August 24, 2013

1 - Jujube trees are worth considering for New Mexico gardens and landscapes.

Yard and Garden August 24, 2013


Can you identify this tree for us (photo of twig and fruit enclosed)? We have wondered about it for several years. It is about 30 feet tall, has glossy dark green leaves, and small apple-like fruit. I do not think this is an apple tree.


This is jujube (not the candy, but the fruit). It is also called Chinese or Oriental date. The scientific name is Ziziphus jujuba. The leaves have a characteristic of 3 main veins running the length of the leaf. Some Ziziphus trees produce fruit that turn bright red, others are a darker red, some turn brownish when ripe. The fruit may be oblong or rounded like and apple. The plant is thorny and can sprout from the roots. It is a good plant for dry areas. I remember being told that in the 1950s a number of tree species were planted at the Tucumcari Ag Research Center. They were watered 2 years, and then left to their own devices. Some jujube and arbor vitae trees were surviving into the 2000s. I don't know if they are still there, but they proved to be much more tolerant of drought than other trees.

The fruit from jujube trees is edible and can be eaten fresh or dried. When they are dried, the sugars increase and the flavor of dates develops. The dried fruit can be kept for several years. It can be used in many ways such as date bread, date muffins, and other pastries. Contact your local NMSU Cooperative Extension office for ideas and recipes.

When I was at an archeological excavation in Jordan, I saw Ziziphus trees with much smaller fruits than those we know. These are a different species, but were interesting. Their fruit is edible according to the natives in the region. These trees were very spiny and are reputed to have been the source of the stems used to make the "crown of thorns" referred to in the Bible at the crucifixion of Jesus.

If the tendency to sprout from the roots and the thorny branches are not a problem, these are useful and attractive fruit trees for New Mexico landscapes and gardens. The ability of the jujube tree to endure dry periods is a very valuable trait.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!