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Jujube and jojoba

December 3, 2010

Many Chiang Mai monsoon gardens are adorned with ‘putsaa’, a native tree also called Indian jujube (Ziziphus mauritiana, Rhamnaceae). You pronounce jujube ‘jewjobe’ in English. The yellowish fruits the size of cherries are available in the Thai markets now. They taste like plums, but the texture is crispy like an apple. This is a monsoon tree, so no maintenance is needed, other than killing the Dendrophthoe parasites with your garden shears. It has a tidy appearance so even cosmetic pruning is unnecessary.

Its big sister is Chinese jujube (Ziziphus jujuba), or ‘putsaa djinn’ in Thai. The fruits look like small green apples, but unlike apples they have a stone in the center. This is also a refreshing fruit, common in the Chiang Mai markets now. Unfortunately, these trees seem to prefer a temperate climate so we can not grow them here in the Chiang Mai valley.

According to Mabberley’s Plant Book (2008) there are about 100 species of Ziziphus in the world.

A plant with a similar vernacular name is jojoba (pronounced hohoba). You may have seen the name as an emulsifier in cosmetic lotions. This is a desert plant (Simmondsia chinensis, Simmondsiaceae) from the Sonora and Mojave deserts in California and Mexico. It is not native to China or even Asia as the scientific name erroneously implies.

Eric Danell

Chinese jujube (top) and Indian jujube (bottom) at a Dokmai Garden party

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