Root: It has a deep tap root which helps it seek and store water and nutrition in extreme drought.
Stem: The trunk of a full grown tree is around 40 cm in diameter. It is covered with a dark grey or dull black, irregularly fissured bark.
Leaves: The leaves are leathery, oval in shape, simple and grow alternately on the stem. They have 3 longitudinal veins. The top is dark and glossy, the underside is hairy. The tree loses its leaves between March and May.
Flower: The tree flowers between July and October. The 5- petaled flowers are tiny and yellow in colour. They grow in twos and threes on the axil (the place where the leaf is attached to the stem) of the leaves.
The flowers depend on cross-pollination by insects attracted by the fragrance and nectar. Pollen of the Indian jujube is thick and heavy. In forests, ants help in pollination as well.
Fruit: The tree grows fast and will fruit in three years. The fruit which is green when young and yellow (maybe a little shrivelled) when ripening, is edible. It can be sweet or sweet-sour.
Seed: It contains two seeds of 6 mm housed in an oval shell at the centre. These are distributed by birds and will grow into saplings for two years after maturing. Beyond two years, they start to lose their ability to grow.
Pollinators: Bees, beetlse, bird, moths, ants are common pollinators
Visiting Insects: Many insects visit the ber tree for its fruit. One really interesting insect visits it to build its pupa. (Tripti can you please write about the insect that builds that amazing pupa and attaches it with such a strong binder)
Visiting birds: Sparrows, parrots and other birds visit the ber tree for its sweet fruit.
Visiting Mammals: Goat, deer, sambar, boar, humans and bats
Seed Dispersal: Birds, animals and humans eat the ber fruit and throw the seed, thus dispersing it.
Where they grow: The ber tree grows widely from Africa to China.
The ber plant is very hardy. It can grow with very little water and survive in extremes of temperatures (7C to 50C). As a result, it is suited to dry conditions. On the other hand, it tolerates water logging too. Ber trees can grow upto a height of 1650m.
Medicinal: In traditional medicine of Ayurveda, the leaves, fruits, bark and even the roots are used to cure various ailments. These include: colds and flu, malnutrition related diseases in children, convulsions, indigestion. The oil from seeds is believed to have potential as a treatment for skin disorders.
It is quite nutritious and rich in vitamin C, second only to guavas.
Agroforestry: The wood is finely grained and hard. It has been used to line wells, to build the legs of charpais (the local beds which have a base of woven cotton strips or rope).
The oil from its seeds may have a use as bio-diesel.
Food: Fruit, before it is too ripe, is eaten by a lot of people. It is dried and stewed too.