persimmon bark

On my regular walking circuit I pass under a persimmon tree which drops fruit across the sidewalk in early fall. Joggers, walkers, bikers, strollers, and dogs make mush out of the ripened fruit. After stepping around smashed orange globes for several days I thought, “Maybe I should take some fruit home, strip out the seeds, and grow my own tree.” I think about lots of things while I walk and sometimes discover a keeper of an idea.

Courtesy of https://www.starkbros.com

As a woodworker I know that persimmon wood with its durability and beauty was once used in manufacturing golf club heads. And many mallets designed for striking wood chisels are carved from a block of persimmon.  As a gardener I know the ripened fruit from the tree can be baked in very tasty bread. The slow-growing tree has bark which resembles alligator skin and under ideal conditions may reach sixty feet in height though the Kansas Forest Service states that the average height after twenty years averages twenty to twenty-five feet[1].

Is it possible for a mild-mannered gardener to step into a phone booth and pop out as Super Gardener, the one who will start a persimmon tree from seed? I have read that persimmon propagation is difficult so I consulted the “The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation” for expert advice. I learned that I needed to wait for the fruit to soften, remove the pulpy parts, and save the seeds[2]. My seeds dried in the shop over the winter giving two to three months of cold stratification just as though they were sprouting under the mother tree. I planted the seeds in a container filled with compost/soil mix in early February and waited to see what might happen.

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 And a tree is born! How amazing to watch the seed do its thing and become a tiny sprout.

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Yes, I know the growth process will take years, perhaps the remainder of my lifetime, before this seedling becomes an impressive tree. In some cases ten years pass before blooms and fruit appear on the common persimmon (diospyros virginiana). So what? I’m having a ball watching the progress.

Granddaughter

Tiny feet follow me in the garden. Fern loves plants and in her play often tends her imaginary vegetable garden. She loves to harvest real stuff from the real garden and eats fresh basil as a snack. She’s waiting for Grandpa’s carrot crop to come in so we can enjoy an outdoor snack.

Grandson

And August, who crawled for the first time yesterday, loves to move his baby scooter close enough to his mom’s plants that he can pull leaves and stuff them in his mouth. With his newly learned mobility I fear those plants are in jeopardy!

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Who knows? Perhaps my persimmon tree project will one day be part of their gardens.

In the meantime I will care for these seedlings and marvel at the wonders of the garden. James describes the winning attitude of the farmer who understands that while good seed, soil, proper levels of nutrients and sunshine are necessary for the harvest, patience must bind them all together.

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.
James 5:7-8 NLT

Most of what we achieve in life demands a forward look mixed with heaps of patience.

The persimmon process I followed…

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I harvested the fruit selecting a few of the larger orbs scattered beside the walk.

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Remove the pulp by crushing the fruit gently between my fingers. Place the mush in a strainer and rinse away everything that is not a seed. Repeat as needed.

Dry the seeds on a paper towel or cloth to absorb any moisture. Place the seeds in a safe location so they are not knocked to the floor in a search for other items. I suggest including a label so others visiting the shop know the seeds are there on purpose.

Subject the seeds to cold over the winter.

Plant the seeds in early February (zone 7). Cover lightly (1/4”). Try to imagine how much debris would gather over the seeds in a normal fall to winter time segment. I’m learning that some seeds need to be buried while others want to be near the surface.

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Wait with patience. I had two seeds germinate about 1 month apart.

[1] https://www.kansasforests.org/conservation_trees/products/deciduous/persimmon.html, accessed 8/13/19

[2] The Reference Manual of Woody Plan Propagation, Michael A. Dirr and Charles W. Heuser, Jr., page 119