Diospyros virginiana. Persimmon.
Nat. Ord. — Ebenaceae. Sex. Syst. — Dioecia Octandria.
The Bark and Unripe Fruit.
Description. — This is an indigenous tree from twenty to sixty feet in hight, with a trunk sometimes twenty inches in diameter, more especially in its southern locations, covered with a rugged blackish bark, and having alternate, spreading branches. The leaves are alternate, oval or oblong, acuminate, with an entire margin, smooth and shining above, paler beneath with reticulated veins, on short, pubescent petioles, and from three to five inches long. The flowers are obscure, pale-greenish yellow, lateral, axillary, mostly solitary, nearly sessile, the male and female flowers being on different trees, though sometimes a perfect flower occurs, in which the stamina are double the number of the segments of the calyx, and the stigmas equal to these segments. The filaments are short, free, or inserted on the calyx, with bilobate anthers. The ovary is globular, supporting a very short style, with obtuse, spreading stigmas. The fruit is a round, dark-yellow or orange berry, containing a fleshy, edible pulp, and from six to eight compressed, hard seeds.
History. — This is a well known indigenous tree, common to the Middle and Southern States, which flowers in May or June, but does not ripen its fruit till the middle of autumn. It is seldom found above the forty-second degree of north latitude. The unripe fruit is very astringent, but when matured, and after having been touched by the frost, it is sweet and palatable. The bark is also astringent, and together with the fruit, form the officinal portions of the tree. The unripe fruit contains tannic acid, sugar, malic acid, coloring matter, and lignin; when ripe the tannic acid almost disappears, while the sugar and malic acid increase in quantity. The bark, probably contains tannic and gallic acids. Water, spirit, or alcohol extracts the virtues of the bark and unripe fruit.
Properties and Uses. — Tonic and astringent. The bark has been used in intermittents, and both it and the unripe fruit have been beneficial in various forms of disease of the bowels, chronic dysentery, and uterine hemorrhage ; used in infusion, syrup, or vinous tincture, in the proportion of one ounce of the bruised fruit to two fluidounces of the vehicle, and half a fluidounce or more given to adults, and a fluidrachm or more to infants. The infusion may be used as a gargle in ulcerated sore throat. The ripe fruits are very grateful and healthy, and as they ripen at a time when most other autumnal fruits have disappeared, the tree should be cultivated ; for if it should improve in the same ratio as the peach, plum, etc., it would form a very valuable addition to our fall fruits. A pleasant beer is made with the ripe fruit, hops, water, and yeast ; and a species of brandy is obtained by distillation of the fermented infusion.