From the Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits
by Wilson Popenoe

Japanese Persimmon


The kaki is distinctly a subtropical fruit and thus is not successful in the moist tropical lowlands, although there are many elevated valleys and plateaux in the tropics where it can be grown. Its culture in the United States is limited to regions which are suitable for the fig. Some varieties have survived temperatures as low as zero, while others are more tender. L. H. Bailey writes: "Many seedlings have been produced which seem to have increased frost-resisting powers. Instances are reported in which some of these trees have withstood the winters of east Tennessee. By successive sowing of seeds from these hardier seedlings we may look for a race of trees which will be adapted to the middle sections of the United States. There is a probability, also, that importations from the north of China and Japan may considerably extend the range northward in this country. Some varieties have succeeded in central Virginia and Kentucky."

Regarding the moisture requirements of the kaki, experience indicates that it does not need a high degree of atmospheric humidity if it is supplied with plenty of water at the root. T. Ikeda says of the trees in Japan: "They are very water-loving in habit and require a constant and sufficient supply of soil water." The behavior of the species in California has shown that it is entirely successful in a semi-arid climate, while experience in other regions indicates that it can be grown equally well in a region of reasonably heavy rainfall. In parts of India where the precipitation is extremely heavy it has not done well. In soil requirements the kaki is not exacting. Emile Sauvaigo, one of the best French authorities, says: "It likes a deep, reasonably heavy, well-drained soil, and it does well on clays, when they are not too compact"; and Ikeda notes that the yield is larger, and the color and quality of the fruit better, when the trees are planted on heavy but well-drained loams. In California it has been observed that they make larger growth on heavy than on thin sandy soils, which would, of course, be expected. Satisfactory results are obtained in Florida on light sandy loams, particularly when they are moist; in fact, it seems difficult to give the plant too moist a situation, provided the drainage is good.

Florida nurserymen advise that the land on which kakis are to be planted be prepared in advance by growing a crop of cowpeas or velvet-beans and plowing them under to enrich the soil. Planting may be done in the lower South between November 15 and March 1, but preference is given to the period from December 1 to February 1. The trees should be spaced 18 or 20 feet apart (134 or 108 trees to the acre). As much as 24 feet is considered a desirable distance in California. The roots should not be allowed to dry out while the trees are being set. The tops should be cut back to 2 or 2 1/2 feet on plants which have not large stems. Roeding says: "The tap-root should be cut back to 18 inches, and fresh cuts made on all the fibrous roots. After the trees are set, head them back to 18 inches. The first winter thin out the branches, not leaving more than four to form the head of the tree. Cut these back at least one-half. In the second, third, and fourth years pruning of the tree should be continued to fashion it into the typical goblet form."

Frequent and thorough cultivation of the grove during the spring and early summer is recommended for Florida. Cultivation should be discontinued about the middle of July and a cover-crop then planted. This may be cowpeas, velvet-beans, beggarweed, or a natural growth of weeds may be allowed to develop. Commercial fertilizers are used to advantage.

F. H. Burnette 1 writes as follows on this subject:
"Good clean culture is all that is required, the same that is given in any well-cared-for fruit orchard. In our heavy lands, or on soils similar in character to the soils of the bluff lands of Louisiana, sodding-over should never be allowed, if good crops are desired. Any good complete manure may be used. A good crop of cow-peas turned under every two or three years will be highly beneficial.

"During the first three years the growth of the tree should be watched in order to build a symmetrical, upright tree. This is not easy, for some of the varieties spread too much, and the leading upright branches are often overloaded and become broken easily, or are headed back by careless removal of the fruit. Ordinarily, after they begin to bear, there is little need of pruning. The tendency to overbear is so strong that new wood is not produced in abundance, and the tree becomes dwarf-like. Systematic thinning of the fruit is necessary to control this, as it will not do to leave the thinning to natural causes, and depend upon the tree to throw off all the fruit it cannot well take care of. The weakened condition from overbearing results in a sickly tree which readily becomes a prey to diseases and insects, and it requires a careful observer to train his tree and thin the fruit to the proper amount."


