While both persimmon and kumquat plants may produce delicious orange fruits and have species with native ranges in Southeast Asia, they belong to entirely distinct botanical families. When comparing persimmon vs. kumquat, you should have no issues telling the plants or fruits apart.
In this guide, we’ll discuss their plant classifications, physical characteristics, native ranges and ideal growing conditions, culinary uses, ecological niches.
So, without further ado, let’s get to it!
Persimmon vs. Kumquat: A Quick Look
|Plant Classification||Diospyros spp.||Citrus japonica|
|Physical Characteristics||Woody, deciduous tree that can, depending on species, reach 20-80 feet tall at maturity with a 15-35-foot spread. Bark is thick, grey, and notably textured in a checkered pattern. The leaves are simple, alternately arranged, and elliptical-oval shaped. Leaves can be smooth along the margins or slightly serrated. They can grow up to 9 inches long and 4 inches wide. Tiny cream, pink, or yellow flowers are fragrant and urn-shaped with 4-5 petals. Blooms from late April to June. Fruits begin ripening in September and produce until December. Fruits are ripe when golden-orange in color. Ripe fruits are 1.5-4 inches in diameter.||Evergreen shrub that grows up to 8 feet tall at maturity with a 6-foot spread. Evergreen leaves are shiny, green, simple, oblong to lanceolate-shaped, and alternately arranged. Leaves grow to 2-4 inches long. Flowers are tiny, star-shaped with 5 petals, white, and have a pleasant fragrance. Blooms from late May-August. Fruits begin ripening in November and are produced through March. Fruit is ripe when bright orange. Mature fruits grow up to 2 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. The fruit is sour, juicy, and segmented like an orange.|
|Native Range and Ideal Growing Conditions||Depending on species, native to Eastern, Central, and Southwestern US (Diospyro virginiana, or India, China, Myanmar, and Korea (Diospyro kaki). Grows in full sun. Prefers loamy, well-draining, slightly acidic soil. Can readily adapt to clay and sandy soils. Fairly drought tolerant.||Native to Southern and Eastern Asia. Cold hardy and grows well in suitable regions around the world. Requires full sun. Prefers to grow in well-draining, moist, slightly acidic soil. Not drought hardy but notably the most cold hardy of citrus fruits. Thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones 8b-11.|
|Culinary Uses||Ripe fruit of US species is sweet and rich, while Asian species can be sweet but somewhat astringent. Fruits are commonly eaten raw, or can be used as ingredient in salads, baked goods, pancakes, jams, syrups, puddings, and ice cream. Persimmon leaves can be used to make tea.||Fruit can be eaten raw or used in fresh salads, bakes, and to make chutneys/sauces, jams, and candies.|
|Ecological Niches||Woodland mammals and birds eat the fruit. Browsers like deer eat the leaves and twigs. Decomposing fruit feeds microbial soil community. Trees provide shelter and nesting space for small mammals and birds.||Woodland mammals and birds eat the fruit. Browsers like deer eat the leaves and twigs. Decomposing fruit feeds microbial soil community.|
Shrubs provide shelter and nesting space for small mammals and birds.
While persimmon trees and kumquat shrubs may both produce tart, flavorful orange fruits, they belong to entirely different botanical species, genera, and families.
The persimmon belongs to the Ebenaceae family of flowering plants, of which there are two genera and over 500 species. The genus that persimmon trees belong to, Diospyros, contains about 480 species of the Ebenaceae family, while the Euclea genus contains the remaining 20 species.
There are two main species of persimmon: Diospyros kaki and Diospyros virginiana. So, we’ll be discussing both species in this guide.
Regarding their botanical classification, kumquat shrubs belong to the rue or citrus family, Rutaceae. This family includes flowering herbs, shrubs, and trees that generally have four or five-petaled fragrant flowers. Within this family are 160 genera of plants and about 2,070 species. The kumquat belongs to the Citrus genus of plants that produce the citrus fruits cultivated and consumed around the world. While citrus fruits are now cultivated in mostly warm, humid climates around the globe, the Citrus genus originated in tropical areas of Asia and Australia.
So, there are some disputes among botanists regarding classifying the four main kumquat varieties as separate species or grouping them into a single species, Citrus japonica. Currently, either system is generally accepted. For this guide, we’ll be using the one-species classification of kumquat as Citrus japonica.
Persimmon vs. Kumquat: Physical Characteristics
Since these plants are in entirely separate botanical families, they don’t tend to share many characteristics and are easily distinguished from one another.
