Different types of fruit trees grow wild in Kentucky. These wild Kentucky fruit trees produce fruit ranging in size from berries to a much larger fruit that resembles a banana. The trees vary in size, from just larger than shrubs to medium-sized specimens.
Kentucky is in the middle of the geographic range of the common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana). Common persimmon grows to 60 feet tall, with a distinctive gray to black blocky segments all over the tree's trunk. The fruit of the common persimmon ripen by September or October, with any frosts hastening this process.
The ripe fruit tastes like dates, according to the University of Kentucky, but eating an unripe persimmon will leave with you a long-lasting puckered mouth from its astringent flavor. Persimmons in the wild thrive in upland sites as well as rich valleys.
The fruit of the pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) is the largest berry of any native North American fruiting species. Pawpaw trees develop in rich damp soil, with many cultivars of this tree in existence. Pawpaws usually stay between 15 to 20 feet tall, but can grow to 40 feet high. The 3- to 5-inch long fruit looks like a shrunken version of a banana, with a taste similar to a banana's and flesh that has a texture like custard. The ripe pawpaw fruit has wrinkles and is not ready for consumption until as late as November.
The green hawthorn ( Crataegus viridis) is native to portions of the eastern United States, from Pennsylvania and Indiana south to Florida and westward to Texas. Green hawthorn, part of the extensive Rose family, grows to 30 feet tall. The tree's white flowers have five petals. The fruit is only about one-half inch wide and occurs in drooping clusters, ripening to a red-orange shade in fall and often staying on the hawthorn into and through winter. Green hawthorn in the wild often forms dense thickets. The primary hybrid of green hawthorn, Winter King, is a popular ornamental species.
Downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) is grown as an ornamental tree because of its attractive clusters of white flowers in springtime. In Kentucky, downy serviceberry is an understory tree in the forests. The fruit undergoes many color changes before it ripens, going from green to reddish to a nearly black- purple shade by the end of June.
Birds consume the berries and people use them to make pies and various breads. The wood of downy serviceberry is among the heaviest in all of North America, but the small size of the tree--about 15 to 30 feet--precludes the species from being an important source of lumber.