The first cold night of the season came through this week and blackened all our tender vegetation. Annual salvia (Salvia coccinea) and Southern wood ferns (Thelypteris kunthii) were the first to go. Sad as it was, I will say that the remaining red salvia blooms looked pretty stunning against the darkened foliage!
Leaves are falling quickly for many of the trees now like tuliptree and maples. Oaks in general still have a lot of leaves and some of the showier ones like Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) are even just now starting to turn color in my area.
Trees and shrubs that have lost their leaves haven’t necessarily lost their fruit, however. I was struck this week by the look of persimmon trees (Diospyros virginiana) in my area that are bare of leaves, but still “decorated” with fruit ornaments.
I have a non-fruiting persimmon tree in my yard – perhaps it is a male tree (persimmon trees are dioecious) or it could be a female with no nearby males. I have seen it flower. I stopped at a home in my neighborhood to take pictures of the fruit on their tree. I am always glad to be able to talk to neighbors about the special trees that they have (in the hopes that they will remember the conversation and not cut it down one day!). I explained that the fruit is edible and delicious, as long as it is perfectly ripe. Eating a persimmon before it’s time will surely make your mouth pucker …. The fruit must separate easily from the stem before it is ready to eat.
While the leaves have not ALL fallen off, this mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) fruit is dangling hopefully … hoping to entice birds to eat it, that is. The fruit will remain until some bird needs it.
The leaves have long since fallen away from the fruits on this Chokeberry (Photinia pyrifolia formerly known as Aronia arbutifolia). The bright polished red of the berry is such an attractive sight. They often remain on the twigs until late winter. Perhaps the coldest temps are needed to make them tasty.
Sumac (Rhus) is a very recognizable roadside plant (not many people invite it into their garden) whose fruits persist long into the winter. Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) is probably the best looking of the genus – it’s sculpted clusters of bright red fruit attract the attention of both birds and people.
And this year I found a new persistent “fruit” to recognize: the dangling clusters of papery seeds borne in late fall by Boxelder (Acer negundo). Boxelder is a member of the Maple genus (Acer) and the seeds are samaras just like other maples. For years I have seen these on the roadside near my neighborhood. For a while I thought the dangling seeds belonged to a Locust of some type because I never stopped to look closely.
So keep your eyes open for the sights of these fruits that hang on after the leaves are gone and see what else you can discover. You can be sure that as the season progresses these things will find their way into the diet of a multitude of critters!
And remember - it's still a good time to plant trees and shrubs in Georgia!