En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - August 14, 2012

From: Starkville, MS
Region: Southeast
Topic: General Botany, Pollinators, Edible Plants, Trees
Title: How Do Persimmons Breed - Starkville, MS
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Thank you for your earlier response about the genders of native persimmon trees. We have two, a much larger one that has borne fruit for years and years and a smaller one that I'd just assumed was male. This year both have fruit. I know of no other persimmon trees around. Any comment--I'd just like to know why or how this happened.

ANSWER:

Nature is endlessly fascinating to those with curiosity to investigate it.  Among the strangest stories in nature is the tale of how plants reproduce.  If there is a reproductive strategy imaginable, it is employed somewhere in the plant world.  The variations are amazing.

Most flowering plants have perfect flowers, that is, both male and female parts occur within each of its flowers, or they're monoecious, having separate male and female flowers on each plant.  However, a large number of plants are dioecious, which means that each plant produces only male or only female flowers.  Persimmons, Diospyros spp. fall into this category.

Here is where all of this gets tricky.  For nearly every rule that can be applied in the plant world, there is an exception ... or two ... or many.  Your "male" persimmon tree may, in fact, be a female plant, or it may be a male that has produced some female flowers, and thus, some fruit.  If fruiting is sparse on your smaller tree, there's a good chance that it's a male that simply produced a few female flowers and fruit this year.  Likewise, it's also possible that your known female tree produces a few male flower from time to time.  If your previously-thought to be male plant turns out to truly be a male, you may or may not see fruit on it in coming years.  Fruit production on predominantley male plants is highly variable from year to year.

If your puzzling tree turns out to actually be a female, it's still no surprise that your trees are bearing fruit.  They can self-fertilize or cross-fertilize between the two trees if they produce some male flowers or even some perfect flowers, or they may get their pollen from another source.  If your persimmon fruits are seedless, they were produced with no pollination at all -- parthenocarpically -- which is yet another common reproductive strategy employed in nature!

Eastern Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana is a very common wild tree in Mississippi and across the Southeast.  It is a much more common constituent of the forest flora than most people realize and there is no doubt a number of wild-growing male persimmon trees within bee-pollination range of your garden.  Bees, including honeybees and native bees are the primary pollinators of persimmons.

 

More Trees Questions

Summer flowering small trees for NY
April 20, 2011 - Request recommendations about trees for terrace. Would like flowers or color in summer; not spring. (Some of my trees are twenty five feet high.) Full sun, some wind, large containers. Please recomme...
view the full question and answer

Damaged Shumard oak tree in Polk County Texas
July 24, 2010 - I have a native Shumard Red Oak on our property in Polk County Texas that suffered damage (top blown out) during Hurricane Ike. Last year, one side of the tree browned early while the other side stay...
view the full question and answer

Watering practices for live oaks in drought from New Braunfels TX
September 04, 2011 - We have conflicting info about watering live oaks. An arborist says to water now using soaker hoses or small sprinklers and a landscaper who spoke to our garden club said that after August is too late...
view the full question and answer

Replacement for a globe willow tree
July 27, 2009 - We are interested in replacing a pine tree with a globe willow because they grow fast but everything i have been reading about them scares me. is there another tree comparable to a globe willow that g...
view the full question and answer

Problem with mesquite tree limbs
June 13, 2014 - i keep finding some smaller branches of my mesquite tree in the turf area around the tree. when looking at the cut ends, they appear to have a smooth cut around the circumference of the limb about 1/...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center