Scientific Name: Diospyros Virginiana/ D. kaki
Other names: ‘simmons
Cautions: Do not eat before fallen.
Herbarium Image: here
D. virginiana is a native, dioecious, deciduous tree reaching up to 60ft in height. Often found in dry open woods, along roadsides and thickets. D. kaki is an asian species cultivated here in the United States. The dark gray bark broken in similar sized rectangular blocks which makes this tree easy to identify in the winter. Prefers moist sandy soils in full sun. Flowers are fragrant white to greenish- yellow. Fruit matures in the fall to orange-red color and remains on the tree after the leaves have fallen. D. virginiana has small fruit which is very astringent, whereas D. kaki is much larger, less astringent, and can be found in higher end grocery stores in mid-late November.
Traditional Medicinal Use
The Lumbee tribe is the only local tribe to use the plant medicinally. The Lumbee used persimmons to treat oral (e.g., thrush) and tonsil infections as did the Cherokee and Catawba (1-2). The Cherokee also used the bark to treat venereal disease.
Tannins found in persimmon have been shown to fight bacterial strains that cause oral and chronic pulmonary infections (3).
Local elders advise only eating persimmon fruits after the first frost, due to the strong astringent flavor. Coharie perferred persimmon for making beer.
1. Boughman, A.L.a.O., L.O. , Herbal Remedies of the Lumbee Indians. 2003, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc.
2. Hamel, P. and Chiltoskey, M. Cherokee Plants and Their Uses -- A 400 Year History. 1975, Sylva, N.C.: Herald Publishing Co.
3. Kiyoshi Tomiyama et al. Antibacterial Action of a Condensed Tannin Extracted from Astringent Persimmon as a Component of Food Addictive Pancil PS-M on Oral Polymicrobial Biofilms. BioMed Research International Volume 2016