Diospyros virginiana
Ebenaceae (ebonies)

A medium-sized tree, varying in size and shape with growing conditions.

Leaves alternate, simple, 2–6 inches long, 1–3 inches wide, broadest at the middle; margin lacking teeth; upper surface pale green, shiny; lower surface paler, smooth to somewhat hairy. Somewhat leathery.

Bark distinctive: dark brown to black, grooves deep, ridges broken into thick, square to rectangular blocks, resembling alligator hide.

Twigs slender, gray to reddish-brown, somewhat zigzag; pores orange; end bud absent.

Flowers late May–June, with male and female flowers on separate trees. Male flowers in clusters of 2–3, greenish-yellow, urn-shaped; female flowers solitary, urn-shaped with tips curved back, greenish-yellow to creamy white, fragrant.

Fruits September-October. Fruit orange to orange-purple, about ¾-1½ inches long and wide, globe-shaped; sweet, edible when ripe. Prior to ripening, astringent and puckery to taste.

Height: to 60 feet; to 30 feet in open-grown situations, where it has a shorter trunk.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in rocky, dry, open woods, edges of woods, glades, prairies, old fields, thickets, bottomland woods and valleys along streams. Generally not recommended in urban landscapes, despite its many good qualities; the fallen fruit can be messy, it has a tendency to sucker and it is difficult to transplant.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide, except for northwestern counties.
Human connections: 
Native Americans, explorers, settlers and others have all enjoyed the edible fruit. The fruits are notoriously astringent if they are eaten unripe. The dried leaves can be made into tea. The wood is used for golf club heads, textile shuttles, billiard cues and brush handles.
Ecosystem connections: 
A very important wildlife food. Fruit, buds and leaves are eaten by deer, opossum, squirrel, bobwhite, raccoon, wild turkey, red and gray fox and coyote. Many birds eat the fruit. A pioneering tree in disturbed landscapes, it plays an important role in reestablishing a mature ecosystem.
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