Monday, September 17, 2007

Tree ID - Persimmon

OK, we're going to shift gears and talk about a non-oak species. Persimmons are as close as a deer gets to candy. They usually don't grow in large enough quantities to qualify as a significant foodsource for deer, but if you find a large enough tree - or better yet, a cluster of large trees - you can be in for some fine hunting if the fruit is ripe and the deer have found them. I have to admit, when the persimmons are ripe, you're likely to find me feeding under a tree. Just make sure they are good and mushy, or you are in for some serious puckering.

Unlike most trees, persimmons are either male or female and only the females produce fruit. If you are exploring new hunting ground early in the year, before you can see developing fruit up in the tree with your binoculars, you can determine the sex of the tree by checking closely around the bottom of the tree, directly under the bushiest limbs. You are looking for dried up calyxes (or caps) and seeds like these:


















When you are looking, brush back the top layer of leaves because the fruit usually falls from the tree before the leaves do, so the evidence you are looking for tends to get covered up.  If you are scouting in the mid to late summer, here's what you are looking for (with binoculars).


WHERE THEY'RE FOUND



Persimmons are found in the entire southeastern region of the U.S., as far West as Eastern Texas and Oklahoma and as far north as central Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Persimmons grow in a variety of habitats, but they are often found in densely

vegetated moist lowlands, on the sides or ridges, along the edges of fields, and in fencerows. They tend to grow in clusters with trees of the same sex.



BARK

Persimmons are easily identified by their bark. They are usually the darkest tree in the woods. When you are looking for them, scan ahead with binoculars, looking for dark, almost black trunks. When you see a dark trunk, look for the distinctive blocky-looking bark that is furrowed into a unique pattern of square chunks. Persimmons growing in the woods generally don't have branches near the ground. Trees growing in areas where they have more exposure to light will grow lower branches.




LEAVES

Persimmon leaves are oval-shaped, dark shiny green above and light green below. They are pretty non-descript and aren't all that helpful in identifying the species, except when glassing the edges of fields, where their dark green color combined with the tall slender shape of the tree can be recognized from a distance.





FRUIT
Persimmons are green to light orange before they ripen, becoming dark orange when ripe. Usually, the first frost will cause the fruit to quickly ripen and fall soon after, although some trees will produce ripe fruit much earlier in the year.













FIELD REFERENCES














If you are looking for a handy field guide that you can throw in your pack the next time you are out scouting, I recommend either or both of these books. I use both because often one will have a better photo or illustration than the other and two points of reference always helps. If you don't want to spend the cash for two books, I'd give a slight edge to the Peterson's Guide.

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