Most species of persimmon are found in tropical or subtropical areas. However, the American persimmon (Diospyrus virginiana) is found in areas ranging from Texas and Florida in the South to southern Connecticut and central Ohio in the north. In New York, the American persimmon is found only in the southeast portion of the state, in New York City and Long Island. The most distinctive feature of the American persimmon is its 1- to 1 1/2-inch-long edible fruits.
American persimmon leaves grow in an alternate arrangement along the twig and are elliptical in shape. The base of the leaf is rounded and the tip of the leaf tapers to a point. They are generally 2 1/2 to 6 inches long.
American persimmon fruits form in early summer and are greenish to orange in color when unripe. By late fall, they ripen to a deep purple color. The fruit is not commercially important in New York State. Although its fruits are edible, they are very bitter when unripe, and once they ripen, they are too soft for transport and sale. The Japanese persimmon (D. kaki) produces a fruit that is commercially important to California and other warm weather states. It is not found in New York State.
In spite of having a dense and dark wood that can be used to make golf club heads and billiard cues, the wood of the American persimmon has never been of much commercial value. Persimmon trees tend to grow in a widely scattered pattern over their range, making harvest in commercial quantities inefficient.
Within its natural range (USDA zones 5 to 9), the American persimmon is found in a wide variety of soil types and environments. They grow best in loam but can tolerate clay and sand. They grow at sea level and up to elevations of 2,500 feet. In New York State, they are found only within the New York City metropolitan area and Long Island. According to "New York City Trees," American persimmon specimens can be found at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, Marine Park in Brooklyn and Kissena Park in Queens.