Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Texas persimmon

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Texas Persimmon with Peeling Bark 4406

Several trees native to Texas are known for their distinctive peeling bark. One is the madrone. Another, as common in central Texas as the madrone is scarce, is the mighty sycamore. A third tree with peeling bark, the one you see here, is the Texas persimmon, Diospyros texana. Notice how, near the top of the photograph, the most prominent of the separating pieces of bark curls so tightly as to close on itself and form a rough cylinder. At least one smaller patch of bark lower down does the same thing.

Like other species of Diospyros, the Texas persimmon produces edible fruits, and I saw several smushed ones along the trail close to this sun-dappled tree at the Hamilton Pool Preserve on August 19th. By the way, although the word persimmon might suggest some reference to Persia (as peach in fact does), English borrowed the name of this tree from Virginia Algonquian, an aboriginal language of eastern North America.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 14, 2013 at 5:59 AM

20 Responses

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  1. Neat! Really! I’ve never tried a persimmon, I might not be able to identify one. This is on my list of things to oogle. I have this to-do list for when I feel that I am not actively creating or engaging. Keeps me busy!


    September 14, 2013 at 7:10 AM

    • Happy oogling, creating, and engaging! I can’t recall if I’ve ever eaten a persimmon, either. I’ve read that the fruit has to be very ripe to be palatable. If I run across any persimmon fruits that aren’t smushed, I’ll bring them home and try them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2013 at 7:17 AM

      • lol makes me think of….Let’s let mikey try it He won’t eat it, he hates everything. 😀


        September 14, 2013 at 7:22 AM

  2. How interesting. I love Persimmons and have planted one in our garden. The fruit looks like Christmas decorations in the winter time, so not all the same type as your Texan variety but I didn’t realise that there were different ones.


    September 14, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    • According to what I’ve read, the most widely cultivated species, and perhaps the one you have, is Diospyros kaki, which originated in China. The fruits that I saw on the ground near this Texas persimmon were a dark plum color, so I don’t think they could pass for Christmas lights. I don’t know if they taste similar to the fruit of the cultivated species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2013 at 7:22 AM

  3. I need to familiarize myself with the species found in IA and watch for them on our hikes.

    Yesterday morning we hiked in a local park frequented by folks and their dogs. Most are very good about picking up after them. But now and then… As we passed through a section with a lot of walnut trees, we had to be especially careful to pick our steps. The dark collapsed hulls of the walnuts looked too much like something else.

    Jim in IA

    September 14, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    • As Romans used to write on the outside walls of their houses or on fences: Cave canem, meaning Beware the dog. Understandably, no pets are allowed at Hamilton Pool Preserve, and because there’s a gatekeeper who collects the admission fee, the rule gets enforced.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2013 at 8:26 AM

      • That’s good to have the gatekeeper. Too many don’t follow this simple thing.
        Post pick sursum vestri canis.

        Thanks to the Google Translate. I hope they got it right. 🙂

        Jim in IA

        September 14, 2013 at 8:36 AM

        • I’m afraid Google Translate chewed that one up pretty horribly (and it gave up on pick), so no thanks need be offered sursum.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 14, 2013 at 8:50 AM

  4. Here’s an interesting tidbit about our native persimmon. Elias Wightman, a surveyor for Stephen F. Austin in the 1820s, documented persimmon groves in southeast Texas. The trees he found were the drought-resistant natives, their seedy black fruit much smaller and differently-shaped than the larger and more familiar red-orange Asian varieties.

    Another name for both Diospyros texana and Diospyros virginiana is “possumwood”, due to possums’ inordinate fondness for the fruit. In fact, Audubon placed his possum in a persimmon tree, and there’s a wonderful American folk song with these lyrics: “Possum up in a ’simmon tree, raccoon on the ground. Raccoon said, “”You rascal, shake them ’simmons down!”

    One word of caution – the fruit is quite astringent, and needs a first frost to make it palatable. Unripe persimmons can be put in the freezer to make them edible.

    That curling bark is wonderful, and the “cylinder” surely is the horizontal to your water lily’s vertically curled leaf.


    September 14, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    • Thanks for the connection to Stephen F. Austin, for whom the capital of Texas is named. I didn’t realize that possums have an inordinate fondness for persimmons, but they presumably do for possumhaw fruits as well. And thanks for the tip about freezing persimmons; I’ll do that if I find any. It’s good of you to make the connection to the curled leaf of the water lily.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2013 at 9:09 AM

  5. Nifty! I always learn so much from you (And from shoreacres, too!) while I’m stopping by just to admire the pretty plants and animals!!


    September 14, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    • With me it’s a case of once-a-teacher-always-a-teacher. As for her, she does a lot of research for her own posts and has gotten interested in the flora of Texas, where she also lives, so the three of us form a triangle (so says the math teacher).

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2013 at 3:32 PM

  6. It’s amazing how this bark resembles so much the leaves themselves, I always wonder if intentionally or incidentally?

    M. Firpi

    September 15, 2013 at 7:08 AM

    • That’s an excellent way to phrase an eternal and often unanswerable question: “intentionally or incidentally?” You’ve reminded me of certain insects that look like dried leaves or little sticks. My way of asking your question about that kind of resemblance is: causal or casual?

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2013 at 8:04 AM

  7. A great photo – so rich in texture and subtle colour from those shards of peeling bark..

    Mary Mageau

    September 16, 2013 at 5:13 AM

    • Thanks, Mary. That’s a good word, shards; here we can speak not of potsherds but treesherds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 16, 2013 at 7:58 AM

  8. […] most abstract and minimalist portrait I’ve ever made highlighting (literally) the trunk of a Texas persimmon tree, Diospyros texana. As an article on the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center notes: […]

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