The Shawnee News-Star Gardening Oct. 30 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg What kind of winter will we have this year? The weather has been confusing for months, so why not investigate the persimmon seeds and see what they predict.  This is a project I really went deep into:  deep into woods, deep into grass, deep into […]

The Shawnee News-Star Gardening Oct. 30 2019

Becky Emerson Carlberg

What kind of winter will we have this year? The weather hasbeen confusing for months, so why not investigate the persimmon seeds and seewhat they predict.  This is a project Ireally went deep into:  deep into woods,deep into grass, deep into overripe persimmon mush.  Well worth the sacrifice. 

I love native persimmons. If it's October, wherever I am, I hunt for those orange balls in the skycovering the 'Tree of a Thousand Suns.'  Ihave feasted on persimmons in Arkansas, Missouri, Maryland, the eastern half ofOklahoma and even the Outer Banks of North Carolina where the barrier islandsregularly get swamped with seawater and hurricanes.  This tough tree is scientifically namedDiospyros virginiana, which translates to either fruit of the god or fire ofthe gods.  Probably depends on theripeness of the fruit. 

Most of the 750 different species of persimmons are membersof the Ebony family tropical.  The woodis dark, very hard and used in furniture, driver golf heads, drum sticks, andbilliard cues.  Our native Americanpersimmon is the tallest of all the persimmon species, ranging from 35 tonearly 70 feet in height. 

Male persimmon trees produce scented small clusters of bell-shapedgreenish-yellow flowers in early spring. The females issue single flowers. Then there are those trees that make perfect flowers with both male andfemale parts.  The persimmon refuses tofollow the rules, but the bees and pollinators flock to the blooms regardless.

The glossy, leathery leaves of the persimmon are relished bynot only by white-tailed deer but the larvae of the Luna moth and HickoryHorned Devil moth (Regal moth).  If youhave ever seen that caterpillar, you'd not forget it.  Over 4 inches long and bright green, orangeappendages curve out from the back of its orange head.  The tail end is also orange. The caterpillaris entirely harmless and banks on its fierce appearance to keep it safe frompredators that visit persimmons, hickories, sweetgums, pecans and sumacs.   

Dr. Tyrl often said persimmon leaves, when folded, look liketacos.  The distinctive dark gray outerlayer of the trunk is formed from chains of thick bark broken into chunky squaresand rectangles. This is one tree that can be identified in winter after theleaves have fallen.  That plus some driedfruit may still be hanging on.  Skunks,coyotes, raccoons, opossums, quail, mockingbirds, cedar waxwings, turkeys, foxand other critters devour the fruits.

Native persimmon trees are considered pioneer species.  As open fields transition toward woodlands,the slow-growing persimmon is an early colonizer which forms thickets.  It can tolerate the black walnut whichusually eliminates other plant competition. The persimmon forms a deep taproot, making it difficult totransplant.  Most persimmon trees on themarket are oriental.  The natives areharder to find, but much  more robustthan the Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki). 

Seed Propagation:   Take fresh persimmon seeds and soak in warm water a few days to help remove the dried flesh (or store in a cool, dry place until later).   Wrap the seeds in moist paper towels and put in plastic jar in fridge 2-3 months.   Keep the paper dampish.   Next spring, bury each seed 2 inches deep in potting soil.   Use tall pot with drainage holes.   Place in warm, bright location.   Keep soil dampish.   If you're lucky, since germination of persimmon seeds hovers around 30%, small seedlings will appear in 6-8 weeks.   Good idea to plant several seeds in separate pots.   Water the little guys each week, but wait until the soil dries a bit at the top each time.   Transplant seedlings at the end of the growing season in autumn.   Mulch.   Fruit comes after 3-5 years.

What did this year's seeds say?  It appears the little embryos look likespoons, which translates to shovels and lots of snow.  Knives mean cutting sharp winds and a drywinter, but what if the embryos are hybrid butter knives?  Does that mean some snow and cold winds?  If fork shapes appear, expect a mild winterwith light snow.  Farmer's Almanacforecasts a parade of snow storms across the northern US, but OK and TX shallhave a pleasant winter. What is pleasant?

David Payne, Meteorologist for OKC Channel 9 thinks ourwinter weather will have average to slightly below average temperatures,average precipitation, average snowfall and arctic air off and on as the PolarVortex surges back and forth. We'll be hit by winter blasts both early and atthe end of the season. What is average?  

This is the last article for the 2019 Gardening Series.  Tom Terry, Linda Smith, Lisa Hair and I hopewe have enlightened and given each of you inspiration and ideas not only forthis year but 2020. 

Happy Halloween.