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Diospyros

From The Plant Encyclopedia

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Diospyros chloroxylon

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Diospyros

Category
Kingdom Plantae
Division
Class
Order Ericales
Family Ebenaceae
Species in this genus
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About

Diospyros is a genus of about 450–500 species of deciduous and evergreen trees. The majority are native to the tropics, with only a few species extending into temperate regions. They are commonly known as ebony or persimmon trees. The generic name is derived from the Greek words διός (dios), meaning "of Zeus" and πυρός (pyros), meaning "grain"[1] and was originally applied to the Caucasian Persimmon (D. lotus).

Ecology

Diospyros species are important and conspicuous trees in many of their native ecosystems, such as lowland dry forests of the former Maui Nui in Hawaii,[2] Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests, Kathiarbar-Gir dry deciduous forests, Louisiade Archipelago rain forests, Madagascar lowland forests, Narmada Valley dry deciduous forests, New Guinea mangroves or South Western Ghats montane rain forests. The fruit are rich in tannins and thus avoided by most herbivores when unripe; when ripe they are eagerly eaten by many animals however, such as the rare Aders' Duiker (Cephalophus adersi).

The foliage is used as food by the larvae of numerous Lepidoptera species:

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An economically significant plant pathogen infecting many Diospyros species – D. hispida, Kaki Persimmon (D. kaki), Date-plum (D. lotus), Texas Persimmon (D. texana), Coromandel Ebony (D. melanoxylon) and probably others – is the sac fungus Pseudocercospora kaki, which causes a leaf spot disease.

Ebony jivari of a sitar

Use by humans

The genus includes several plants of commercial importance, either for their edible fruit (persimmons) or for their timber (ebony). The latter are divided into two groups in trade: the pure black ebony (notably from D. ebenum, but also several other species), and the striped ebony or Calamander wood (from D. celebica, D. mun and others). Most species in the genus produce little to none of this black ebony-type wood; their hard timber (e.g. of American Persimmon, D. virginiana) may still be used on a more limited basis.

Leaves of the Coromandel Ebony (D. melanoxylon) are used to roll South Asian beedi cigarettes. Several species are used in herbalism, and D. leucomelas yields the versatile medical compound betulinic acid. Though bees do not play a key role as pollinators, in plantations Diospyros may be of some use as honey plant. D. mollis, locally known as mặc nưa, is used in Vietnam to dye the famous black lãnh Mỹ A silk of Tân Châu district.

These trees are well-known in their native range, and consequently much used as floral emblems. In Indonesia, D. celebica (Makassar Ebony, known locally as eboni) is the provincial tree of Central Sulawesi, while ajan kelicung (D. macrophylla) is that of West Nusa Tenggara. The emblem of the Japanese island of Ishigaki is the Yaeyama kokutan (D. ferrea). In Thailand, the Gold Apple (D. decandra) is the provincial tree of Chanthaburi and Nakhon Pathom Provinces, while Black-and-white Ebony (D. malabarica) is that of Ang Thong Province. The name of the Thai district Amphoe Tha Tako literally means "District of the Diospyros pier" after a famous local gathering spot.


Species

D. geminata foliage and young fruit
D. whyteana twig with young fruit


See also

Footnotes

  1. Austin, Daniel F. (2004). Florida Ethnobotany. CRC Press. p. 267. ISBN 9780849323324. http://books.google.com/?id=eS7lX_rC3GEC. 
  2. The Nature Conservancy – Hawaii Operating Unit (March 2004) (PDF). Kānepuu Preserve Lānai, Hawaii Long-Range Management Plan Fiscal Years 2005–2010. Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources Natural Area Partnership Program. p. 3. http://www.state.hi.us/dlnr/dofaw/pubs/Kanepuu%20LRMP%20FY05-10.pdf. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 

References

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