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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Diospyros (Dios, Jove's, pyros, grain; alluding to its edible fruit). Ebenaceae. Persimmon. Ebony. Woody plants grown partly for the handsome foliage and partly for their edible fruits; some species are valuable timber trees.

Deciduous or evergreen trees or shrubs, with alternate, rarely opposite, entire lvs., without stipules: fls. dioecious or polygamous in few- or many-fld., axillary cymes, the pistillate often solitary, yellowish or whitish; calyx and corolla 3-7-, usually 4-lobed; stamens usually 8-16, included; styles 2-6; ovary 4-;12-celled: fr. a large, juicy berry, 1-10-seeded, bearing usually the enlarged calyx at the base; seed flat, rather large.— About 190 species in the tropics, few in colder climates.

The few cultivated species are ornamental trees, with handsome lustrous foliage, rarely attacked by insects and with decorative and edible fruit. The only species which is tolerably hardy North is D. virginiana, while D, Kaki, much cultivated in Japan for its large edible fruits, is hardy only in the southern states. Most species have valuable hard and close-grained wood, and that of some tropical species is known as ebony. They thrive in almost any soil, but require, in cooler climates, sheltered and sunny positions. Propagated by seeds to be sown after maturity or stratified and sown in spring, and by cuttings of half-ripened wood or by layers; the tropical species by cuttings of mature wood in spring, with bottom heat; the fruit-bearing varieties are usually grafted or budded on seedling stock of D. virginiana. See Persimmon.

D. armata, Hemsl. Spiny tree, to 20 ft.: Lvs. persistent, oval- oblong, obtuse, 1-2 in. long: staminate fls. in short panicles, creamy white, fragrant: fr. usually solitary, ¾ in. across. Cent. China. Tender.—D. Ebenster, Retz. The "guayabota" and "zapote negro," from Mex. and W. Indies, has been catalogued in S. Calif. It is a tall tree, with very sweet frs. the size of an orange, green outside and almost black inside: Lvs. elliptic or oblong, usually obtuse, 3-12 in. long: fls. white, fragrant.—D. Ebenum, Koenig. Tree, to 50 ft.: Lvs. elliptic-oblong, bluntly acuminate, glabrous: fls. white, staminate, in short racemes. E. Indies, Ceylon. For cult. in hothouses or tropical climates. This species is said to yield the best ebony.—D. Morrisiana, Hance. Evergreen shrub or small tree, glabrous: Lvs. oval, obtusely acuminate, 2-3½ in. long: fls. whitish, drooping, on hairy stalks: fr. yellow, subglobose, ½-¾ in. across. Hongkong, Formosa. The edible fr. ripens in Dec.—D. utilis, Hemsl. Evergreen large tree: branchlets silky-pubescent: Lvs. oblong, short-petioled, glabrous above, whitish and silky- pubescent beneath, 5-8 in. long: fr. depressed-globose, pubescent, nearly 2 in. across. Formosa. The edible fr. is called Mao-shih. Alfred Rehder.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

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American Persimmon flowerHemingway, South Carolina
American Persimmon flower
Hemingway, South Carolina
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Family: Ebenaceae
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450-500; see text

Diospyros is a genus (including what used to be Maba) of about 450-500 species of deciduous and evergreen trees. The majority are native to the tropics, with only a few species extending into temperate climates. The genus includes species of commercial importance, either for their edible fruit (including the persimmons, D. kaki and D. virginiana) or for their timber. These include the two trade groups of ebony: the pure black ebony (notably D. ebenum, but also several other species) and the striped ebony (macassar, mun, and others). In most species in the genus this black ebony-type wood is (almost completely) absent: the timbers of such species may find restricted use, e.g. D. virginiana.

Diospyros species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Double-striped Pug, Eupseudosoma aberrans, Snowy Eupseudosoma and Hypercompe indecisa.


  • D. acris.
  • D. armata.
  • D. australis. East coast Australia.
  • D. canaliculata (syns. D. cauliflora, D. xanthochlamys).
  • D. celebica. Macassar Ebony.
  • D. chloroxylon.
  • D. crassiflora. Gaboon Ebony.
  • D. confertifolia. Southeast Asia.
  • D. digyna. Black Persimmon, Black Sapote. Native to Mexico, and its fruit has green skin and white flesh when unripe and turns black when ripe.
  • D. discolor. Mabolo, Velvet-apple. Native to the Philippines. It is bright red when ripe.
  • D. ebenaster.
  • D. ebenum (syn. D. hebecarpa). Ebony. A tree of tropical Asia whose dark heartwood is used in cabinetwork.
  • D. embryopteris. Black & White Ebony, Pale Moon Ebony. Myanmar & Laos.
  • D. fasciculosa Australia.
  • D. fischeri (syn. Royena fischeri).
  • D. insularis. New Guinea Ebony.
  • D. kaki. Kaki Persimmon. The most widely cultivated species, grown for its delicious fruit. This species, native to China, is deciduous, with broad, stiff leaves. Cultivation for the fruit extended first to other parts of east Asia, and later introduced to California and southern Europe in the 1800s.
  • D. kurzii. Marblewood, Andaman Marble.
  • D. lanceifolia. Southeast Asia.
  • D. lotus. Date-plum. native to southwest Asia and southeast Europe. Known to the ancient Greeks as "the fruit of the Gods", i.e., dios pyros, whence the scientific name of the genus. Its English name derives from the small fruit, which have a taste reminiscent of both plums and dates.
  • D. mabacea Red-fruited ebony, northern New South Wales - highly endangered species.
  • D. macrocalyx (syns. D. loureiroana, Royena macrocalyx).
  • D. major east coast Australia.
  • D. maritima.
  • D. melanoxylon. Coromandel Ebony, East Indian Ebony, Tendu. The leaves of this species are harvested in India to manufacture bidi cigarettes with.
  • D. mespiliformis, Jackalberry (also Jackal Berry", Jakkalbessie, African Ebony)
  • D. multiflora.
  • D. mun. Mun Ebony.
  • D. pavonii.
  • D. pentamera. Myrtle Ebony or Grey Persimmon. East coast of Australia.
  • D. samoensis.
  • D. sandwicensis. Lama. endemic to Hawaii.
  • D. siamang (syn. D. elliptifolia).
  • D. subrotata.
  • D. texana. Texas Persimmon. Many-branched shrub or small tree native to central and west Texas and southwest Oklahoma, where it grows on dry rocky hillsides. The fruit, smaller than those of the American Persimmon, are eaten by many species of birds and mammals. It was once used as a dye by Native Americans to tan hides.
  • D. trichophylla (syn. D. pruriens).
  • D. villosa (syn. Royena villosa).
  • D. virginiana. American Persimmon. Native to eastern North America.


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