Texas Persimmon (Diospyros texans)
A common wild shrub in the Texas hill country and Trans-Pecos area, it is also known as Mexican Persimmon and Black Persimmon. Shrubs can grow up to 25 feet high with attractive curving branches. An easily identifiable trait is the smooth gray bark that sometimes peels off in sheets on older wood, revealing pinkish and beige wood underneath. The leathery dark green leaves can be evergreen (persistent) depending on local climate. I saw shrubs in Lajitas in full leaf early February, but nearly all leaves had fallen off shrubs at the Terlingua Ranch Lodge area.
Small white flowers appear February-June, with male and female flowers on different plants. Accordingly, fruits form on only female plants. Small (1” diameter) seeded and juicy black berries ripen in mid-summer. The berries are eaten by many bird species and mammals, including turkey, coyote, javelina, raccoon. White-tailed deer eats leaves and fruit. The dense branches are also favored by birds for building nests, as indicated by a shrub growing close to where I am now.
When ripe, the fruits are edible with a sweet and sour taste. Black juice stains fingers and fibers. Fruits were used as an astringent for treating sores in the throat and mouth, and the bark was chewed to treat heartburn. Also, local accounts praise persimmon jelly and wine.
The Texas persimmon is a favored landscape tree with aesthetic qualities accompanying its wildlife and food attributes. Young trees are slow growing and like partial shade with abundant water. Conversely, established plants tolerate full sun and limited water. Dried fresh seeds may germinate, but the plant is difficult to propagate by cuttings. This shrub is a perfect candidate for xeriscaping in semi-arid and arid environments and makes its home quite well here in the Big Bend region.