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Tuesday - October 07, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: How to Identify Male and Female Texas Persimmon Trees
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I have just learned that Texas persimmon trees are either male or female. Is it possible to tell which is which when buying one? I am planting on 50 acres near Blanco. Do I need one of each? I'd like to have one that bears fruit so that wildlife can chow down.

ANSWER:

Texas persimmon is Diospyros texana and you are correct that they are dioecious meaning that the male and female flowers are on separate plants. But don't despair, since you have 50 acres within which to plant, you have lots of room to put in enough trees to ensure that you have good fruiting.

Damon Waitt, Senior Director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has answered a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question on identifying the gender of persimmon trees. Here's what he wrote: Persimmon trees are either male or female and only the females bear fruit. You can tell male trees from female trees because male flowers are smaller and appear in small clusters, while the larger female flower appears alone.

Inside the female flower you will find the pistil but also sterile stamens, noticeably smaller than stamens in the male flower. The stamens in a persimmon's female flowers are usually sterile but rarely produce pollen. So rarely a tree with female flowers can produce fruit without another tree with male flowers being around. To complicate matters further, a tree's sexual expression can vary from one year to the other and many cultivars of persimmon are parthenocarpic (setting seedless fruit without pollination).

The Native Plant Database has the following information about the tree: This well-shaped, small tree is valued primarily for its striking trunk and branches, which are a smooth, pale greyish white or whitish grey, peeling off to reveal subtle greys, whites, and pinks beneath. The fruits, borne on female trees, are edible once soft, with a flavor some liken to prunes, and are favorites of many birds and mammals. It is extremely drought-tolerant and disease-resistant and is ideal for small spaces in full sun.

The Aggie Horticulture website at TAMU has justified praise for the tree too.  Here's what they say ... Texas Persimmon is one of Texas's premier small trees. The bark of mature trees peels away to reveal shades of gray, white and pink on the trunk underneath, rivaling the beauty of the Texas madrone. Combined with fine textured dark green foliage that stays evergreen in the southern range, intricate branching, and wide range of suitable environments for growth, make it worthy use in modern landscapes, especially those with limited space. It grows best in shallow, rocky limestone soils, and in the Edwards Plateau it can make heavy thickets. It is, however, tolerant of most soils and sites as long as they are sunny and well-drained.

The Aggie Hort website also recommends that persimmon trees should be planted 15-18 feet apart in rows that are 20 feet apart.

The Oregon State University has described the male and female flowers online as female flowers being white, inconspicuous, about 3 mm, bell-shaped, solitary or rarely in pairs, sweetly fragrant, appearing in early to mid spring.

Jim Conrad's Naturalist Newsletter at www.backyardnature.net has several pictures of Texas persimmon flowers (both male and female). He describes the male (staminate) flowers as having only pollen-producing stamens (usually numbering 16 in each flower), while the female flowers are much larger and fewer in each cluster.  He shows a close up of the female (pistillate) flower with four hairy styles atop a green, oval ovary. Jim comments that in the natural environment the male trees outnumber the females by a ratio of 10 to 1.

The USDA says that the tree should start to produce fruit when it is 5 or 6 years old. The flowers appear from February to June and the fruits mature in August and September.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas persimmon
Diospyros texana

Texas persimmon
Diospyros texana

Texas persimmon
Diospyros texana

Texas persimmon
Diospyros texana

Texas persimmon
Diospyros texana

Texas persimmon
Diospyros texana

Texas persimmon
Diospyros texana

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