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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 8 | Ebenaceae | Diospyros

3. Diospyros virginiana Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 1057. 1753.


Diospyros mosieri Small; D. virginiana var. mosieri (Small) Sargent; D. virginiana var. platycarpa Sargent; D. virginiana var. pubescens Nuttall

Trees, to 15-30(-40) m. Bark dark reddish brown, deeply furrowed and irregularly blocky, not flaking. Leaves deciduous; petiole 0.7-1 cm; blade dark green and glossy adaxially, broadly ovate to elliptic, (5-)6-15 × 2.5-8 cm, thin, apex acute to acuminate, abaxial surface glabrous (or sparsely pubescent, especially when young), without basilaminar glands. Inflorescences solitary flowers or 2-3-flowered cymes, borne on twigs of current season. Flowers 1-2 cm; sepals 4; petals 4; stamens 16; anthers dehiscent along their entire length; pistillate flowers usually with 8 staminodes; styles 4, connate basally; ovary glabrous (except at apex). Berries yellow to orange or dark red (rarely purple), often glaucous, depressed-globose, globose, oblong, ovoid, or conic, (2-)3-5(-7.5) cm diam., glabrous (except at apex). Seeds reddish brown, ellipsoid, ca. 1.5 cm. 2n = 60, 90.

Flowering Mar-Jun; fruiting Aug-Dec. Forests, seasonally flooded bottomlands, dry ridgetops, abandoned agricultural land; 0-1100 m; Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., La., Md., Miss., Mo., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., Tex., Va., W.Va.

The extensive morphological variation in Diospyros virginiana, coupled with variable chromosomal races, merits further taxonomic study. Pubescent leaves and purple fruits, most common in the Ozark region, suggest past hybridization with D. texana. These and other distinctive traits may characterize whole clonal groves through root-suckering. The fruits were an important food for wildlife, native peoples, and Euro-American colonists, but have never been effectively commercialized, despite selection of superior clones over the years. Wild persimmons are extremely astringent until thoroughly ripe. The tough, hard wood has been used for shuttles and heads of golf clubs.


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