Saturday, March 30, 2013

Big Fruit Trees Can Work for Shade Too!

     I started a series of blogs concerning adding food producing plants into your landscape a couple of weeks ago.  The first two were devoted to nut bearing trees. This week I would like to turn your attention toward larger fruit bearing trees.  These trees provide three real assets to your site.  They provide flowering and/or color interest, fruit, and shade.  That is a lot of punch from a single plant.  Fruit bearing trees are not the tall shade trees that you will get from their nut bearing relatives, but they can get fairly tall.  While tall nut trees will reach 75 - 100', tall fruit trees will reach 20 - 30'.  That provides an interesting lower layer that is larger than an ornamental or a shrub.

Pawpaw fruit in the summer
     The first tree that I would like to bring to your attention is the pawpaw.  This is a lovely native tree that will reach 25 feet in height.  It was a favorite among the native American Indians and among our founding Fathers.  Thomas Jefferson actually loved this tree so much that he had seeds shipped to him when he was Minister to France.  The tree itself tends to look exotic and tropical with large oblong leaves and a pyramidal shape.  In the wild it grows along rivers and streams and at the edges of deep woods.  In your yard, try planting it where it gets light shade to full sun.  For the first year or two, you will need to provide some shade protection as the young seedlings are sensitive to excessive sun.  The trees will grow in the shade, and do grow in the woods under natural conditions, but they do not bear much fruit under shaded conditions.  Two trees planted fairly near each other will help ensure pollination. You will be rewarded with five inch long mango-like fruit that is great fresh or can be frozen as pulp and saved for later.  This is ripe and ready to pick when it is soft and smells sweet and fruity.
Persimmon have a lovely fall color
     The persimmon is another great native fruit tree.  This tree reaches 40 feet in height and has a more open and rounded canopy than the pawpaw.  It prefers full sunlight and is typically found on the forest edge in the wild.  The flowers are not as showy as some of the other fruit trees.  They are a small yellow-green waxy looking flower with four petals, but the fruit are showy in the fall.  The fruit are berries that gradually change from green to a deep orange.  Unripened fruit is very sour in flavor and care should be taken not to eat it in this state as it contains a tannin shibuol which polymerizes in the stomach.  The persimmon fruit have traditionally been used in puddings and cakes as well as eaten fresh.  The American persimmon is extremely high in vitamin C and calcium.
     For those wanting a more exotic or non-native tree, the mulberry might be a good choice.  Like the persimmon, the mulberry is a tree that produces a berry.  It has a rounded canopy and prefers full sun.  Depending on variety and location, the tree will reach 15 - 40' in mature height.  Flowers are insignificant, but the berries are prominent in the late summer, ripening from red into a black color when ripe.  Harvesting is best done by placing a sheet under the tree and shaking it when the majority of the berries are ripe.  I would like to caution you, however, about mulberries.  First, they are extremely attractive to birds who can create a sizable mess when the berries are ripe; so plant the tree away from things that you want protected.  The berries themselves stain everything that they come in contact with including hands if you are hand picking them.  Also, tree seedlings tend to spring up everywhere the birds have deposited the seed.  Expect to spend a good deal of each year weeding them out of places where they are not wanted.
     Finally, in the larger fruiting category, I would like to suggest the pear.  It is also not native, having originated in Europe, but it is a good reliable fruit tree.  The tree has an open rounded canopy and, depending on the variety, can reach 40 feet in height.  Blooms are in the spring and are showy and usually white.  Fruit ripens through the summer and is ready by late summer or early fall.  There are a large number of varieties of pear trees available and choice should be made based on your fruit preference and tree size requirements.  Pears are easy to grow and require full sun and a moderate amount of water.
     If you have a need for a tree that is smaller than the large nut or shade trees but larger than an ornamental, consider a larger fruit tree.  You might be delighted with the resulting tree and with the 'fruits of your labor'.


  1. The first tree that I would like to bring to your attention is the pawpaw. Fast Growing Tree Nursery

  2. Planting trees is not only time-consuming, it is also hard work, especially when you do it right like you said.

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  3. It is truly a great and helpful piece of information and nice collection. I am satisfied that you simply shared this useful information with us.

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