Ziziphus oenoplia (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Ziziphus oenoplia (L.) Miller

Protologue: Gard. Dict., ed. 8, No 3 (1768).
Family: Rhamnaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= recorded as 20, 24 and 48


  • Ziziphus rufula Miq. (1855).

Vernacular names

  • Jackal jujube (En)
  • Indonesia: kukuhelang, bidara letek (Java)
  • Malaysia: akar kuku balam, kuku lang, akar kuku tupai
  • Burma: taw-zee-nway
  • Cambodia: sângkhoo
  • Laos: léb mèèw
  • Thailand: lep yieo (central), taa-chuu-mae (Karen, Chiang Mai), ma tan kho (northern)
  • Vietnam: táo rù'ng.

Origin and geographic distribution

Jackal jujube is indigenous to a large part of southern Asia, from India and Sri Lanka through Burma, Thailand, Indo-China, and the whole of Malesia. It is also found in northern Australia. In Malesia it is common in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, and in Java, probably also in the Philippines and in other areas, but the distribution of the species is incompletely known.


The bark contains tannin and is used occasionally in India for tanning hides into leather. The bark has several medicinal uses, common for plants containing tannin; it is used for healing wounds and stomachache. The roots serve as a remedy against hyperacidity and Ascaris infection. The fruits are edible. In India, jackal jujube is locally much used for fences, but it can also be a noxious weed forming almost impenetrable masses of prickly stems. The stems are sometimes used as fuelwood.


The tannin content of the bark is not very high, only about 12%. This makes the bark suitable for direct use in the tannery, but not for the preparation of tannin extracts. The bark of stems and roots contain betulinic acid and a number of cyclopeptide alkaloids, called ziziphines.


  • An evergreen, sometimes leaf-shedding, spiny scandent shrub or liana, up to 10 m, rarely up to 30 m long; branches initially densely brownish pubescent, with recurved stipular thorns at the base of petioles.
  • Leaves alternate and simple, herbaceous, ovate-lanceolate, 2.5-6 cm × 1.5-3.5 cm, oblique at base, more or less acute at apex, finely serrulate or subentire, with 3-5 prominent veins from the leaf-base, pubescent beneath, shortly petiolate.
  • Flowers in (sub)sessile axillary cymes, 5-merous and yellowish-green, with triangular-ovate calyx segments and minute, shortly clawed petals embracing the stamens, a disk filling the calyx tube and surrounding the 2-celled ovary, and 2 styles connate to near their tops.
  • Fruit an ellipsoid to almost globose drupe, ca. 8 mm in diameter, glabrous, dark blue or black when ripe.

The distinction of Ziziphus oenoplia from allied species is still obscure. This makes correct interpretation of literature, delimitation of the exact area of distribution and ascertainment of a complete synonymy very difficult.

Bark and especially fruits of Ziziphus xylopyra Willd. contain tannin. The fruits of this species are used locally in India for tanning, yielding a good leather, but they produce much mucilage. The bark of Ziziphus rugosa Lamk is used in the same way in Indo-China.


Jackal jujube occurs naturally in light secondary forests, in thickets and hedges, and also in savannas, usually in the lowland, in Java up to 300 m altitude, in India up to 1000 m. It grows well in fairly dry climates. In mainland Asia, it is confined to the hotter parts.


Not much is known about this species. The quality and properties of the tannin have never been studied in detail, and a taxonomic study of Ziziphus species in Asia is badly needed. Recent phytochemical studies indicate some interesting medicinal properties. However, jackal jujube could be useful to man in several ways, and further studies of this species, which has such a large area of distribution and which is locally very common, could be worth considering.


  • Backer, C.A. & Bakhuizen van den Brink, R.C., 1965. Flora of Java. Vol. 2. Noordhoff, Groningen, the Netherlands. p. 82.
  • Chadha, Y.R. (Editor), 1976. The wealth of India. Raw materials. Vol. 11. Publications & Information Directorate, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. p. 122.
  • Corner, E.J.H., 1988. Wayside trees of Malaya. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. The Malayan Nature Society. United Selangor Press, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. p. 610.
  • Mansfeld, R. & Schultze-Motel, J., 1986. Verzeichnis landwirtschaftlicher und gärtnerischer Kulturpflanzen. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany. p. 834.


C. Phengklai