Monday, December 2, 2019

Java Plum - Syzygium cumini

The Java Plum -  Syzygium cumini, Is a fast growing evergreen tree that reaches heights of 30-80 feet tall depending on the location/conditions planted.  It is considered a tropical tree and is a member of the flowering plant family Myrtaceae.  It grows in an erect single trunk they could be straight or crooked in form with a rounded crown.  The tree was introduced to Florida in 1911 by the USDA, it originated from Asia, specifically India and Burma.  It has become established in Maritime hammocks, lake margins, flatwoods and rocklands throughout Central and Southern Florida.  It is similar to the Malabar Plum Syzygium jambos but can be distinguished by the different sized leaves and fruit.  It is treated by the state of Florida as an invasive species. It can be found growing from Sea Level to 6000 feet above in the tropics. It grows best in areas with very high rain or humidity levels.
Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

The leaves of the Java Plum are opposite, simple, thick, leathery, elliptic or oblong in shape with a rounded base and tip.  The upper surface of the leaves are lustrous and dark green in color with visible yellow lateral veins, the lower surface is a yellow-green in color and duller in sheen. Leaf blades are 7-18 cm long and 3-10 cm broad with a light yellow petiole of 5-25 mm long.  The leaves are said to smell similar to turpentine when crushed. The flowers are individually small in size only reaching 7 mm long, with 4 petals, fused in a rounded cap that opens and exposes a mass of white or pink threadlike stamens.  The flowers are produced in clusters 5-6cm long on the wood of the previous year.  Flowers on the Java Plum occur year round.  The fruit is fleshy with a single seed, it occurs as a oblong or ellipsoid berry that is 1-2.5 cm long and 2 cm in diameter.  When young the fruit is green becoming pink, red and then a purple-black.  The fruit matures year round the same as the flowers.  The pulp ranges from purple to white and is very juicy, with a sweet flavor in high quality varieties to astringent flavor in poorer varieties.


Image Citation: Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

The products of the Java Plum are used for various purposes.  The fruit is used to make wine and vinegar, they are also a high source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.  The fruit seeds are used in alternate healing processes, Unani and Chinese Medicine (digestive ailments) and Ayurveda (diabetes control).

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