Tolerate: Deer, Dry Soil, Clay Soils, Black Walnut
Native to: Jefferson County
The tree is one of the more underrated native tree species which was nearly expatriated from Jefferson County by agriculture and logging in the late 19th and early 20th century. Jefferson County is at the northern end of the persimmon range. The tree is great for wildlife with raccoons, wild turkeys, quail, opossum, deer, foxes, and squirrels feasting on the fruit.
The small edible fruit is the key feature of the tree. The Latin name of the species means “fruit of the gods.” The fruit is about 2” in diameter and is too soft to ship, so only the few who have the tree can really enjoy. Persimmon fruit is quite astringent when green, but upon ripening becomes sweet and may be eaten off the tree. Fruits are commonly used in syrups, jellies, ice creams, breads, puddings, and pies. The leaves of the tree are also used for teas. It is often said that the fruits are best after being kissed by frost.
In 1816 the Western Herald newspaper out of Steubenville ran a column relating old folklore about persimmon:
Cut as many notches in persimmon twig as you have warts, bury the twig, and when it rots the warts will disappear. Finally: To cure a fever makes a large thread from the wool of a black sheep or a ewe with a large black spot, fasten it around the waist of the sickly person, and make the patient walk around a persimmon tree as many times as the days he has been sick.
The tree is a host plant for 46 species of butterflies and moths in the greater Jefferson County area including the Royal Walnut Moth and Imperial Moth. The persimmon attracts 22 different genera of birds which include wrens, finches, orioles, cardinals, and thrushes.