Amanda asks about a persimmon dropping fruit:
“I’m visiting my family in PA and my Mom says ‘ask David The Good why my persimmons are dropping’, so here I am. These aren’t tomatoes but green persimmons. There’s not a single one left on the tree and probably 15-20 on the ground. Some are rotting. Some are perfect like these except unripe. She says they did the same thing last year. It’s a beautiful healthy looking tree, so we thought you might have an answer.”
Let’s see if we can figure out why these persimmons are dropping. I know a few things about persimmons, though I’m not a persimmon expert. They’re usually a a very easy-to-grow tree with few problems – yet no tree is perfect!
A few problems may be causing this fruit drop. I’ll give a few options and maybe Amanda will be able to help her parents.
Is This a Young Persimmon Tree?
Young persimmon trees will often drop fruit for the first few years as they get established. I saw this in my persimmon trees back in North Florida.
“Young trees are more prone to drop fruit, whereas older, established, developed trees tend to more regularly store and make use of their reserve food. This food is stored while a tree is dormant and is used in the production of fruiting buds that swell and bloom in the spring. If a tree has not developed a system to properly store reserve food, the fruit that forms will compete for nutrients to feed them.
If there is too much fruit forming, ‘survival of the fittest’ kicks in, and the tree drops fruit. If the competition for nutrients is between the young fruit and the tree itself, your tree will sacrifice the lot so that it can live to fruit another year.”
It’s good for young trees to drop fruit. I recommend you don’t even let young trees produce any fruit as it’s better for them to grow strong roots and branches first. Nip off young fruit before they get bigger than a marble and the tree will spend its energy growing bigger and stronger instead of ripening fruit.
Yet what if this isn’t a a young tree? Could there be another reason this persimmon drops fruit?
The purpose of a fruit is to carry seeds. Fruits are designed to be carried away from the tree and eaten, spreading the seeds to new places where they can grow into trees. If there are no seeds in the fruit, the tree sometimes “knows” and will get rid of the fruit.
As Joshua Siskin writes in the LA Daily News:
“The reason persimmons fall from the tree before they ripen is the result of parthenocarpy, which a fascinating botanical phenomenon.
Parthenocarpy (a word that combines “parthenos,” meaning virgin, and “karpos” meaning fruit) is the production of fruit without fertilization. In certain persimmon varieties, parthenocarpically produced fruit is highly susceptible to dropping from the tree before it matures.
In general, what we call a fruit is actually a fully developed plant ovary. The ovary is a female flower part that grows in response to pollination and fertilization of the ovum or egg. Fertilization occurs after pollination — that is, after a male pollen grain from one flower is transferred to the female stigma of another flower — occurs.
A tube grows out from the male pollen grain into the female stigma and then continues to grow down through a filament called a style. At the base of the style, male genetic material from the pollen grain unites with female genetic material that is located there in the ovule (egg).
This mixing of male and female genetic material is known as fertilization, from which a seed is produced.
In most plants, hormone exuded by a developing seed stimulates growth of the ovary into a fruit. But in a few select plants — such as bananas, persimmons, figs, navel oranges, and Satsuma plums — fruits may grow without the benefit of seed formation. In the case of persimmons, although fruit can develop without seeds, larger crops will result and fruit will stay on the tree until ripe when pollination/fertilization and seed development occurs.
The most popular persimmon variety is ‘Fuyu,’ whose fruit often drops when it develops parthenocarpically. To ensure a crop, plant a pollinator variety such as ‘Gailey’ next to your ‘Fuyu.’”
Japanese persimmons do indeed produce fruit – often fine – without pollination… but not always! This could be another cause of these persimmons dropping fruit.
Too Much or Too Little
Finally, another problem with many fruit trees, persimmons included, is too much or too little fertilizer or water as the fruit is ripening.
If the ground is flooded it can cause fruit drop. Likewise, if the ground is too dry the tree will go into survival mode and start dropping fruit.
If you give a fruit tree too much nitrogen it may also decide to chuck its fruit in favor of a flush of new leaves.
A Persimmon Dropping Fruit Every Other Year
Finally, some persimmon trees lean towards alternate bearing. One year they might do great and carry lots of fruit to term – the next year they may decide to take a break. Remember, growing fruit is a resource-intensive process for a tree, expending lots of valuable energy. Sometimes they just can’t quite pull it off.
I hope this has been some help. Good luck with the persimmons and I hope you get a good crop next year.
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