It has long been known, especially in Florida, that some varieties flower profusely but fail to develop any fruits. In other instances, though good crops are produced one season, yet the following year there is no fruit, even though climatic conditions may appear to be identical. This peculiar behavior was not understood until Hume showed that it was due to faulty pollination.

In the Journal of Heredity for March, 1914, he writes:
1 Bull. 99, La. Exp. Sta.
"It was not until 1909 that attention was called to the true cause of barrenness in D. kaki, and the year following the cause of sporadic fruitfulness was learned. It was known years before to a few that the flowers of D. kaki are of two kinds, pistillate and staminate, but that this fact had any practical bearing on the problem of unfruit-fulness did not seem to occur to anyone. More recently the existence of perfect flowers, i.e., those containing both stamens and pistils, was brought to light. These flowers have no practical bearing on the problem, as they are rare, and from some cause or other not yet clearly understood, their ovaries very seldom develop into mature fruit. Since 1909, the results of more than twenty thousand hand pollinations have fairly demonstrated that pollination will cause fruit to set and grow to maturity, when without it no fruit would be produced.

"The fruitfulness of certain trees or groups of trees in some seasons and not in others, even when pistillate flowers were present in goodly numbers each season, can now be explained by the fact that there are certain horticultural varieties of D. kaki which produce staminate flowers at irregular intervals. They may be found on certain trees one season and not the next. Many seasons may elapse before they appear again. It may even happen that never again are they produced, or they may be produced every other season. Many combinations of intervals or skips in the production of staminate flowers are possible and probable. A number of them have been observed and noted with references to particular trees. The staminate flowers, when they occur on these trees, are abundantly supplied with pollen and fertilize not only pistillate flowers on the same trees, but through the agency of insects the flowers of many trees surrounding them."

It was evident to Hume, therefore, that a variety was needed which could be depended on for the production of pollen to fertilize the flowers of trees which lacked the male element. The search for such a variety brought several to light, and one of them, the Gailey, is now recommended for planting as a pollinizer. By setting one of these trees to seven or eight of other kinds, productiveness is insured. Hume continues:

"It must be emphasized that the behavior of D. kaki in its relation to pollination, or of any other fruit for the matter of that, in any one locality, is no index to its behavior under any other set of conditions. Even though the conditions may appear to be the same, there are differences which we are too dull to detect or too ignorant to understand, but which nevertheless operate on the trees and influence the results. It is a matter of observation that under certain local seasonal and climatic conditions some varieties of D. kaki will set good crops of fruit without pollination (seedless of course) while under another set of conditions they do not do so. One season they may bloom freely and set all the fruit the trees should carry and with an equal amount of bloom in another season the same trees may bring no fruit to maturity.

"To sum up conditions as they are at present in the Lower South, and based on numerous observations extending over more than a decade, it is a fact that trees of all varieties of D. kaki, in good health and which bloom under normal weather conditions, can be depended upon to bear good crops if pollinated and it is equally true (a few varieties only excepted) that they will not do so if pollen is not provided. In the last two seasons it has been amply demonstrated that all that is necessary is to have staminate flowering trees in proximity to the pistillate ones and bees, wasps, flies and other insects will take care of the problem according to nature's own plan."

"What is the owner of an orchard already planted to do if he desires to place pollinizers in his orchard? It is quite easy to bud over branches here and there in properly placed trees. No preliminary cutting back is necessary, as the buds may be inserted where the bark is anywhere from one to three years old. The work should be done just as the leaves are coming out in the spring, using the ordinary method of shield-budding, and tying the buds in place with waxed cloth. The wraps should be left on about three weeks and as soon as the buds have taken, the branches should be cut back, leaving stubs five or six inches long to which the shoots from the buds may be tied as they grow out. These stubs should be removed at the end of one season's growth."

It may be mentioned that Tane-nashi, normally a seedless variety, fruits well without pollination, and it is thought that Tamopan may do the same.

The question of pollination is probably less important in semi-arid regions, such as California, than in the moist climate of Florida. The prospective grower should in any event use care in the selection of varieties, and satisfy himself as to the need of supplying pollinizers for them, before he undertakes to develop a commercial kaki orchard.
Horticultural varieties of the kaki are commonly propagated by budding and grafting. Several species of Diospyros are used as stock-plants.

