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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.

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Thursday - October 22, 2015

From: Portsmouth, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Food Allergy to Beautyberry or Persimmon?
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I think I might have a food allergy to Beautyberry or American Persimmon, eaten Saturday at the North Carolina Great Dismal park. These were the only strange foods recently, though I've had persimmon before ok. By Monday I started to get a rash typical of food allergy and still have it Tuesday night. Just a caution, some people might be allergic. The berries I ate smelled like light perfume and had the same for taste but not strongly.

ANSWER:

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) American beautyberry most often grows 3-5 ft. tall and usually just as wide, It can reach 9 ft. in height in favorable soil and moisture conditions. It has long, arching branches and yellow-green fall foliage, but its most striking feature is the clusters of glossy, iridescent-purple fruit (sometimes white) which hug the branches at leaf axils in the fall and winter. The seeds and berries are important foods for many species of birds, particularly the Northern Bobwhite. Foliage is a favorite of White-tailed Deer.

Native American used root and leaf tea in sweat baths for rheumatism, fevers, and malaria. Root tea used for dysentery, stomach aches. Root and berry tea used for colic.

Nan Hampton answered a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question about the toxicity of American beautyberry and has some good references included.

Diospyros virginiana (common persimmon)  In old fields, common persimmon is a low, shrubby tree, 15 ft. tall. In rich, moist soil the species becomes a large tree, up to 100 ft. tall, with a spreading crown and pendulous branches. Bell-shaped, yellow flowers are hidden by half-grown leaves. Large, oval, mature leaves usually become yellow-green in fall. The large, orange, edible fruit attracts wildlife. On old trunks the bark is thick and dark-gray to almost black and broken into scaly, squarish blocks. Common persimmon is deciduous. Best-known by its sweet, orange fruit in autumn.

When ripe, the sweet fruit of Persimmon somewhat recalls the flavor of dates. Immature fruit contains tannin and is strongly astringent. Persimmons are consumed fresh and are used to make puddings, cakes, and beverages. American Indians made persimmon bread and stored the dried fruit like prunes. Opossums, raccoons, skunks, deer, and birds also feed upon the fruit. Principal uses of the wood are for golf-club heads, shuttles for textile weaving, and furniture veneer. Deliciously sweet when ripe, these persimmons were the native fruits most prized by indigenous people of the Southeast.


There is information online about people showing an allergic reaction to persimmon.

It is wise to consult your primary physician in cases of food allergies.

 

From the Image Gallery


American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

Common persimmon
Diospyros virginiana

Common persimmon
Diospyros virginiana

Common persimmon
Diospyros virginiana

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