Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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 General Botany Questions

Information about Erigeron annuus and Erigeron philadelphicus
January 10, 2015 - Hi! I am looking for information about the specific leaf area of Erigeron annuus and Erigeron philadelphicus. Do you know of anyone who is working with any these species, who might be able to provide...
view the full question and answer

Native plants that will grow under alleopathic black walnut
March 03, 2007 - I have a large, beautiful black walnut tree in my yard and have trouble growing the annuals, begonia, impatients, etc., that I have always grown. They don't do well in the ground and I have resorted...
view the full question and answer

Difference between Erigeron strigosus and E. annuus
July 07, 2011 - How can you tell the difference between Erigeron strigosus or Erigeron annuus. Does one have more flowers on it than the other? Thanks.
view the full question and answer

Increase in plant cell size when nuclei take on water
March 07, 2008 - Do plant cells increase in size when vacuoles or nuclei take on water?
view the full question and answer

Genetics reason for color variation in Indian paintbrush
April 03, 2005 - Are the color variations in Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) a matter of genetic mutation or minerals in the soil? I say it's genetic and the rest of the family says it's environmental.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.