There are many varieties of persimmon trees in tropical areas of the world, but only two in the United States. The one growing in our area is called “common persimmon” (Diospyros Virginiana), or “possum tree” by some.
Persimmon is a medium sized tree standing 30 to 50 feet tall with a 12-inch diameter trunk when mature. The bark is almost black and looks like small rectangular blocks. The leaves are leathery, oval shaped, and have smooth edges. The fruit is about one and one half inches across with six flat seeds in the center. When ripe in late October they are orange and wrinkled.
It is best to gather the fruit when it’s soft and gooey. Old timers claim you shouldn’t eat persimmons until they have gone through a few frosts. Don’t let anyone talk you into eating an unripe persimmon, which are extremely astringent when green and will almost numb your mouth. The fruit can be eaten as is, or used to make pudding, jam, or nut bread. To gather the fruit in quantity, spread a sheet under a tree and shake the branches.
Besides providing fruit, the dried leaves of persimmon can be used to make a tea rich in vitamin C. The wood is very hard and dense, and is used to make golf club heads and billiard cues.
As mentioned several wildlife species use persimmon as a food source, and the trees produces good crops every two years. The fruit holds onto the tree far into the winter, and is eaten by fox, raccoon, opossum, skunk, and birds. The twigs are browsed by deer for emergency winter food.