Diospyros virginiana as bonsai?

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Diospyros virginiana as bonsai?

Post  Ashiod on Sun Jun 30, 2013 10:45 am

I was curious if anyone has experience in using this species in potted culture/bonsai. My family has a tree...well, more of a stump with a ton of thumb thickness feeders... that has been growing in the back yard of our old house since I was in ~1st grade which we plan to take some root cuttings from for the new place. The tree has proven to be nearly unkillable(ie. cutting, burning, poisoning,freezing, etc) and has a very strong root system, so I wondered if it had traits which would make it worth keeping a cutting or two as another experiment. My major concerns with the tree, having seen how it grows for nearly two decades are whether it will adapt well to potting since they have a tendency to develop massive taproots, and whether the leaves are able to scale down as they're pretty large. My father has a particular fondness for this tree and the fruit it produces despite having tried to kill it numerous times, and I thought it might make an interesting project to team up on.

TL;DR: see red highlighted sections.

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Re: Diospyros virginiana as bonsai?

Post  JimLewis on Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:36 pm

The north American persimmon can make a LARGE bonsai. The leaves reduce only a bit. However, persimmon are susceptible to a wide range of leaf ailments that appear to do no long-term harm, but make the leaves spotty and ugly through most of the summer.

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Re: Diospyros virginiana as bonsai?

Post  Leo Schordje on Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:16 pm

American persimmon can make an excellent bonsai, (though I have not made an excellent bonsai, yet!). It is closely related to the Japanese species of persimmon that are often used for bonsai. D. rhombifolia and D. kaki. Comments on culture and technique for the Japanese species should generally apply to D. virginiana. One advantage of using D. virginiana is that it forms a rough, alligator bark in less than 2 decades, where D. rhombifolia will take much longer than that to develop a nice bark. I have seen bark on trees in the ground begining to look pretty rough, the beginnings of the alligator pattern (attractive in bonsai terms) in as little as 7 years. In a pot it will take longer.

I have started several batches of seed, but most years all ended up in the ground as landscape plants for fruit. But this year I am keeping a batch of seedlings just for bonsai. An advantage of using D. virginiana is the fruit are much better tasting than D. rhombifolia, and at least to my palette, better tasting than D. kaki. Of course my only experience with D. kaki is the big box grocery store Kaki, and a tree ripened Kaki may be worlds better in flavor than what I have had. Kaki is not winter hardy by me, virginiana is hardy.

As bonsai, I think it would look best if the plan were for a finished tree in the 2 foot to 4 foot range. Also, the leaves will reduce some, but not enough to keep a tree showable all summer long. For a summer show I would defoliate 6 weeks ahead. For the moment I will say I have not tested how persimmon responds to defoliation, so I am not suggesting to use defoliation routinely, but in the future I hope to have better information from my own experience.

Otherwise I think the best time to show this tree would be fall and winter, where leaf size will not be an issue. Either in fall color with fruit, or in winter, if the fruit hangs on. Ramification will always be a little on the coarse side, but the thicker branches are needed to hold up the fruit. They will begin fruiting in the ground at 7 to 10 years, in a pot it could be the same, or it could take quite a bit longer. Sexes are separate, male trees and female trees, so if you start from seed, you will need to keep at least 6 to be sure you get at least one of each gender (probability over 95% that you got one of each if you start with a 50:50 distribution)

Obviously cuttings and root cuttings from a female tree will be female. If a female tree flowers, and there is no male pollinator, there will still be some fruit, and it will be largely seedless or with only partially developed seeds. I would try getting cuttings. I believe the Japanese can, and do propagate the D. rhombifolia from cuttings in addition to growing them from seed.

I'm high on D. virginiana as a good USA & Canada native species to use for bonsai. It has been used some, but I think not enough attention has been paid to it. Its leaf size is probably its biggest negative, but this is not a problem for exhibiting in late fall, leafless with just a few fruit. Its bark is great. I have seen mature trees where the cracks in the bark are over 1 inch deep. I'm convinced that in the next decade or two, there will be a lot of excitement about this species, be a few will have experimented and turned out great trees. I doubt I will be one to turn out the 'great tree' my horticulture is good, my artistic sense is mediocre at best. Smile 


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Re: Diospyros virginiana as bonsai?

Post  Leo Schordje on Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:26 pm

OK - at risk of annoying my fellow forum members because I am carrying on, here is the link to my post with images of trees in southern Illinois. Probably just 100 miles straight west of you. Search 'Persimmon' on the search tab to the right of the Forum Tab. Many threads, and most comments about Japanese species will be largely true for virginiana.

http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t12137-in-praise-of-the-american-persimmon-diospyros-virginiana-some-field-photos

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Re: Diospyros virginiana as bonsai?

Post  Ashiod on Fri Jul 05, 2013 7:57 am

Thanks for the replies! I'll probably be digging up a few of the suckers and some roots tomorrow, as I doubt I'll have another opportunity in the future, to plant out near the barn. There are several suckers that have decent branch structure, but given the massive leaves, I think I'll just plant them as decorative/fruit trees, although my father may find the idea of growing a potted persimmon interesting. The idea of a 4-6ft tall potted tree is somewhat intimidating, but it might be an interesting experiment Twisted Evil . As my family is fond of saying, you don't learn anything unless you try it.

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Re: Diospyros virginiana as bonsai?

Post  Leo Schordje on Fri Jul 05, 2013 5:25 pm

Ashiod wrote:Thanks for the replies!  I'll probably be digging up a few of the suckers and some roots tomorrow, as I doubt I'll have another opportunity in the future, to plant out near the barn.  There are several suckers  that have decent branch structure, but given the massive leaves, I think I'll just plant them as decorative/fruit trees, although my father may find the idea of growing a potted persimmon interesting.  The idea of a 4-6ft tall potted tree is somewhat intimidating, but it might be an interesting experiment Twisted Evil .  As my family is fond of saying, you don't learn anything unless you try it.

You're welcome. Definitely transplant several, so to have them on hand. Once you have them on hand, seeing them often, I predict you will find yourself thinking more and more about them as bonsai. If not, at least you will have the fruit to look forward to.

D. virginiana seems at its best in Fall and Winter through into early Spring. Remember, when it comes to having a tree in show condition, even ideal bonsai species, like Japanese Black Pines, trident maple or Japanese Maples, are rarely 'showable' for more than a short week or two, usually no more than every other year. I'm sure you have seen photos of wonderful Japanese apricot/plum, Prunus mume, in bloom. Recall seeing many photos in leaf? There is a reason, most are ugly in leaf. That doesn't keep them from being quite popular for bonsai. Each tree has its strengths, and those strengths should be taken advantage of. At least American persimmon has excellent fall color. If I plan on showing a persimmon, I will figure out the timing for a defoliation, to get leaves down in size, right before showing if I have to show it in summertime. Defoliation is a time honored technique used in maples and many other species. Don't know persimmon's tolerance for it yet, but I'm pretty certain it will be tolerated moderately well. Maybe not something to be used every year, but useful before a show.

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Re: Diospyros virginiana as bonsai?

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