Botanical Description

The plants of genus Ziziphus are erect trees, or small to large shrubs, usually spiny, glabrous, or relatively hairy. Leaves are alternate or, rarely, sub-opposite, simple and coriaceous, or membranous, acuminated and toothed, three- to five-nerved from the base, and petiolated with stipules. The leaf base is either asymmetrical or symmetrical. Flowers are actinomorphic and hermaphroditic, borne sometimes solitarily or grouped two or three together in axillary cymes or in umbels arranged in terminal panicles or thyrses. Inflorescences may be pedun-culated or sessile. The calyx is usually arranged with triangular acute lobes or dentates. The petals are long, unguiculated at the base, and clasp the stamens or the filaments. The stamens are partly adnate to the petal bases, and insert under the edge of the disk. The ovary is superior or sub-inferior, and sunk into the disk. It is two- to four-celled, with two to four styles. When a two-celled ovary is present it produces one seed. The fruits are subglobose, ovoid, or oblong (Figure 87.1). The flesh of the drupe is usually a juicy pulp, but may rarely be relatively dry. The seeds contain large embryos with a sparse or absent endosperm. They are enclosed within a hard, woody endocarp known as the stone, which is sometimes erroneously referred to as the "seed" (Figure 87.2). At the middle of each fruit, one stone is embedded in the pulp. Stones can be round, sub-ovate, or ovate in shape, with more or less pronounced ridges on the outer surface. Cleaned stones are about 1—2 cm in size, containing one or two seeds (Pareek, 2001). The complete botanical description of the genus Ziziphus is provided in Table 87.1.

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