Food for wildlife: The little-known persimmons

Except for those animals that hibernate, wild animals walk a tightrope every day in winter. They have to eat enough to produce the energy needed to get through the night without freezing to death, but time spent foraging increases their risk of themselves being a meal for a predator.

This is the first in a series of wild foods that play an important role in sustaining wildlife through winter. This post is about the persimmons, a little known and largely ignored, but magnificent fruit (actually it’s a berry) that is an important source of food and energy for birds and other wildlife.

Most persimmons live in obscurity until autumn. Once the tree begins shedding its leaves, its crop of an inch to 2-1/2-inch-long fruits look much like small, orange Christmas ornaments hanging on the tree’s naked branches.

Birds that dine on persimmons include wild turkeys, robins, cedar waxwings, catbirds, robins, pileated woodpeckers, and mockingbirds. Squirrels, opossums, and raccoons eat right from the tree, but other animals like deer, fox, bears, rodents, and skunks have to wait for the fruit to fall, which is actually when they reach their peak ripeness.

If persimmons are ripe, their flattened, reddish brown seeds will show up in the scat of the animals that eat them. The seeds easily pass through the digestive tracts of these animals and are spread to spots far from the tree where they were devoured. Some of these seeds will later germinate to produce a new generation of persimmon trees.

Common persimmons are difficult to get established. Consequently, when clearing a lot for a new home or maintaining a fence line, leave some of the persimmon trees that you find. If you have one standing on your property, don’t cut it down. The tree will provide a dependable source of fruits for your wildlife neighbors for years to come.

4 thoughts on “Food for wildlife: The little-known persimmons

  1. Very informative. I will keep any fruit or berry bush that has dried stuff on it. The deer still go for dried apples on the tree way up top. I keep a heated water bowl on the deck to try to be of some help. Need to get some seed. Temps are so frigid here I do not see how the wild ones who stay survive.

    • Animals do have it rough in winter. Most birds and some animals go into a state or torpor on very cold nights, which lowers their heart rate and metabolism, reducing the amount of stored energy used up.

  2. Persimmon trees are highly prized here in Australia and we look forward to eating persimmons every year when it’s in season. (But it may be a different variety.) Love your post about keeping food for wildlife. I’ve decided to turn over my vegetable patch to sustaining the birdlife because it’s too difficult to try to fight off the possums and fruit rats – they seem to get into whatever netting I put up.

  3. Common persimmon is the variety we have here. I haven’t managed to get any once they are ripe. The fruits are too high up and the animals get the ripe fruit that falls before I can get it.

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