In the Arboretum Today
by Alfredo Chiri
Citron x Citron medica -- sarcodactylis - Rutaceae
BUDDHA'S HAND CITRON -
The Buddha's Hand is a shrub or small tree, with long irregular branches with short or long thorns. Leaves are rather pale green, large, oblong, 4-6 inches. The fragrant flowers, in short clusters, are large and white or purplish. The lemon-like fruit differs from the common Citron in
having segments that are wholly or partly split into finger-like processes. The fruit has a very thick peel and a small amount of a very acid pulp, seedless and juiceless. The fruits are very fragrant and are used by the Chinese and Japanese for perfuming rooms and clothing.
Some of the fruit is used as religious offerings in Buddhist temples. The hand-shaped fruit used for religious purposes is preferred when their fingers are closed rather than open, since closed hands symbolize an act of prayer.
The Buddha's Hand probably originated in northeastern India. It is believed to be the first citrus fruit known in Europe. Some horticulturists have traced back this tree to many centuries before the time of Jesus. The Greeks and Romans are thought to have brought them from Asia.
The tree is sensitive to frost. Intense heat and drought easily damage the plant foliage and fruit. The best location for the plant is where there are no extremes of temperature. Southern California coastal areas and inland valleys are ideal for its planting.
Trees are grown readily from cuttings taken from branches 2 to 4 years old and quickly buried deeply in soil without defoliation. Budding or grafting onto citrus rootstock produces smaller fruits.
Buddha's Hand trees tend to put out water sprouts, which should be eliminated. Pruning of branches that hang too low is preferred in order to prevent the fruit from touching the ground and getting damaged.
Fruit allowed to ripen on the tree will be very aromatic, and the fruit's skin becomes very yellow, and the white pulp inside the fruit will be very tender.
Buddha's Hands citrons grow in variable soils and bloom almost all year. Spring blooms produce the major part of the crop.
The fruit is essentially inedible, as there is little flesh or juice. However it does make a tasteful marmalade with a unique flavor.
Donated by: CRFG in memory of Edwin Sawyer
Planted in 1993 (r.f.-06)
Common names: Fingered Citron, Buddha's Fingers, Fu Shou, Bushukon, Phât Thu.