The Chinese ring-bud or graft their plants upon the ghae tsao (Diospyros Lotus) and other species. The Japanese graft upon D. Lotus, on the shibukaki (an astringent variety of D. kaki), and occasionally on seedlings of the common sweet-fruited kaki. Ikeda states that stock-plants must be three years old and that grafting is done in early spring, using cions which have been stored for some days. Sauvaigo says that in southern France the kaki is grafted upon D. Lotus, D. virginiana (the common persimmon of the southern United States), and one or two other species. Crown-grafting and other methods are used, and the work is done in autumn or spring.

Hume considers that the best stock-plant for the southern United States is the common persimmon (D. virginiana), since it is more vigorous and produces a larger tree than other species. D. Lotus has been used in California but its value is not yet fully determined. Frank N. Meyer says of it: "As a stock, this persimmon may give to its grafted host a much longer life than the native American persimmon seems to be able to, for in China all the cultivated persimmons (kakis) grow much older than they do in America. Of some varieties there, one finds trees grafted on D. Lotus that are centuries old and still very productive."

Bailey writes: "The best method of propagating Japan persimmons is by collar-grafting upon seedlings of the native species (Diospyros virginiana), which are grown either by planting the seed in nursery rows or transplanting the young seedlings from seed-beds early in the spring. The seedlings can be budded in summer, and in favorable seasons a fair proportion of the buds will succeed. Thus propagated, the trees seem to be longer-lived than those imported from Japan. Inasmuch as the native stock is used, the range of adaptation as to soils and similar conditions is very great. As a stock, Diospyros Lotus is adapted to the drier parts of the West, where D. virginiana does not succeed."

Both cleft-grafting and whip-grafting are employed in Florida. Whip-grafting is considered best if the stock-plants are small. California nurserymen use the same methods and make a point of placing the graft as close to the root as possible.
Kaki trees begin bearing when three or four years old, and, proper attention being given the matter of pollination, produce heavy crops of fruit. Indeed, it is usually necessary in California to thin the fruit lest the trees injure themselves by overbearing. Pollination has been discussed on a previous page.

Picking And Shipping

If the fruit is to be shipped to distant markets, it should be gathered when fully grown but before it has begun to soften. Clippers or picking-shears should be used, and the fruit must be handled carefully, since it is easily bruised. Even when intended for home use it is preferable to gather it. before it has begun to soften, and then ripen it in a dry warm room. Fruit treated in this manner is fully as good as that ripened on the tree.

Kakis should be packed for shipment as soon as picked. The six-basket carrier, commonly used for peaches, is employed in shipping them from Florida to northern markets. Each fruit is wrapped in thin paper.

Hume writes:
"Some of the varieties have dark flesh, others light flesh, still others a mixture of the two. The light and dark flesh differ radically in texture and consistency, as well as in appearance, and when found in the same fruit are never blended, but always distinct. The dark flesh is never astringent, the light flesh is astringent until it softens. The dark-fleshed fruit is crisp and meaty, like an apple, and is edible before it matures. Some of the entirely dark-fleshed kinds improve as they soften, like Hyakume and Yeddo-ichi; others are best when still hard, like Zengi. As they are good to eat before they are ripe, it is not so important that the dark-fleshed kinds be allowed to reach a certain stage before being offered to consumers unfamiliar with the fruit. The light-fleshed kinds, and those with mixed light and dark flesh, are very delicious when they reach the custard-light consistency of full ripeness. In some the astringency disappears as the fruit begins to soften, as with Yemon, and in a less degree with Okame, Tane-nashi; in others it persists until the fruit is fully ripe, as with Tsuru. The light-fleshed kinds should not be offered to consumers unacquainted with the fruit until in condition to be eaten. A person who has attempted to eat one of them when green and ' puckery' will not be quick to repeat the experiment. The ' puckery' substance in the immature persimmon is tannin. As the fruit ripens, the tannin forms into crystals which do not dissolve in the mouth, and in this way the astringency disappears."

