Diospyros, the genus to which persimmon trees belong, comes from the Greek Dios and pyros, translating to “divine fruit” or even “fruit of the gods.”
There are two species of the genus Diospyros: virginiana and Kaki. Despite their many differences, these two tree varieties have one certain thing in common.
The unique bark of the persimmon tree is a shared characteristic across the genus. But what makes persimmon tree bark so noteworthy? To learn more about persimmon tree bark identification and uses, keep reading!
Types of Persimmon Tree
There are two main types of persimmon trees: Asian and American persimmon trees.
The American persimmon tree also called the common persimmon tree, is endemic to the United States, particularly in the Southeast.
They can reach up to fifty feet tall, with small, sweet, golden fruit measuring about an inch in diameter.
The Asian persimmon, sometimes identified as the Japanese or Chinese persimmon, is native to the Asian continent but, over time, has been introduced to the United States.
Unlike its American variety, the Asian persimmon prefers warmer, more tropical climates and can’t withstand the cold similarly.
They’re smaller than the American variety, growing up to thirty feet, and produce larger, redder fruit. The Asian persimmon also tends to be less astringent than the American persimmon.
Regardless of these differences, the Asian and American varieties of persimmon trees share the unique black bark and a checkerboard pattern that makes persimmon trees so distinctive.
Characteristics of Persimmon Tree Bark
The primary purpose of any tree bark is to protect the valuable and vulnerable wood underneath, called the cambium layer, which is the growing part of the trunk.
Tree bark also lets the right amount of water in and allows the tree to breathe.
But for landscapers and tree lovers, persimmon tree bark is particularly useful for identification purposes.
Persimmon Tree Bark Color
Unlike other fruit tree varieties with more greenish-brown bark, persimmon tree bark belongs to the Ebenaceae or ebony tree family, known and loved for exceptional dark bark.
While the bark is not jet black, it’s still a distinctive dark gray color that gets darker as the tree matures.
Persimmon Tree Bark Texture
In addition to the stand-out color, persimmon tree bark has an unusual and easily identifiable pattern.
Sometimes called “alligator bark” or “checkerboard bark,” persimmon tree bark differs significantly from the bark of other fruit trees with typical knots and vertical ridges.
On the contrary, persimmon tree bark is thick and fissured, segmented into rectangular-shaped blocks, appearing almost like reptilian skin.
In the fissures of the dark bark, the orange-yellow cambium layer of the persimmon tree wood is visible.
This cracking pattern makes the bark almost look like lava, with the bright wood visible between the bark’s scales.
Persimmon tree bark gets its unique appearance from the cambium, which helps to move sap through the tree.
When the cells that transport the sap are used up, they get pushed to the surface to become the protective bark.
However, the checkerboard pattern of persimmon tree bark is only apparent on the trunk. The branches remain smooth and vertically striated.
The distinctive characteristics of persimmon tree bark are very useful in identifying the tree out in the wild.
However, the bark’s features also create great ornamental value for landscaping and home growing.
How to Use Persimmon Tree Bark
Over the centuries, Indigenous people discovered and thus applied several uses for medicinal persimmon tree bark.
The outer bark could be chewed to help aid heartburn relief, and a tincture infusion made from the bark of persimmon, alder, white walnut, and cherry trees was used to soothe toothaches.
Making a broth from soaking the persimmon tree bark in cold water for an extended period was thought to support liver health and bile production.
The inner bark, however, was where the true medicinal wonders were found.
The Catawba people of the Carolinas found that if you boiled the inner bark, you could create an astringent liquid to treat fungal infections.
By the 1800s, people had grown wise to the medicinal uses of persimmon tree bark, particularly its antiseptic properties.
Doctors used a powder from the inner bark to treat various ailments, including dysentery, fevers, ulcers, diphtheria, and venereal diseases.
Today, it is more common to see persimmon tree bark used for its color than for medical practices. Persimmon tree heartwood makes everything from golf clubs to shoe laces.
Growing Your Own Persimmon Tree
Aside from their aesthetic value, persimmon trees are also pretty simple to grow, making them attractive plants for home growers.
They can tolerate cold (particularly American persimmon trees), be grown in containers, and even grow indoors.
The pruning regimen is the most challenging aspect of caring for your persimmon tree.
More than just the bark separates persimmon trees from other fruit trees. How they grow, mature, and fruit is also unique to persimmon trees, so pruning is crucial.
Persimmon trees are slow growers and can take several years to produce fruit.
Have patience and keep faith, and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful tree with tasty fruit!
Persimmon Tree Bark Diseases
Overall, persimmon trees tend to be naturally disease- and pest-resistant.
However, they can occasionally fall victim to scale, fungus, leaf spot, and borers.
Most of these issues will spark from wounds in the bark and branches, so be extra careful when pruning your persimmon tree!
To treat and prevent disease or infection in your persimmon tree bark, insecticide, and careful pruning are essential.
Where to Buy Persimmon Trees
You can often find persimmon trees for purchase as young saplings on Stark Bro’s.
Try growing one in your backyard to experience the beauty of persimmon tree bark!
Persimmon Tree Bark: FAQ
Is persimmon tree bark toxic?
Persimmon tree bark is not toxic! If an animal were to eat and fully digest large amounts of persimmon tree bark, it would likely get sick.
However, simply touching persimmon tree bark is perfectly safe. And if your pet were to get a hold of a piece of branch or hunk of bark to chew on, they would be fine.
Why is persimmon bark different colors?
The outer bark is black because of organic compounds called naphthoquinones. This is common amongst plants of the Ebenaceae family.
The yellow-orange cracks in the black bark are just the younger cambium layer of wood peeking out.
Final Thoughts on Persimmon Tree Bark
All in all, persimmon tree bark is striking, versatile, and unique. The persimmon tree is a star amongst fruit trees, and its bark is no exception.
It has many uses and adds wonderful ornamental value to any yard or garden. Try to grow one this season and witness its beauty and utility!
For even more information, check out our Persimmon Tree Guide!