A Gardening Journal
Must Have: 'Nikita's Gift' Persimmon
- Published: November 25 2014
When in fruit, persimmon trees are confusing, even disorienting: Is that tree bearing tomatoes? But tomatoes don't grow on trees and, even if they did, they wouldn't be hardy in any climate where Fall foliage is a show in itself. Oranges? Nope: They're not hardy and, besides, the trees are evergreen. Peaches? Those would have been picked in August or September, but these fruits are just coming into their own in late November.
Even if you can say, "Oh, of course: a persimmon. Marvelous!," this one is still confusing. This tree graces the compact front yard of a house in Providence, Rhode Island. It has a short trunk and a dense broad canopy. Our native persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is taller than broad and, often, as high as any shade tree. It develops a strong central trunk surfaced in square, scaly blocks.
But this tree is no larger than a dogwood, and its bark isn't distinctive. Judging by the size of the crop, it isn't young, either. This individual is likely to be mature.
Maybe it's an asian persimmon, Diospyros kaki: right size, right bark, right Fall foliage coloring—but that species isn't normally hardy colder than Zone 7. It would be surprising to see a tree this vigorous north of Washington, D.C.
Ah, of course: This persimmon must be a hybrid of the asian and american species, with the habit and bark of the former, the hardiness of the latter. American persimmons are widely indigenous across the southeast United States. Asian persimmons are even more widespread—from India to China and Japan—and are also a significant crop. But to this day, the best-known hybrids of Diospyros virginiana and Diospyros kaki are still those developed thousands of miles from either species' nativity, at the Nikitsky Botanical Garden in Crimea. 'Rosseyanka' is reported to become larger at maturity than this tree, so I'm pegging it as 'Nikita's Gift'.
After osage orange and Chinese quince, persimmons are the largest Fall fruits that persist after the season's first frosts have caused the leaves to be shed. The display of the burgundy foliage and tomato-like fruits is merely beautiful—but the change to leafless but still heavily-laden branches is cause for horto-tourism. Cars slow, cameras and phones are brought out.
Because this tree is planted only steps from the sidewalk, any fruit you can reach is fair game.
I'm looking forward to establishing 'Nikita's Gift' in my own gardens. I'll profile this strikingly cosmopolitan hybrid then.