Various methods are employed to remove the astringency of the light-fleshed kinds and render them fit for eating. The Japanese place them in tubs from which saki (rice beer) has recently been withdrawn; the tubs are then closed tightly, and after ten days the fruit is found to have lost its astringency and to be in condition for eating. George C. Roeding of California reports: "A new, simple process of alcohol inoculation has been practiced lately. Pierce the fruits at the bottom several times with a common needle dipped in alcohol, and pack them in a tight box or container lined with straw and with layers between the rows, keeping the box closed for ten days."

Several years ago H. C. Gore and his associates in the United States Department of Agriculture conducted extensive experiments looking toward the perfection of a method for processing kakis commercially. It was found that by placing the fruits in an air-tight drum or container and subjecting them to the influence of carbon-dioxide for a period of two to seven days, the astringency was entirely removed from certain varieties. With other kinds the method was not altogether successful. Since processing must always be tedious, it seems more satisfactory to plant only the sorts which do not require this treatment.

If the orchard comprises several varieties, ripe fruit may be picked in Florida from August to December or even later, and in California from September to December. Hume notes, regarding Florida: "The first persimmon to ripen is Zengi, in August; the whole crop does not come at this time, however, but continues to ripen for sixty days, the seedless ones being larger and later. . . . Early in September come the first Okames, continuing to ripen for a month. Hyakume ripens from September 15 to 30, the bulk of the crop ripening together, which is also true of Yemon, which ripens next. Some fruits of Triumph ripen in September, and it continues to ripen its fruits until December. At any time after the middle of October the whole crop of Triumph may be removed and ripened off the trees. Tane-nashi ripens with Yemon and Hachiya with Okame, Yeddo-ichi early in October, Costata later in the month, and Tsuru latest of all, often hanging on the trees until midwinter." Roeding gives the ripening season of the principal commercial varieties in California as follows: Tane-nashi in September, Hachiya in October, Hyakume in November, and Yemon in December.

Pests And Diseases

There are few insects or fungous diseases which need cause the American kaki-grower serious concern. The Mediterranean fruit-fly (Ceratitis capitata Wied.) attacks the fruit in Australia, but this insect has not yet made its appearance in the United States. A few scale insects are occasionally found in the kaki orchards of California and Florida, but the attacks of none have proved serious.

Hume writes as follows with reference to Florida:
"The worst enemy of persimmon trees, and the only one worthy of note, is the flat-headed borer (Dicera obscura), a native insect. The adult is a hard, metallic beetle, about five-eighths inch in length. It lays its eggs in rough-barked places in the crotches of the tree, or in wounds made in pruning or resulting from injuries of any kind. The young borers hatched from these eggs bore through the bark, work between the bark and wood, later boring into the wood. The larvae when well grown are about one inch long, white, with broad, flat heads and round bodies. That they are at work in a tree may be known by the discolored bark and by gum oozing from the trunk or branches. Cut away the bark with a sharp knife or chisel and destroy them. Paint the wounds thus made with good, thick, white-lead paint. Carefully paint all wounds when made, and scrape the rough-barked places on young trees. By careful attention to wounds on the trees, they may be prevented from entering, and the trees will live to a good old age."


Although 800 varieties are grown in Japan, Ikeda does not consider more than 90 to be valuable. In the United States the number offered by nurserymen is relatively small. The nomenclature of the horticultural varieties in Japan is somewhat confused, and doubtless nurserymen have multiplied the names. China possesses a considerable number of varieties, but relatively few of them are yet known in the United States.

Japanese writers classify kakis according as they are sweet or astringent. Hume points out that such a classification is not tenable, inasmuch as certain varieties fall in the sweet group when carrying seeds and in the astringent group when seedless. He writes in the Journal of Heredity for September, 1914:
"Based on the difference in flesh coloration under the influence of pollination, kaki may be divided into at least two groups, - first, those which show no change of color of flesh under the influence of pollination, and, second, those in which the flesh of the fruit is darkened under the influence of pollination. Since the change in color in the one case is directly due to pollination and in the other pollination has no effect whatever, we shall refer to those varieties which undergo no change in color as Pollination Constants and those which are light colored when seedless and dark colored when seedy we shall call Pollination Variants. Now, all varieties of D. kaki growing in this country or elsewhere may be referred to one or the other of these groups. If varieties which are constantly dark-fleshed whether seedy or seedless should be found, the group of Pollination Constants can then be divided into two groups of light- and dark-fleshed Pollination Constants. It is hardly probable that there are varieties which are dark-fleshed when seedless and light-fleshed when seedy, but if any such should be discovered a similar plan can be followed by dividing the group of Pollination Variants."