Overall, the persimmon tree is much larger than kumquat shrubs in height, spread, size of leaves, and size of fruits. The Asian persimmon tends to grow to a shorter height of 20-30 feet, while the American persimmon generally reaches about 30-80 feet tall. Both the Asian persimmon and the American persimmon are deciduous trees with uniquely grey, thick, checkerboard-patterned bark that is a feature of interest in the winter.
The leaves of both persimmon species are simple, alternately arranged, and smooth along the margin or finely serrated. The leaves can range from 4-8 inches in length. Depending on the species, the urn-shaped flowers can be either yellow, cream, or pink. They are less than an inch in width with four to five petals. The flowers typically bloom from late April to June.
With persimmon trees, expect to see fruits beginning to ripen in September and continue producing until December. You’ll notice that fruits are ripe when they’re golden-orange in color. Depending on the species, mature fruits are 1.5-4 inches in diameter. Asian persimmons are typically much larger (the size of a peach) than American persimmons (the size of a plum).
Unlike the deciduous persimmon tree, the kumquat shrub is an evergreen that produces foliage year-round. It typically grows up to 8 feet tall at maturity with a 6-foot spread. The evergreen leaves are shiny, green, simple, oblong to lanceolate-shaped, and alternately arranged. The leaves typically grow between 2-4 inches long.
The flowers of kumquat shrubs are tiny, star-shaped with 5 petals, white, and have a pleasant fragrance. You’ll typically see them blooms from late May-August. Notably, kumquat fruits begin ripening in November, with the shrub continuing to produce all the way through Winter into March. Like the persimmon, the fruit is ripe when bright orange. Typically, mature kumquat fruits grow up to 2 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. The fruit is sour, juicy, and segmented like an orange.
Native Ranges and Ideal Growing Conditions
When comparing persimmon vs. kumquats, some species of these plants have overlapping native ranges. Both the Asian persimmon and the kumquat have native ranges in Eastern and Southern Asia. In contrast with the Asian persimmon, the native range of the American persimmon is parts of the Eastern, Central, and Southwest US.
Regarding their ideal growing conditions, both persimmon species prefer to grow in full sun to partial shade with well-draining, loamy soil with a pH of 6.0-8.0. However, persimmon trees are rather hardy and can adapt to a wide range of non-ideal soil types and growing conditions. They’re also fairly drought-tolerant. The main difference in growing conditions between the species is that the American persimmon is much more cold-hardy. It thrives in USDA growing Zones 4a-9b, while the Asian persimmon only thrives in Zones 7a-10b.
Similarly, the kumquat prefers to grow in full sun and well-draining, slightly acidic, loamy soil. It’s less tolerant of other soil types and not particularly drought tolerant. It is, however, the most cold-hardy citrus species. It can thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones 8b-11.
Persimmon vs. Kumquat: Culinary Uses
When comparing persimmon vs. kumquat, you’ll notice that their fruits are used in many of the same ways. Both are frequently used in baking, candies, puddings, jams, and fruit salads. You can eat either raw, although it’s important to eat some varieties of kumquat when they’re especially ripe as the fruits will be far too astringent.
The taste of these fruits can vary by cultivar, but generally, persimmons have a sweet, almost cantaloupe-like taste to them. The flavor is almost like honey. The skin is edible and many people enjoy simply snacking on persimmons raw. Some Asian varieties are much more tart and astringent, so waiting to eat those until they’re acutely ripe is advised.
However, you can use them in a variety of sweet dishes from baked goods to candies, and even ice cream! Their rich flavor and texture make them an excellent fruit to use for puddings, ice cream, sorbets, and jams. Additionally, persimmon leaves are also used to make tea!
In contrast to the sweet, richness of persimmons, kumquats have a sharper, tangier, and more sour flavor akin to other citrus fruits. They can also be eaten raw as long as they’re ripe enough. Some varieties are so astringent and tart when they’re not perfectly ripe that they’re almost inedible! With their powerful flavor, kumquats are excellent for use in tart jams, marmalades, baked goods, and puddings. You can even use their essence to flavor a batter or drink.
As fruit-bearing plants, both the persimmon and kumquat provide important services to their local ecosystems. Mammals and birds feast upon the fruit and browsers like deer feed upon the twigs and leaves. In fact, animals aren’t the only ones who benefit from fruit production. As some fruits drop and decompose into the soil, the microbial community benefits from accessing sugar as fungi and bacteria decompose the fruit.
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- Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center, Available here: https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/persimmon/
- Gardenia, Available here: https://gardenia.net/plant/citrus-japonica
- NC State Extension, Available here: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/diospyros-kaki/
- NC State Extension, Available here: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/diospyros-virginiana/
- Missouri Botanical Garden, Available here: https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=273471&isprofile=0&