Temporal range: Eocene–Recent
Flowers of Diospyros kaki
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ebenaceae
Genus: Diospyros
Type species
Diospyros lotus
About 750 species
  • Cargillia R.Br.
  • Cavanillea Desr.
  • Ebenus Kuntze (nom. illeg.)
  • Embryopteris Gaertn.
  • Guaiacana Duhamel (nom. illeg.)
  • Idesia Scop.
  • Maba J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.
  • Mabola Raf.
  • Macreightia A.DC.
  • Noltia Thonn.
  • Paralea Aubl.
  • Pimia Seem.
  • Rhaphidanthe Hiern ex Gürke
  • Ropourea Aubl.
  • Royena L.
  • Tetraclis Hiern

Diospyros is a genus of over 700 species of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. The majority are native to the tropics, with only a few species extending into temperate regions. Individual species valued for their hard, heavy, dark timber, are commonly known as ebony trees, while others are valued for their fruit and known as persimmon trees. Some are useful as ornamentals and many are of local ecological importance. Species of this genus are generally dioecious, with separate male and female plants.[2]

Taxonomy and etymology

The generic name Diospyros comes from a Latin name for the Caucasian persimmon (D. lotus), derived from the Greek διόσπυρος : dióspyros, from diós (Διός) and pyrós (πῡρός). The Greek name literally means "Zeus's wheat" but more generally intends "divine food" or "divine fruit".[3][4]

The genus is a large one and the number of species has been estimated variously, depending on the date of the source. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, list has over 1000 entries, including synonyms and items of low confidence. Over 700 species are marked as being assigned with high confidence.[5]

The oldest fossils of the genus date to the Eocene, which indicate by that time Diospyros was widely distributed over the Northern Hemisphere.[6]


The leaves of Diospyros blancoi have been shown to contain isoarborinol methyl ether (also called cylindrin) and fatty esters of α- and β-amyrin.[7] Both isoarborinol methyl ether and the amyrin mixture demonstrated antimicrobial activity against Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans, Staphylococcus aureus, and Trichophyton interdigitale.[7] Anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties have also been shown for the isolated amyrin mixture.[7]


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,[8] Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests, Khathiar–Gir dry deciduous forests, Louisiade Archipelago rain forests, Madagascar lowland forests, Narmada Valley dry deciduous forests, New Caledonian sclerophytic vegetation,[9] New Guinea mangroves or South Western Ghats montane rain forests.

The green fruits are avoided by most herbivores, perhaps because they are rich in tannins. when ripe, they are eagerly eaten by many animals however, such as (in East Africa) the rare Aders' duiker (Cephalophus adersi). The foliage is used as food by the larvae of numerous Lepidoptera species:








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.

Use by humans

Ebony jivari of a sitar

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. Extracts from Diospyros plants have also been proposed as novel anti-viral treatment.[10] Though bees do not play a key role as pollinators, in plantations Diospyros may be of some use as honey plants. D. mollis, locally known as mặc nưa, is used in Vietnam to dye the famous black lãnh Mỹ A silk of Tân Châu district.

The reverence of these trees in their native range is reflected by their use 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). The Gold apple (D. decandra), called "Trái thị" in Vietnamese, is a tree in the Tấm Cám fable. It is also the provincial tree of Chanthaburi as well as Nakhon Pathom Provinces in Thailand, while the 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", the latter being a popular local gathering spot.

Selected species

See also: List of Diospyros species

Diospyros buxifolia leaves
Diospyros celebica wood
Gold apple (D. decandra) fruit
Diospyros discolor in Central Luzon, Philippines
Diospyros geminata foliage and young fruit
Diospyros revaughanii in Mauritius
Diospyros virginiana in Tampa, Florida
Diospyros whyteana twig with young fruit
Diospyros eriantha foliage
Diospyros ferrea, slow growth
Diospyros blancoi, known also as "Taiwan ebony", slow growth

See also


  1. ^ a b "Genus: Diospyros L." Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) [Online Database]. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, Maryland. 28 Apr 1998. Retrieved 15 Sep 2016.
  2. ^ Akagi, Takashi; Kajita, Kei; Kibe, Takanori; Morimura, Haruka; Tsujimoto, Tomoyuki; Nishiyama, Soichiro; Kawai, Takashi; Yamane, Hisayo; Tao, Ryutaro (2013). "Development of Molecular Markers Associated with Sexuality in Diospyros lotus L. and Their Application in D. kaki Thunb". Journal of the Japanese Society for Horticultural Science. 83 (3): 214–221. doi:10.2503/jjshs1.CH-109. hdl:2433/191079.
  3. ^ Jaeger, Edmund Carroll (1959). A source-book of biological names and terms. Springfield, IL: Thomas. ISBN 0398061793.
  4. ^ Tice, John. H. "Essay on the Diospyros virginiana" Annual report / Missouri State Horticultural Society 1864.
  5. ^ "Diospyros". The Plant List. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
  6. ^ Denk, Thomas; Bouchal, Johannes M. (2021-07-03). "Dispersed pollen and calyx remains of Diospyros (Ebenaceae) from the middle Miocene "Plant beds" of Søby, Denmark". GFF. 143 (2–3): 292–304. Bibcode:2021GFF...143..292D. doi:10.1080/11035897.2021.1907443. ISSN 1103-5897. S2CID 237648462.
  7. ^ a b c Ragasa, CY, Puno, MR, Sengson, JMA, Shen, CC, Rideout, JA, Raga, DD (November 2009). "Bioactive triterpenes from Diospyros blancoi". Natural Product Research. 23 (13): 1252–58. doi:10.1080/14786410902951054. PMID 19731144. S2CID 205836127.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ The Nature Conservancy – Hawaiʻi Operating Unit (March 2004). "Kānepuʻu Preserve Lānaʻi, Hawaiʻi Long-Range Management Plan Fiscal Years 2005–2010" (PDF). Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources Natural Area Partnership Program: 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-16. Retrieved 2009-04-09. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Paun, Ovidiu; Turner, Barbara; Trucchi, Emiliano; Munzinger, Jérôme; Chase, Mark W.; Samuel, Rosabelle (March 2016). "Processes Driving the Adaptive Radiation of a Tropical Tree ( Diospyros , Ebenaceae) in New Caledonia, a Biodiversity Hotspot". Systematic Biology. 65 (2): 212–227. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syv076. ISSN 1063-5157. PMC 4748748. PMID 26430059.
  10. ^ "Antiviral Agent and Antiviral Composition".