To the genus zizyphus belong about two hundred species of shrubs or small trees, which usually reach the 4-5 metres of height, slow-growing, of Asian and Mediterranean origin. They have been cultivated for centuries as fruit trees; z. sativa is the most common species in Italy, accompanied by z. jujuba: they are large shrubs or small trees, with deciduous leaves, of fairly small size, with roundish foliage, usually quite messy.
The bark of Zizyphus jujuba is dark and the stems are thickly branched; the foliage is small, bright green, with a serrated edge. In spring, at the foliar axil, the Zizyphus jujuba produces small yellowish flowers, of scarce decorative value; during the autumn months, the small fruits ripen, similar to pulpy olives: of green colour, when ripe, they progressively become of reddish-brown colour. The fruits are not easy to find on the market, they are quite sweet, with a floury consistency.
On the market it is possible to find also grafted varieties, called jujube apple, with fruits of conspicuous dimensions, with a sugary and firm pulp. Some parts of the plant are also utilized in phytotherapy and herbal medicine.
Family and gender
Rhamnaceae, Ziziphus jujuba
Type of plant
Shrub or sapling
Sun, half shade
Medium to very rustic
Poor, well drained, calcareous
Yellow flowers, brown fruits
Abundant, but spaced out.
Withstands drought well
Once a year
Seed, cutting, division, grafting
Orchard, isolated specimen, natural hedges
It prefers sunny, or even semi-shady, positions; they do not fear the cold, but it seems that the plants cultivated in areas with a very hot summer climate give a better fructification. These are rustic trees, which also find their place in places with extreme climatic conditions, with very dry and warm climate.
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The jujube is a fruiting species native to the tropical areas of Asia. It is very common in Africa and the Far East and throughout the Mediterranean basin. It was once widespread throughout Europe and was also well known by the Romans (who perhaps introduced it to the continent).
It belongs to the genus Ziziphus, about 80 species, and to the family of the Rhamnaceae, It is generally a shrub or tree that goes, on average, from 3-4 metres of height up to 15 (rarely we reach the 20). The tip is rounded, but with decumbent branches. These are very thorny, with bark from grey to brown, little fissured. The wood inside the cracks takes on a pink to reddish colour. The twigs are tomentose and whitish and develop in a zigzag pattern.
The spines are arranged two by two in correspondence of the foliar axil: one is very straight, sharp and oriented towards the other, about 2 cm long. The other has the shape of a hook, goes downwards and is shorter.
The leaves are alternate and have a very variable shape, usually from elliptical to oval with a finely indented edge. The upper face is bright green, while the lower face is greyish and pubescent.
The inflorescences come out from the foliar armpits, are 2 to 4 cm broad and are composed by 3-8 flowers: yellowish, with a diameter going from 3 to 4 mm of diameter. The stamens are placed on the petals.
The fruit is a globular, glabrous drupe of about 1,5 cm of diameter. The shape varies greatly depending on the cultivar: round, elongated or even periphery. When ripe, its colour varies from brown to purplish. It contains a stone wrapped in whitish pulp that can be more or less floury. Its taste is reminiscent of unripe apples. Once dried, however, they are very reminiscent of dates. They are very rich in vitamin A and C, iron, calcium and sugar (they can be compared to figs in this respect).
They can be dried, candied or used for the production of jams or reduced to a paste.
Flowering takes place in spring, usually around the month of May, the harvest is in full autumn.
They grow without any problems in any soil, even stony or arid; usually it is advisable to place them in a good garden soil, mixed with a good quantity of manure, taking care to choose a fairly permeable substratum. They develop without any problems also in places with dry and poor soil, but, usually, a fertile soil guarantees a better fructification and a bigger size of the fruits.
The common jujube (also called Chinese date) is a rustic species which tolerates at least up to -15 °C (some sources testify even up to -30). The ideal environment for its growth are the dry and stony hills, preferably with calcareous soil. However, it is not particularly demanding. It requires only a good drainage, but is capable to bear also rather salty soils close to the coasts. It has a rather slow growth and can live happily up to 30-40 years.
It tolerates very well aridity and is able to tolerate very well even long periods without precipitation or irrigation. For this reason, for example, it has been successfully introduced in many semi-desert areas. However, it should be noted that the lack of water leads to a decrease in yield and therefore less fruit.
Although they tolerate the cold very well, they prefer areas with rather long vegetative periods. If the cold is predominant, they find it difficult to reach full maturity and therefore give a conspicuous production.
It usually happens by seed, even if, usually, on the trees thus obtained, are grafted particularly fruiting varieties.
Usually, the jujube bears without any problems even very prolonged drought periods; the trees planted since many years do not need watering, whilst the young specimens can benefit from sporadic watering during the summer months.
