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Syzygium cumini (family Myrtaceae) is an evergreen tropical tree native to tropical countries from Pakistan throughout Southeast Asia.  It is fast growing, reaches up to 30 meters (100 feet) tall and lives up to 100 years.  The tree is known as the Java plum tree, for the dark purple, oblong edible fruits it produces (and by many other common names in the various regions in which it grows, including jambul and black plum).  The fruit reaches about 2 cm (0.8 in) long and has white or purple flesh. 

Java plum trees form dense shady canopies and the trees are grown for their ornamental value.  It does well in a range of soil types and environmental conditions. Buddhists and Hindus consider the sacred and worship using the leaves and fruit.  Indian emigrants brought it overseas from India and it is common in former tropical British colonies.  It has been introduced in Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawai‘i, Florida, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Tonga, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Christmas Island, Australia, Africa, India, Caribbean, and South America.  However, the canopy shades out young native trees and prevents re-establishment of native forests.  It was introduced to Florida in the 1920s, and is now on the Category I listing of the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's (FLEPPC) 2013 List of Invasive Plant Species.  It also is highly invasive in the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Hawaii. 

Syzygium cumini is used for many purposes.  It is planted for shade and as a windbreak.  The wood is water resistant and very hard, so used for building railway cars, beams, bridges, posts, sometimes furniture.  The tannin rich bark is used for dyes and leather tanning.  Fruits are made into drinks, vinegars, and wines and the leaves are used as food for livestock and silkworms, as they have good nutritional value.  The leaves, stems, flowerbuds, opened blossoms, root and tree bark are used for a wide array of alternative/folk medicinal purposes, including skin and digestive system ailments, controlling blood pressure and blood glucose levels, and show antibiotic activity.

(Binggeli 2006; Morton 1987; PIER 2011; Wikipedia 2014)


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