Syzygium cumini, commonly known as Malabar plum, Java plum, black plum, jamun or jambolan, is an evergreen tropical tree in the flowering plant family Myrtaceae, and favored for its fruit, timber, and ornamental value. It is native to the Indian Subcontinent, adjoining regions of Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the Andaman Islands. It can reach heights of up to 30 metres (98 ft) and can live more than 100 years. A rapidly growing plant, it is considered an invasive species in many world regions.
The name of the fruit: black plum, is sometimes mistranslated as blackberry, which is a different fruit in an unrelated order. Syzygium cumini has been introduced to areas including islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The tree was introduced to Florida in 1911 by the United States Department of Agriculture, and is commonly grown in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. Its fruits are eaten by various native birds and small mammals, such as jackals, civets, and fruit bats.
A slow growing species, it can reach heights of up to 30 m and can live more than 100 years. Its dense foliage provides shade and is grown just for its ornamental value. At the base of the tree, the bark is rough and dark grey, becoming lighter grey and smoother higher up. The wood is water resistant after being kiln-dried. Because of this, it is used in railway sleepers and to install motors in wells. It is sometimes used to make cheap furniture and village dwellings, though it is relatively hard for carpentry.
The leaves which have an aroma similar to turpentine, are pinkish when young, changing to a leathery, glossy dark green with a yellow midrib as they mature. The leaves are used as food for livestock, as they have good nutritional value.
Syzygium cumini trees start flowering from March to April. The flowers are fragrant and small, about 5 mm in diameter. The fruits develop by May or June and resemble large berries; the fruit of Syzygium species is described as "drupaceous". The fruit is oblong, ovoid. Unripe fruit looks green. As it matures, its color changes to pink, then to shining crimson red and finally to black color. A variant of the tree produces white coloured fruit. The fruit has a combination of sweet, mildly sour and astringent flavour and tends to colour the tongue purple.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||251 kJ (60 kcal)|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. |
Source: USDA FoodData Central
Raw fruit is 83% water, 16% carbohydrates, 1% protein, and contains negligible fat. In a 100 gram reference amount, the raw fruit provides 60 calories, a moderate content of vitamin C, and no other micronutrients in appreciable amounts (table).
The 1889 book 'The Useful Native Plants of Australia’ records that the plant was referred to as "durobbi" by Indigenous Australians, and that "The fruit is much eaten by the natives of India; in appearance it resembles a damson, has a harsh but sweetish flavour, somewhat astringent and acid. It is eaten by birds, and is a favourite food of the flying fox (Brandis)." The fruit has been used in traditional medicine.
Cultural and religious significance in IndiaEdit
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Krishna is also known to have four symbols of the jambu fruit on his right foot as mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam commentary (verse 10.30.25), "Sri Rupa Chintamani" and "Ananda Candrika" by Srila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura.
In Maharashtra, S. cumini leaves are used in marriage pandal decorations. A song from the film 'Jait re Jait (1977)' mentions the fruit in the song 'Jambhul Piklya Zaadakhali'.
Besides the fruits, wood from Neredu tree (as it is called in the region's language, Telugu) is used in Andhra Pradesh to make bullock cart wheels and other agricultural equipment. The timber of Neredu is used to construct doors and windows.
Legend speaks of Auvaiyar (also Auvayar), of Sangam period (Tamil literature), and Naval Pazham in Tamil Nadu. Auvaiyar, believing to have achieved everything that is to be achieved, said to have been pondering over her retirement from Tamil literary work while resting under Naval Pazham tree. But she was met with and was wittily jousted by a disguised Murugan (regarded as one of the guardian deities of Tamil language), who later revealed himself and made her realize that there is still a lot more to be done and learnt. Following this awakening, Auvaiyar is believed to have undertaken a fresh set of literary works, targeted at children.
- Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) & IUCN SSC Global Tree Specialist Group (2019). "Syzygium cumini". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T49487196A145821979. Retrieved 27 October 2020.
- "Syzygium cumini". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- "Syzygium cumini". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 22 October 2017.
- Julia F Morton (1987). "Jambolan, Syzygium cumini Skeels". In: Fruits of Warm Climates, p. 375–378; NewCROP, New Crop Resource Online Program, Center for New Crops and Plant Products, Purdue University. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
- "Syzygium cumini (black plum)". CABI. 21 November 2019. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
- "Syzygium cumini". Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk. 30 December 2011.
- The encyclopedia of fruit & nuts, By Jules Janick, Robert E. Paull, p. 552
- Chen, Jie & Craven, Lyn A., "Syzygium", in Wu, Zhengyi; Raven, Peter H. & Hong, Deyuan (eds.), Flora of China (online), eFloras.org, retrieved 2015-08-13
- J. H. Maiden (1889). The useful native plants of Australia : Including Tasmania. Turner and Henderson, Sydney.
- Vishvanatha, Cakravarti Thakura (2011). Sarartha-darsini (Bhanu Swami ed.). Sri Vaikunta Enterprises. p. 790. ISBN 978-81-89564-13-1.
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