Diospyros virginiana

Diospyros virginiana

The American persimmon or common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana L.) is an arboreal species belonging to the Ebenaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subarign Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta Superdivision,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Dilleniidae,
Order Ebenales,
Family Ebenaceae
Genus Diospyros
Species D. kaki.
The term is synonymous:
– Diospyros mosieri S.F.Blake.

Etymology –
Diospyros comes from the Greek Διός diós, genitive of Ζεύς Zeus (Jupiter) and πυρός pyrós, wheat, food: food of Jupiter (this name for the Greeks referred to the lotus). The specific virginian epithet comes from Virginia, Virginian, a reference that should not be made only and so much to the current Virginia, a state of the eastern USA of rather limited dimensions, but to the original conditions in which Virginia was an area that covered the East coast of the West Indies under British rule, ie from French Canada to Spanish Florida. It is also recalled that Virginia took its name from Elizabeth I Tudor (1533-1603), called the Virgin Queen, never having married.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The American persimmon is a plant originating in an area that includes eastern North America: from New England to Florida, west from Texas to Kansas.
Its habitat is that of dry woods, old fields and clearings where it grows preferably on light, well-drained sandy soils but is found on most types of soil, from sands to shales and muddy bottoms.

Description –
Diospyros virginiana is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 20.00 meters in height.
In summer produces perfumed flowers that are dioecies, so it is necessary to have both male and female plants to obtain fruit. Most cultivars are partenocarpic (with fruits without seeds obtained without pollination).
The flowers are pollinated by insects and wind. Fruiting typically begins when the tree is about 6 years old.
The fruit is round or oval in shape and usually yellow-orange, sometimes bluish, ranging in size from 2 to 6 cm in diameter.

Cultivation –
The American persimmon is a plant that requires a good deep clay soil and in a sunny position or in light shade.
If grown for its fruit, the tree needs a warm, sunny and sheltered location. It does not like very acidic or humid and poorly drained soils.
It is a plant that resists up to -35 ° C; for a good vegetative restart, in spring, it is best to cultivate the plants in a sheltered position exposed to the early morning sun.
Even if it is a dioecious plant it can produce fruit (via parthenocarpy) without seeds in the absence of a pollinator.
The plants have a long taproot and are difficult to transplant; in fact it is best to plant them in their permanent position as soon as possible and protect them during the winter for the first two years.
Trees can start producing fruit when they are only a few years old. This species is occasionally grown for its edible fruits, there are several varieties.
Propagation can take place by seed which must be sown in a cold greenhouse as soon as it is ripe.
It usually germinates in 1 – 6 months at 15 ° C.
Propagation can also take place by woody cutting at mid-ripening in the midsummer period.
Commercial varieties include the very productive Early Golden, the productive John Rick, Miller, Woolbright and the Ennis, a seedless variety.

Customs and Traditions –
The American persimmon is a wild growing plant but has been cultivated by Native Americans for its fruit and wood since prehistoric times.
The fruits are harvested in nature for local use as food, medicine and source of materials.
Food uses include the use of both raw and cooked or dried fruit and used in bread, desserts, cakes, puddings, etc.
The fruit, about the size of a plum, tastes exquisitely rich when fully ripe but is very tart and astringent before then.
The fruit can also be harvested in autumn, preferably after a frost, and is then stored in a cool place and eaten only when it is very soft and almost on the verge of rotting.
Molasses can be produced from the fruit pulp. It is said that an oil obtained from the seeds tastes like peanut oil.
Tea from the dried leaves can be prepared.
Roasted seeds are used as a substitute for coffee.
For medicinal use, a decoction of boiled fruit can be used to treat syndromes with the presence of blood in the stool.
The leaves are rich in vitamin C and are used as an antiscorbutic.
A decoction of the inner bark is highly astringent. It has been used as a mouthwash in the treatment of thrush and sore throat.
It can be used externally as a wash for warts or tumors.
Among other uses, it should be noted that this plant can be used as a rootstock for D. kaki.
Its wood is strong, hard, heavy, fine-grained, elastic, wear-resistant. It is a precious wood that is used for the production of wooden articles, turning, etc. and is mainly used for making handles for golf clubs.

Preparation Mode –
In the southern and western United States, fruits are appreciated in desserts and cooking, and are also harvested from wild plants for local use as food, medicine, and source of materials.
Among its food products, it should be remembered that fruit is raw, cooked or dried and used in bread, sweets, cakes, puddings, etc.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and Experiences with Medicinal Herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Caution: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; it therefore declines all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.




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