166 Diospyros kakiCommon Names: Japanese persimmon, Oriental persimmon, kaki persimmon Family: Ebenaceae (ebony Family)
The oriental persimmon is a slow growing globe-shaped tree eventually reaching up to 30 ft (9 m) tall. The deciduous leaves are large 4-6 in (10-15 cm) in length. They emerge glossy bronze in spring and turn to gold to orange-red in Fall. Although the flowers are not especially showy, they give way to delicious orange, baseball-size fruits that remain even after the leaves have fallen. There are two types of oriental persimmons: those that are astringent (puckery!) before softening to full ripeness, and those that are non-astringent even while still firm. Tananashi (which means seedless) is the most popular astringent variety, and non-astringent Fuyo is the most widely grown persimmon cultivar in the world. Although the fruit of the American persimmon (D. virginiana) is smaller than that of the oriental varieties, there are several cultivars available, and interest in its cultivation is increasing along with that of its Japanese relative.
Oriental persimmons are native to Japan and mainland Asia where they have been cultivated for centuries. They were brought to the southern United States in the 1870s. The native American persimmon, D. virginiana, occurs from Connecticut to Florida and west to Kansas and Texas.
CultureLight: Does best in full sun. Moisture: Needs well drained, slightly acid soils, but they can tolerate a wider variety of conditions than most fruit trees. Kaki persimmons are drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 9. Can stand winter temperatures as low as 0ºF, (-17ºC) yet they need only a short chilling period (100-200 hours below 45ºF) (7ºC). They are rarely bothered by diseases or pests, but sometimes scale insects can weaken trees. Control with horticultural oil spray. Propagation: Buy selected varieties on grafted stock. It is often used as root stock for oriental persimmon cultivars. Once established, they need minimal care and require little or no pruning. Fertilize three times a year as you would for other fruiting trees.
Oriental persimmons make attractive shade trees with the added bonus of delicious fruit. They can be espaliered or used as specimen trees in mixed plantings, where their colorful fall foliage and fruits will be emphasized against an evergreen backdrop.
Oriental persimmons set fruit without pollination, and the fruits are usually seedless. The astringent varieties are commonly left on the tree until soft and fully ripe, when they can be eaten out of hand or used in persimmon cake. Ripe persimmons can be frozen whole and eaten like frozen custard.
Steve Christman 01/01/97; updated 11/20/99, 9/4/03, 10/30/04, 10/21/07