In the Arboretum Today
by Alfredo Chiri

JAMBOLAN - Syzygium cumini - Myrtaceae
Donated by: CRFG/Vincent and planted in 1983 (r.f.-09)
Common names: Black plum, Jaman, Wa, Pring bai, Duhat, Voi rung, Koeli, Jambool

The Jambolan, native to India, Ceylon, and Burma, is a fast-growing tree. It reaches its maximum height at 40 years, approximately 40 to 50 feet in height. It usually forks into multiple trunks at its base. The bark in the lower part is rough, cracked, flaking and discolored. Further up the trunks are smooth and light gray. The leaves, pinkish when young, are oblong-oval, tapering to a point at the apex. The leaves, when mature, are dark green, leathery, glossy above and lighter beneath. The leaves have a light turpentine scent.

The flowers are fragrant and grow in clusters. Each flower has a funnel-shaped calyx with 4 to 5 united petals, white at first and then turning rose-pink. These are quickly shed, leaving only numerous stamens.

The fruit develops in clusters, varying from just a few to as many as 10-40. The fruit, while developing, is green, turning to light-magenta, then dark purple, then nearly black as it ripens,. The higher the altitude the more the amount of fruit decreases. Above 2,000 feet it does not bear fruit. The tree develops well in heavy rainfall areas, and it has been known to withstand prolonged flooding. As an adult, the tree is
tolerant to drought. Dry weather is preferred during flowering and fruiting periods. It is sensitive to frost when young, but as a mature tree can withstand short periods of below-freezing temperatures.

Jambolan seeds lose viability quickly, and the most common means of dissemination is by sowing the seeds; they germinate in 2 weeks. Other methods of reproduction produce a very low rate of survival. The skin is thin, smooth, and glossy. The pulp is white, very juicy and encloses a single green or brown seed, up to 1 ½ inches in length. The fruit is sometimes unpalatable, and the flavor varies from acid to fairly sweet.

In southern Asia, Buddhists venerate the tree. The tree is planted near Hindu temples, as it is sacred to Krishna. The leaves and fruits are used in the worshipping of the elephant-headed god, Ganesha or Vinaijaka, the personification of Pravana or Om, the apex of Hindu religion and philosophy.

The Jambolan tree grows well from sea level to about 6,000 feet production produce a very low rate of survival. Seedlings grow slowly the first year, rapidly thereafter. The plants may reach 12 feet within 2
years and begin bearing fruits in 8 to 10 years.

Harvesting is done by hand as they ripen and requires several pickings over the season. The production of a large tree can become overwhelming for the average homeowner.

Jambolans are eaten raw and can be made into jelly. Juice of the jambolan is excellent to give color and flavor to sherbets and syrups.