By Mike Groenewold
Yes, persimmon, although slow growing, is a great tree for eastern Nebraska. Most humans and various wildlife species find the fruits tasty.
Common persimmon, diospyros virginiana, is an interesting tree that has become naturalized in our country since its introduction in the early 1600s. It’s a great tree for naturalized plantings in parks and golf courses; however, its fruits that drop throughout the fall can make the tree a little messy for residential or commercial landscapes. The fruits are edible and frequently utilized by wildlife such as raccoon, opossum, skunk, foxes and white-tail deer. The greenish-yellow fruits are very astringent to the human pallet until ripened by a hard frost in the fall. Ripe fruits turn a pale orange, and then become quite sweet for eating out of hand or for baking in various cookie or bread recipes.
Persimmon, grows to a large tree, up to 60 feet or larger within its native or naturalized range. Persimmon commonly grows from Connecticut to Florida and west to Kansas and Texas. In Nebraska Persimmon seldom reaches 40 feet tall, but can be successfully established on full sun sites in eastern Nebraska and although the tree prefers moist, well-drained sandy soils it will grow on dry soils with low fertility. Therefore, trees will establish easier and perform better on low-land sites, but are worth a try on up-land sites.
Trees can be difficult to transplant since they do not have an extensive, fibrous root system. They are best transplanted in early spring and should be moved with a ball of soil intact around the roots, this method is often termed “ball and burlapped” by nurserypersons. Trees can be started from seed collected in the fall, but must be stored in a refrigerated, moist medium, such as peat moss or sand, for 90 days. A household refrigerator is perfect for “stratifying” seed before planting in containers or directly in a field location in the spring. If planted in the field, first till the soil to a fine texture, then plant seeds one inch deep and keep the planting moist and weed free during the first season.