Q: What kind of fruit tree is this? The fruit looks like little green apples when on the tree. The tree was there when we moved in and is native, I think, because it grows at the edge of the tree line that was not cleared during the site preparation for the building of our home.
A: You have a great example of American persimmon! This native fruit has been important to the diet of North American residents for thousands of years.
Persimmons can be grown throughout the Southeast. Opossums and humans enjoy the fruit each November. Fruit of the native Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is about the size of a plum. Oriental Persimmons, Diospyros kaki, are larger and have less astringency when less than fully soft-ripe.
Many Southern children have amused themselves by presenting an ostensible “crabapple” to a friend just to see the look on their face when they bite into a green persimmon.
Persimmons can grow in rich or poor soil. The trees grow to 20 to 30 feet high. They prefer full sun but tolerate shade, although fruiting will be less if planted there. A male tree must be planted nearby to fertilize bearing trees. Fertilize the trees in late winter and in mid-summer, using about 1 pound of 10-10-10 for each inch of trunk diameter.
Some people believe that a frost is necessary to ripen Persimmons. This is incorrect as some fruit will ripen well in advance of the first frost. Use clippers to cut the stem and remove fruit, leaving the leathery leaf-like calix attached to the fruit. Persimmons continue to ripen after they are picked.