The varieties here described are grouped according to this classification. The number is limited to those which are well known in the United States, and are offered here by nurserymen. Regarding their relative merits, Hume says: "Tane-nashi, Triumph, Okame, Yemon, and Yeddo-ichi excel in quality, perhaps in the order named. Okame, on account of its long season, exquisite beauty, and superior quality, is the best for home use and the local market. Hachiya is valued for its immense size and showiness. For market, Tane-nashi and Yemon, of the light-fleshed kinds, and Hyakume and Yeddo-ichi, of the dark-fleshed kinds, are good shippers and desirable; Okame is also good." Fuyugaki, a variety recently introduced by the Department of Agriculture, now promises to excel all other kakis as a market fruit; it is never astringent (hence requires no processing), the appearance and quality of the fruit are both highly satisfactory, and the tree is very productive.

Group Of Pollination Constants

Costata. - Form conical, pointed, somewhat four-angled in transverse section; size medium, length 2 5/8 inches, thickness 2 1/8 inches; surface salmon-yellow; flesh light yellow, dark-colored flesh or seeds seldom occurring; flavor astringent until the fruit is fully ripe, then sweet and pleasant. Ripening season very late.
Tree distinctive in appearance and a rapid erect grower. It does not produce staminate flowers in Florida. The fruit is remarkable for its good keeping qualities.

Fuyugaki (Fig. 47).- Form oblate; size medium-large, length about 2 inches, thickness about 2 3/4 inches; base with sometimes four creases extending outward from the stem, the calyx reflexed in the ripe fruit; apex depressed, with smooth, regular, shallow basin; surface deep orange-red in color; skin thin, tough; flesh firm, meaty when ripe, deep carrot-orange in color, with minute, widely scattered dark specks; flavor sweet, with no as-tringency even in the unripe fruit; seeds 3/4 inch long, few.

Recently introduced from Japan by the United States Department of Agriculture. Hume says: "It keeps well, and in quality is one of the best. We believe this variety will surpass all other Japan persimmons so far introduced as a market fruit. It can be placed on the market while still hard, and can be eaten without waiting for the fruit to soften."

Sketch of the Fuyugaki kaki
Fig. 47. The Fuyugaki kaki. (X about 1/2)

Hachiya (Fig. 48). - Form oblong-conical, with a short point at the apex; size very large, length 3 3/4 inches, thickness 3 1/4 inches; surface bright orange-red, with occasional dark spots and rings near the apex; flesh deep yellow, sometimes having a few dark streaks in it; flavor astringent until the fruit is fully ripe, then rich and sweet; seeds present. Ripens midseason to late.

Tree vigorous in growth, with a tendency to bear fruit in alternate years. It does not produce staminate flowers in Florida. The fruit is large and handsome. Said to be one of the principal varieties used in Japan for drying.

Ormond. - Form conical; size small to medium, length 2 5/8 inches, thickness 1 7/8 inches; base rounded, with the calyx reflexed ; apex sharp, not creased, or only slightly so; surface smooth, bright orange-red, covered with a thin bloom; skin thin, tough; flesh orange-red, meaty, or jelly-like in the fully ripe fruit; seeds large, long, pointed. Ripening season late (December in Florida).

A fruit of good quality, and one which keeps well.

Tamopan. - Form broadly oblate with a constriction around the middle; size large, weight sometimes 16 ounces, diameter 3 to 5 inches; surface smooth, orange-red in color; skin tough and rather thick; flesh meaty, light colored; flavor astringent until the fruit is fully ripe, then rich and sweet; seedless. Introduced from China by the United States Department of Agriculture. The tree is a strong, upright grower.

