Both male, female species needed to grow persimmon fruit
The persimmon is a common native tree in the Ozarks. It grows well in rocky, dry open woods, edges of woods, glades, prairies, old fields, thickets, bottomland woods and valleys along streams. But there’s one condition: Homeowners who want to grow persimmon trees successfully need to plant both male and female trees.
“Folks often question why their persimmons do not bloom or fruit,” says Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist, University of Missouri Extension. “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 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, advises 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 have stories to share 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,” warns 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,” says 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.