Pests and diseases
Usually jujubes do not suffer from the attack of parasites or diseases; the late ripening of the fruits makes the jujubes fruits that usually do not need insecticide treatments. In the Mediterranean areas it is hit by the fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata) which lays its eggs under the skin of the fruit when it is ripening. We pay particular attention to the appearance of traces of stings or tunnels under the skin.
It is an insect that can have several generations throughout the year (especially in the South) and also attack other fruits such as citrus fruits, figs, apples and peaches. Specific products are used at the time of oviposition, especially cytotropic products.
History of the jujube
The common iris has been cultivated for more than 4000 years in China and arrived in the Mediterranean basin about 2000 years BC. It was brought from Syria to Rome under Emperor Augustus (63 BC) who then introduced it throughout Italy and southern France. Its area of present diffusion includes the South and South-East of Europe, the Near and Middle-East, in the North-West of India, the Himalayas, the North of China, Japan and the South-West of the United States.
Homer in the IX The song of the Odyssey speaks of the land of the Lotophages, i.e. the jujube eaters. According to the author, this fruit had the power to make people happy because it even made the sailors accompanying Ulysses forget their love for their country. According to some scholars, the area mentioned in the book can be located between the current Tunisia and Libya. This could be the island of Djerba in particular.
Today, unfortunately, this plant risks disappearing almost everywhere in the Mediterranean because it is used less and less. In fact, until just over half a century ago it was part of everyday life and was the fruit symbol of the transition between summer and winter products. It was toasted on fire like chestnuts and sold in paper cones.
Where and when to plant it
The iris requires positions in full sun or at least well-lit.
When it is planted in the open field it is used to insert it alternating with peaches and almonds in order to make the plot productive and profitable in the first 15 years.
Usually the specimens are sold with bare roots or with a small clod of soil, in autumn.
Beforehand (at least one month in advance, to allow the soil to oxygenate and revitalize properly) you must dig a hole at least 40 cm wide and deep. On the bottom we can insert a good quantity of mature floured manure or cornunghia. After inserting a layer of soil to isolate we can introduce the plant and block it with the remaining substrate. If this is too compact or it is advisable to mix it with sand and a little ‘gravel.
In case we are in an area with extremely clayey soil it may also be a good idea to prepare a drainage layer with natural material at the bottom of the hole.
The ideal distance between specimens to be grown as a tree is 5 meters in all directions.
If we want to use them to create a hedge should be spaced from 50 to 80 cm.
Treatment during the first few years
At least during the first three or four years, water should be administered periodically. The best way to do this is to distribute a large quantity of water, but to allow a lot of time to pass between one distribution and the next. In this way the tree will be stimulated to grow its root system very deeply and this will make it more resistant to any future periods of drought.
Afterwards it will be better to prepare a good mulch based on straw, pine bark and other material. This will help the plant to become more autonomous and will significantly reduce the need for mechanical or chemical weeding.
As we have said, this is a plant that needs few resources. It will be sufficient to distribute each year a slightly nitrogen fertilizer to stimulate its vegetative growth. If you want to have very substantial harvests this dose can be enriched and you can also add a little ‘of phosphorus and especially potassium.
The iris is often kept as a bush or sapling to help harvest the fruit. Usually every three years in May it is used to eliminate branches that go towards the centre of the plant or are badly positioned. To make a sapling is necessary from the beginning cut the tip rather low and select three or four branches to maintain, possibly going outward and in different directions.
Propagation of jujube
The iris can be multiplied by seed, cutting, sucker division and grafting.
– Store the seeds for three months in a warm place and then another three months in the cold in damp sand. This stratification will allow the seed to germinate in spring.
– Place the seeds in boxes in a cold greenhouse. To facilitate the release of the first rootlet, it is advisable to cut the outer tegument.
– Germination can take place in the first or second spring. The plants will have to be repacked in small pots to be kept sheltered during the first year. They can then be planted the following year, during the summer.
It multiplies rather easily by apical cutting taken between November and January. A portion of a one-year-old twig should be cut off from a bud. The leaves at the bottom are removed and everything is placed in a cold box with a very light substrate.
During the winter, the basal jets can be separated with a portion of the root and planted directly on the ground.
The buds are harvested around spring and kept in the cold before proceeding with the grafting in spring.
Fruit production starts from the fourth year after sowing and reaches full yield at the age of 15. Usually ripening takes place in autumn, but the periodicity can vary considerably depending on the specific cultivars. For dry consumption, jujubes must be placed on grates in the sun for at least ten days.
Jujube – Zizyphus jujuba: Curiosities
The saying “to go in jujube broth” refers to the goodness of that product: in reality it is a slightly alcoholic syrup made from jujube, grapes and apples obtained by infusion.
- Jujube is a fruit plant that belongs to the Rhamnacee family. Si tratta di una pianta che proviene
visita : pianta di giuggiole