (Disopyros kaki). The Latin name, which translates to “food of the gods,” is apropos. There’s nothing better than going out to the garden in early morning and eating the chilly, juicy and flavorful fruits. Depending on the variety, fruit may range in size from a half dollar to the size of a small grapefruit, and in color from yellow to deep orange-red.
Native and Asian persimmons are attractive throughout the year, but most delectable this month.