Sunday, September 27, 2009

Persimmons, Gopher Tortoises and other native Wildlife

Native persimmons grow here along a fence. Tart and astringent, they'll be sweet after frost. Critters will find them. Sometimes broken branches from the weight of a raccoon are all that are left when I visit again after frost.

Our native persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is found from Florida north to Connecticut, west to Iowa and south to Texas.

Not far from the persimmon trees, I found the burrow of a gopher tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus. Notice the reddish soil around the opening. Clay soil is about two feet down into the earth here. The size of the opening to the burrow is indicative of the size of the turtle. Gopher tortoises are listed as a threatened species in Georgia and Florida.

Frequently a gopher turtle will site his burrow near a colony of silkgrass, pityopsis graminifolia. I've seen them eating silkgrass. In spring, silkgrass is a clump of glaucous grass with silvery reverse. In fall, the tall stems hold aster-like yellow blossoms.

"...Everything affecting the gopher tortoise's habitat affects the tortoise and ... eventually affects all other organisms in its ecosystem. Efforts to save the gopher tortoise are really a manifestation of our desire to preserve intact, significant pieces of the biosphere.

...We must preserve...the gopher tortoise and other species in similar predicaments, for if we do not, we lose a part of our humanity, a part of our habitat, and ultimately our world."

---Dr. George W. Folkerts, Department of Zoology, Auburn University, Alabama


  1. The gopher tortoise sounds interesting, thanks for sharing. You are so lucky to have them close by.

  2. Very interesting post. Your native persimmons must not grow this far north or I think I'd know about them. I luved the information about the gopher turtle.

  3. I did not know about gopher turtles. Thanks for the info. Your soil is very red!

  4. Very interesting! I love persimmons and wish they would be less pricey. I read about their high value for our health (55% of our daily recommended amount of vitamin A and 21% of vitamin C). I don't know if native persimmon fruit are eatable. Did you try?

  5. Its good to know the native wildlife and understand their habitat. This awareness would probably help prolonging their legacy before its too late.... cheers, and thanks for sharing... ~bangchik

  6. How interesting to see evidence of your gopher tortoise. I just finished reading a memoir about growing up in southern GA and there was all this interesting information about the environment there, including gopher tortoises. I enjoyed the book and you might enjoy it as well: Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray. Oh, and I stopped by here to thank you for faving me through Blotanical - thank you!


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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