Tane-nashi (Fig. 49). - Form roundish conical, very symmetrical; size large to very large, length 3 1/3 inches, thickness 3 3/8 inches; surface very smooth, light yellow to bright orange-red; flesh yellow, soft; flavor sweet and pleasant; seedless. Ripens early.

sketch of the Hachiya kaki
Fig. 48. The Hachiya kaki. (X 1/2)

sketch of the Tane nashi kaki
Fig. 49. The Tane nashi kaki, one of the principal varieties used in Japan for the production of dried kakis, and now grown commercially in the United States. (X about 1/2)

The tree is vigorous, prolific, and self-fertile, but it has shown a tendency in California to bear in alternate years. Extensively used in Japan for drying and considered a valuable market variety in the United States. Perhaps the most highly esteemed of the light-fleshed kinds.

Triumph. - Form oblate; size medium; surface yellowish to deep orange-red; skin thick; flesh yellowish red, translucent, soft and juicy; flavor astringent until the fruit is fully ripe, when it becomes sweet and pleasant; seedless or with as many as 5 to 8 seeds. Ripens in Florida from September to December.

The tree does not produce staminate flowers in Florida. A fruit of good quality, recommended for home use and for market.

Tsuru. - Form slender, pointed; size large, length 3 3/8 inches, thickness 2 3/8 inches; surface bright orange-red; flesh orange-yellow; flavor astringent until the fruit is fully ripe, when it becomes sweet and pleasant. Ripens very late.
Tree vigorous and productive, but does not produce staminate flowers in Florida.

Group of Pollination Variants

Gailey. - Form oblong-conical, sharp at the apex; size small; surface dull red, pebbled; flesh meaty, firm, and juicy; flavor pleasant.
This variety regularly produces staminate flowers every year, and is recommended for planting as a pollinizer in conjunction with the larger- and better-fruited sorts. One tree of Gailey should be planted to seven or eight of other varieties except Tane-nashi.

Hyakume. - Form roundish oblong to roundish oblate, always somewhat flattened at both ends; size large to very large, length 2 3/4 inches, thickness 3 1/8 inches; surface light buff-yellow, marked with rings and veins near the apex; flesh dark brown, crisp and meaty; flavor sweet, not astringent even while the fruit is still hard. Ripens midseason.
The tree is vigorous and productive, but never produces staminate flowers in Florida. One of the standard commercial varieties in California.

Okame. - Form roundish oblate, with well-defined quarter-marks, and the apex not depressed; size large, length 2 3/8 inches, thickness 3 1/8 inches; surface orange-yellow, changing to brilliant carmine, with a thin bloom which gives it a waxy translucent appearance; flesh light colored, brownish around the seeds, of which there are several; flavor astringent until the fruit begins to ripen, when it becomes sweet and pleasant. Ripens rather early.
The tree is vigorous in growth and a good bearer. It bears staminate flowers sporadically in Florida. The fruit is excellent in quality.

Yeddo-ichi. - Form oblate; size large, length 2 1/2 inches, thickness 3 inches; surface smooth or undulating, dark orange-red, and covered with a distinct bloom; flesh dark brown, tinged purplish; flavor sweet and rich, not astringent even while the fruit is still hard.
A fruit of excellent quality.

Yemon. - Form oblate, somewhat four-angled; size large, length 2 1/4 inches, thickness 3 1/4 inches; surface light yellow, changing to reddish and mottled with orange-yellow; flesh dull red-brown, except in occasional light-fleshed specimens; few-seeded or seedless; flavor sweet and pleasant after the fruit begins to soften.
A fruit of excellent quality.

Zengi. - Form round or roundish oblate; size small, length 1 3/4 inches, thickness 2\ inches; surface yellowish red; flesh dark-colored; flavor sweet, even in the unripe fruit; seeds present. Ripens very early.
The tree is vigorous in growth and prolific in fruiting.

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Popenoe, Wilson. "Persimmon." Manual of Tropical and Subtropical fruits. 1920. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

Published 20 Nov. 2014 LR
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