PLANT: Shrubs to 4 m tall, armed. STEMS: green to gray, or brown, canescent to glaucous; branchlets thorn-tipped, occasionally with axillary recurved thorns, the thorn tips mostly glabrous and brown. LEAVES: thin or thick, deciduous; stipules triangular; petioles 0.5- 5 mm long; blades linear to narrowly elliptic to oblong or ovate, 5-20 (-27) mm long, 2-15 mm wide, green to pale green, glabrous to canescent; margins entire to serrate or crenate. FLOWERS: inconspicuous, (1-) 2-15 (sometimes more) per inflorescence; hypanthium 1.0-2 mm long, glabrous to canescent; sepals yellowish green, glabrous to canescent; petals ca. 1 mm, white to light green; stigma 2-lobed. FRUITS: blue to purple to black with white waxy bloom, 5-8 mm wide; pedicles becoming thicker in fruit, the floral cup persistent. NOTES: 2 vars., both in AZ, CA to OK; s to Mex. The leaf and branch morphology of Z. obtusifolia is variable. Solitary serrate to crenate ovate leaves with marginal glands on thorn-tipped canescent branchlets are representative of the new growth; older stems have leaves that are entire, oblong, elliptical or linear and are arranged in short shoots. The short shoots may become woody with age. Elongation of the short shoot into new thorn-tipped branches may occur, being evident by a leaf scar. The leaf size is dependent upon climate, habitat and season. REFERENCES: Kyle Christie, Michael Currie, Laura Smith Davis, Mar-Elise Hill, Suzanne Neal, and Tina Ayers, 2006 Vascular Plants of Arizona: Rhamnaceae. CANOTIA 2(1): 23-46.
Christie et al. 2006, Benson and Darrow 1981, Kearney and Peebles 1969, Vines 1960
Common Name: lotebush Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Tree General: Shrubs to 4 m tall, armed, the stems green to gray or brown, canescent to glaucous, branchlets thorn-tipped, occasionally with axillary recurved thorns, thorn tips glabrous and brown. Leaves: Thin or thick, deciduous, the stipules triangular, with petioles 0.5-5 mm long, blades linear to narrowly elliptic to oblong or ovate, 5-20 mm long, 2-15 mm wide, green to pale green, glabrous to canescent, margins entire to serrate or crenate. Flowers: Inconspicuous, 2-15 per inflorescence, hypanthium 1-2 mm long, glabrous to canescent, sepals yellowish green, glabrous to canescent, petals about 1 mm, white to light green, stigma 2-lobed. Fruits: Blue to purple to black with white waxy bloom, 5-8 mm wide, pedicels become thicker in fruit, flower cup persistent. Ecology: Found on mesas, canyon slopes, desert grasslands and along drainages from 1,000-5,000 ft (305-1524 m); flowers May-September. Distribution: s CA, s NV, UT, AZ, NM, s OK, TX; south to c MEX. Notes: Distinguished by being a medium to large shrub with light gray, often short-pubescent branches with stout, straight thorns; the thorns and branches at obtuse, almost 90-degree angles; alternate leaves most-often not in clusters (fascicles); and small, inconspicuous flowers followed by globose blue fruits. Two varieties in the region: var. obtusifolia and var. canescens. Var. obtusifolia is found on gypsum soils in Cochise Co., about 3 m tall, thin, glabrous leaves, with a glabrous hypanthium, and fruits 7-8 mm wide. Var. canescens is more widespread, to 4 m tall, leaves thick, mostly canescent, hypanthium canescent with fruits about 5-8 mm wide. Ethnobotany: A decoction from the roots of var. canescens was used to treat sore eyes by the Pima and roots have been used in place of soap. Etymology: Ziziphus comes from the Persian word zizufun or Arabic zizouf, the Arabian name for a shrubby Mediterranean tree, obtusifolia means obtuse- or blunt-leaved. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015