Texas persimmon, Diospyros texana, is a great native fruit tree to introduce to your outdoor living space. It is not only a beautiful tree to look at, but the tree, leaves, and fruit of this shrub have very little problems with disease and pests. The fruit is delicious to eat when properly ripened and is high in Vitamin A.
The five-lobed, white flowers are bell-shaped and grow singly or in small clusters hanging downward amongst the new leaves. The male and female flowers of the Diospyros texana grow on different plants. This trait can alarm some people when staring at two trees side by side, one full of juicy ripe fruit and the other completely barren. The fruit first appears on the plant as a flattened green ball and then as it ripens changes to a purplish-black color. The fruits become edible, flavored similarly to a prune, once they are soft and falling off the trees. Texas persimmon fruit is a favorite of many native birds and mammals. The seeds sprout easily so it is not uncommon to see numerous trees growing in the same area.
The leaves are a rich green color and have a firm, leathery texture. One end is rounded, sometimes notched, and the other end tapers off to a point where it connects to the stem. The leaves by themselves would make this plant somewhat difficult to classify, however the striking patterns of the gnarled trunk and branches is a better identifying trait. The smooth bark is light gray to white and peels off the tree’s trunk in thin rectangular flakes, leaving a pinkish under layer exposed. Certain Native American tribes would chew on the bark to relieve heartburn. The plant’s hard wood was also used to make digging sticks and other tools.
Historical evidence shows that native people used the Texas persimmon fruit more for its medicinal benefits then as a food source. The round, black fruit was used as an astringent to heal wounds in the throat and mouth. This berry should not be eaten in times of extreme thirst because it will make your mouth feel dry- especially if it is not fully ripened. Also, with no water being in your stomach, the acidic qualities of the fruit can cause vomiting. In Mexico, the ripe fruit is used to make a black dye.
Republished with permission of the Goldthwaite Eagle. By Savannah Lane.