Ajuntament de Barcelona

Ziziphus jujuba

Miramar Garden and Camí dels Cims

    Catalan name: 
    Spanish name: 
    English name: 
    Chinese jujube
    Botanical synonyms: 
    Ziziphus vulgaris, Rhamnus zizyphus, Ziziphus zizyphus, Ziziphus officinarum, Ziziphus sativa
    Species characteristics
    Northern Africa and Syria
    Warm areas

    Deciduous tree d‘uns 2.5 m tall, although it can reach 10 m, with straight knotty trunk and very crinkly bark. It is very ramified and have prickled greenish small hanging branches, zigzag arranged. 

    The leathery leaves, 2-7 cm long, are simple and alternate. The upper side is bright green and they almost have not petiole. Their shape varies from oblong to oval lanceolate, with finely serrate margins and acute or rounded apex. The leaves have three main longitudinal nerves and two prickled stipules (appendices growing on both sides of the leaf's insertion place) at the base, which are result of the plant's adaptation to protect itself from the herbivores.

    The greenish yellow flowers, 3-4 mm in diameter, are not very bright nor colourful. They are axillary and appear into groups of 2-3 all the branches long.

    The fruits are globose or elliptical edible drupes, 2-3 cm long (although some grafted varieties produce fruits 5-6 cm). Their colour is reddish or, when ripe, brownish. The pulp is floury, edible and sweet and it contains a single seed.

    Flowering time: 
    Fruiting time: 
    Uses and properties: 

    Jujube's fruit is rich in sugar, starch and Vitamin C and is normally eaten as a fruit, either fresh or dry. The wood is used to make musical instruments such as flutes and oboes.

    It is also used in medicine.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name, Ziziphus jujuba, consists of the genus name Ziziphus, from the Greek word ζίζυφον, "jujube", and the term jujuba, Medieval Latin form from the Latin zizyphum, "jujube", which was an adaptation of the Greek ζίζυφον.

    The jujube scientific name has a curious story because of the combination of botanical nomenclature regulations and spelling variations. In 1753, in Species Plantarum, Carl Linnaeus described the species under the name Rhamnus zizyphus. Only fifteen years later, in 1768, Philip Miller considered the plant enough different from the plants of the genus Rhamnus to assign the jujube to a new genus under a new name, Ziziphus jujuba, using Linnaeus’s species name as a genus name with a spelling change (probably by error): ziziphus instead of zizyphus; given that in botanical nomenclature the tautonyms (repetition of the exactly the same name in the genus and in the species) are not allowed, he used the term jujuba for the species. However, given the difference in spellings, Ziziphus zizyphus, a combination made by Hermann Karsten in 1882, is not considered a tautonym and, thus, is a valid botanical synonym.

    It is probable that the jujube was indigenous from Northern Africa and Syria, from where they was introduced into India and China more of 4,000 years ago. Through the Sahara, it reached the Moroccan coast and from there it moved to Andalusia and later to the rest of Mediterranean Iberian Peninsula. Although in Valencia and Catalonia the jujubes, and their fruits, were very common, nowadays their presence has decreased notably.

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001