Persimmon: Maryland, November

When I first went to work on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (nearly two years ago!) I drove two hours straight from the job as a floor nurse that I was leaving to meet my new co-workers in the dark gathered around a bonfire. They were burning, among other things, a chair. It was an auspicious start.

People I could hardly see were coming up to me, bundled in their hats and coats, to introduce themselves. One girl was sitting across the fire, reminiscing about some infamous “scanoe” trip with some unruly middle-school girls. I had just finished my first ever naturalist class, on Winter Tree ID, so my ears perked right up when she tried to describe where an incident had taken place. “Where the Persimmon Tree is.”

A Persimmon tree?! A person who would reference a location by naming a tree? I believed I had come to the right place, and I immediately wondered how my knowledge would stack up (or expand!) surrounded by these young adult naturalists.

So, the Persimmon. It has dark and very blocky bark. It is quite distinct, yet also tricky. Younger, the blocky puzzles pieces are smaller and lighter, and can easily be confused with a Dogwood or a Black Gum. When I was taking a walk a week ago down a road I’ve walked and run down probably a million times, including during and after my tree-ID immersion, I  noticed some of this bark on a skinny tree. Not crazy dark or blocky, but interesting. What other signs could I see? I didn’t really look. I just noted it in passing and walked on. What can I say, I am lazy. Or maybe I was actually going for a run and didn’t want to stop to look?!! The latter no doubt.

But on the walk back, from afar, in the same place, something caught my eye. Many big reddish fruits.

Persimmon Fruits!

But what could they be?! I walked up to see and was taken completely by surprise when I saw the four part calyx at the fruit’s base.

Persimmon Calyx

A very clear photo, I know. A better photo, and a little note I wrote about my tree fruits class here: Persimmony

This was the persistent calyx of the Persimmon, useful in winter ID when the fruit is already gone! I would know it anywhere. I still have the one that my tree teacher brought into class as an example!

And then my eyes fell back on the bark, the same bark I had seen earlier. It really was a Persimmon!!! So often Persimmony bark is something else! I had never seen one fruiting before, nor realized they came into fruit in the second half of November!!!!

A Feast for your mouth and your eyes: these fruits are sold at markets and prized. Although the one I tried tasted a little bit dull to me…

Juicy Persimmon

Persimmons, the species native to the US being Diospyrus virginiana, are in the Ebony family. Wikipedia tells me that their wood is sometimes used instead of Ebony wood to make musical instruments.

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