HORT travels

Exploring the horticultural beauty in every adventure.

Parking Lot Picnic

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Nearly ripe persimmon fruit

Nearly ripe persimmon fruit

I’ve heard and read that when you thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, trail magic happens. This is the “kindness of strangers” that happens on the trail. Someone gives a hiker a lift to a dry shelter on a rainy day or leaves some delicious snack in a shelter for a weary hiker to find, that’s magic. I have only heard and read about this and that is likely all I’ll ever do. Though the idea of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is appealing to me, I would never be able to do it. Well, I could do it, but it would take me 432,567 days because I would be stopping to look at every flower and bud, taking pictures of each leaf and nifty pattern and talking to anyone who will listen about the wonder of the plants around. (Think I’m exaggerating? Just talk with ANYONE who’s ever hiked with me!)

So it is only appropriate I happened upon parking lot magic. It is even more appropriate (Just talk with ANYONE who’s ever hiked with me!) that it is liquor store parking lot magic.  After all, I am much more likely to be in my car than on the trail (sad to say) and I have been known to frequent a liquor store or two.

Normally it’s the contents of the inside of the liquor store that get us excited.  In this case it was one lone tree hanging out on the very edge of the parking lot, 3 spaces down from where we parked our car intent on finding some good beers for an upcoming shindig.  Immediately this tree covered in orange fruit distracted us from our mission. Shocking…a plant distracted me.

Leafless and covered with round orange fruits this could have been confused with a crabapple, and initially may have been by someone who shall remain nameless. But a second glance at form, fruit and bark immediately led to the identification of this parking lot tree as our native Persimmon. That’s right folks, a parking lot persimmon! Pardon my excitement.  This was my first sighting of a wild persimmon. Or what I believe to be a wild persimmon. I am nearly certain this wasn’t planted by the liquor store owners, it is growing on its own on the edge of a woodland. They are pioneer species often growing in disturbed places where there is a lack of competition for essentials like nutrients, sun and water.

Persimmons (Diospyros virginana) are common throughout the eastern and Midwestern US, found from New England south to Florida and west to Kansas and Texas. It is a very adaptable tree able to withstand swampy and dry conditions in full and part sun which explains why it was doing so well there next to the asphalt.

Because they are so adaptable persimmons make good landscape plants, if you don’t mind the messy fruit. You will need two trees to get the fruits. There are dioecious plants, meaning there are male (no fruits) and female (get fruits) plants and you need to have at least on of each in order to be able to enjoy the fruit. These fruits are not the large orange persimmons of the grocery store produce aisle. These are much smaller. And you know when they are perfectly ripe when they look perfectly rotten. The only way to learn this lesson is the hard way. If you have to tug at all on the fruit to remove it from the tree, it isn’t ripe. Don’t believe me? Try it and let me know how long it takes for your mouth to unpucker!

The really ripe ones just fall from the tree with a gentle shake. Those are the sweet delicious ones. Really, if I were a braver soul I would’ve been eating the ones already that had already fallen on the parking lot. THOSE would probably be the sweetest ones!

Parking lot persimmon

Parking lot persimmon

As cars pulled in and out of of the parking lot, the drivers, who have now stocked up on beer for the day’s football game, didn’t look twice at the two hippies dancing excitedly around a parking lot tree. This is a liquor store parking lot after all. I’m sure stranger things have happened here… Haven’t they?

We wandered around inside completely distracted by the haul to be had outside. Quickly paying for our purchase, we head back out to the lot with one thing on our minds… Persimmons. Cans safely stowed away in the car and canvas bag in hand we head over to the tree and start picking and eating.

This sweet fall fruit is a nice surprise and a welcome fresh snack when so many of our other sweet fruits are out of season. It is interesting how this and our native pawpaw are ready to eat just as the mammals and birds are preparing for winter. Woodpeckers, wild turkeys and Cedar waxwings eat the fruit of this native tree.

What could’ve made the day even more special? You guessed it – a wild turkey eating persimmon fruits in a liquor store parking lot!

Parking lot persimmon

Parking lot persimmon

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