Friday, August 12, 2016

P IS FOR...............

The native Texas persimmon, Diospyros texana, grows wild in my garden. A small tree with exfoliating bark which exposes a pink white and grey patterned trunk, it grows to about 10' It is a favorite source of fruit for wildlife producing small green fruits which ripen to black in the month of August.

The tree is dioecious, meaning that male and female are separate individuals. So this is a female tree. I have another female tree behind the potting shed. It seeded there a few years ago.

Exposed bark
Imagine my surprise when, walking out through the gate, I saw a fox up in the tree. I backed off, and watched him for 10 minutes as he pawed at the branches to reach the fruit. The branches may be strong but they are not very wide. Foxes are clearly very nimble.

Last fall I was surprised to find three papaya plants growing in the compost bins. I shouldn't have been, because I must have put thousands of seeds in there and as my compost never gets really hot it is inevitable that seeds will survive.  Being the gardener that I am, unfortunately, I had to save them, potting them up and keeping them in the greenhouse over the winter.

They have done amazingly well this summer growing to about 5' and now sporting flowers. I now needed to do some research. Not that I was hoping to actually grow some fruit but purely for my own education.
Native to South America but now grown in many tropical areas, the plant resembles a small palm tree in growth, losing the lower leaves and leaving a bare trunk. Trees are either male, female or bisexual. I think the first one I have is a female so unless it has both male and female flowers there will be no chance of fertilization. I am not sure about the other tree or the 5 that have popped up in the ground. They only germinated this spring so have some catching up to do. They love the heat and they are certainly getting that this summer. They are in full sun against a very hot south facing wall.

Given the right conditions they will fruit successfully in a pot. I photographed this one below earlier this year in Bagan, Mayanmar. Judging by the multitude of flowers I think this particular one must be bisexual. But Bagan is in the desert so not quite the Central Texas climate.

Potted papaya, Bagan, Myanmar

Same plant with fruit
Even if the plant fails to fruit I will try to winter it over in the house as a nice house plant. As to those 5 other ones in the know how hard it is going to be for me to just pull them out, unless they are all males.

A  gift of 3 bare stems 2 years ago, from garden blogger Austin Agrodolce,  who wrote about her own plumeria here in 2012. They, too, were passalongs and I passed along one of my plants to someone else. All are white and quite divine.

The rootless stem began to send out leaves when it was sitting in my laundry room. I potted it up but the first year it failed to bloom. This year it has bloomed non-stop for several months with new leaves and fruit buds forming all the time. It has a delightful fragrance. I feel like I am in tropical heaven.


Plumbago auriculata

Plumbago auriculata, may be native to South Africa but it certainly loves Texas. A deciduous shrub, which usually dies back to the ground every winter, did not do so this year. I did cut it back a little but it really has become rampant this year. It is heat tolerant but prefers some afternoon shade.
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides is a creeping form of the plant with a darker blue flower and hugging the ground. I am glad that it has now taken over from the blue mistflower which was very untidy. This may, however, be a bad sign if it spreads unwanted into other plants. It has been slow to spread for me and is deciduous in winter, but makes up for that at the hottest time of the year when it greets every day with fresh self-cleaning flowers.

Ceratostigma plumbagoides
I used to have the most prolific pomegranate tree. In 2009 there were more than 150 fruits. It had been a mild winter followed by a rainy summer. It was a bountiful harvest but also that wet summer spelled doom for the tree as a fungus developed in the main trunk. We eventually pulled it out.
With no other place to plant another tree we eventually planted one outside the walls. Deer browse and there is no water. This year there are 5 pomegranates. They look rather small but I'm hoping they will provide us with a few arils for our breakfast cereal and salad. Pomegranates are always expensive so every one will be worth its weight in gold!


  1. That fox is precious, and I am jealous of those successes with the plumeria - my potted one stubbornly refuses to bloom! - and the papayas. We have papaya seedlings come up everywhere in the garden every summer because of the compost we distribute, and I always end up potting up the biggest one, but not even in the sun room have I been able to get them through the winter.

    1. How interesting to hear we share some of the same experiences and a love of papaya. I did have one failure and I think it was caused by too much water. I will keep them much drier this year-and in the house. I am planning to pot them up into something a little bigger. Good luck with the plumeria.

  2. What a great collection of Ps you have! That photo of the fox was a great catch - given the broken branches "my" raccoons leave behind, I don't think they're nearly as nimble as your fox when they climb our persimmon trees. My persimmons have large fruit this year (although the foliage looks awful). It remains to be seen whether any of the fruit will ripen intact.

    1. I wonder if yours is the oriental variety. Are the fruits orange?

  3. Amazing photo of the fox in the persimmon tree! Never heard of such a thing!

    I understand that very ripe Texas persimmons are edible for people too? ( Though I guess most of them may be eaten by wildlife before you get a chance to taste them?

    1. Yes, Aaron. I have heard that too but honestly they just don't appeal. The tree is loaded this year so maybe the foxes will be back again. As long as they don't leave the remains on the path.