Ziziphus (pronounced /ˈzɪzɨfəs/) is a genus of about 40 species of spiny shrubs and small trees in the buckthorn family, Rhamnaceae, distributed in the warm-temperate and subtropical regions throughout the world.
The leaves are alternate, entire, with three prominent basal veins, and 2–7 cm (0.79–2.8 in) long; some species are deciduous, others evergreen.
The flowers are small, inconspicuous yellow-green. The fruit is an edible drupe, yellow-brown, red, or black, globose or oblong, 1–5 cm (0.39–2.0 in) long, often very sweet and sugary, reminiscent of a date in texture and flavour.
The best known species is Z. zizyphus (Jujube). Other species include Z. spina-christi from southwestern Asia, Z. lotus from the Mediterranean region, and Ber (Ziziphus mauritiana), which is found from western Africa to India. Ziziphus joazeiro grows in the Caatinga of Brazil.
Ziziphus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Bucculatrix zizyphella, which feeds exclusively on the genus, and Endoclita malabaricus.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), suan zao ren (Ziziphus spinosa) is considered to be sweet and sour in taste, and neutral in action. It is believed to nourish the heart yin, augment the liver blood, and calm the spirit (TCM medical terms). It is used to treat irritability, insomnia and heart palpitations.
The mythological lotus tree is often equated with Z. lotus, though the Date Palm is also a possible candidate. The Indian name of Ziziphus is ber (or bor).
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