Friday, December 30, 2011

Jojoba

Simmondsia

A genus consisting of a single species that is part of the larger Buxaceae family.

Simmondsia chinensis ( Jojoba )
Jojoba is a medium-size shrub, reaching a maximum height of 15 feet, that is native to the desert southwest of the U.S. ( from southern California to southwest Utah to southeast Arizona; south into Mexico ). They typically grow with a growth spurt during spring then go dormant during summer if moisture is scarce. They are sometimes used as an ornamental shrub.
It is also important to wildlife for shelter and food in its native range.
Jojoba begin bearing seed at as young as 5 years then eventually produce up to 10 pounds per plant of seed in a year. Mature plants may yield up to 6000 pounds of seed which yields 1/3 of that of oil in a year per acre.
The seeds are nutritious, containing 50% oil and 35% protein but aren't very tasty. The ripe seed is gathered when the husk is loose. They taste better roasted for an hour in the oven at 250 F or roasted over a campfire.
The oil from the nuts can be used as a low calorie cooking oil as only 20% is assimilated into the body. Jojoba oil is becoming important worldwide and is very similar to the oil produced by the endangered and protected Sperm Whale. The oil is also used as a lubricant for high pressure machinery and gear boxes. Other uses for the oil include:
- transformer coolant
- making of soap
- treating leather
- corrosion inhibitor for industry
- lubrication for scientific instruments
- treating dry and wind damaged skin
- face creams and lip sticks
- suntan lotion
Jojoba thrives in full sun on well drained soil. Propagation is from seed which is planted an inch deep and germinates readily within a week. To produce viable seed you need both male and female plants to pollinate each other and only the female plant produces seed. Generally the best ratio of plants is 6 females to one male.
Jojoba can also be grown from cuttings but they may be difficult to root. Some clones may have higher oil content in the seed however mass planting genetically identical plants increases the risk of pest and disease.
They must be planted via seed on permanent site or transplanted while very small because once established these deep rooters transplant poorly. Plants grown commercially are often sown in long cardboard tubes to accomodate their taproot until being planted on their permanent site. Jojobas very extremely drought resistant due to their very deep taproot which may reach up to 30 feet in as little as 3 years. They may survive for several years with no water at all simply by going dormant, and they can live with an annual average rainfall as low as 5 inches per year.
In cultivation, they grow fastest and produce the most seed with 20 inches of water per year. They grow slowly but live up to 200 years. They are very rarely bothered by pests in the wild though somewhat more often on large scale plantations.
Jojoba plants hate cold weather and the flowers are killed by temperatures below 40 F. Jojoba is extremely valuable as a crop in hot desert regions of the world where few profitable plants can be grown. Over 30 000 acres of it have already been planted in the southwestern U.S. and more grows far outside its native range in Mexico, the Middle East ( esp Isreal ), Africa and Australia. The current worldwide demand requires 250 000 acres of plant, a number that is certain to grow. If you live in a dry climate, you can never go wrong by growing Jojoba.

* photo taken @ U.S. Botanical Garden, Wash., DC on Aug 25 2014

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