Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis

Common Name: Buddha's hand 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Rutaceae
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 8.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11 where this evergreen citrus tree grows well in sandy, well-drained soils in full sun to light shade. Best performance occurs in full sun. Provide consistent and regular moisture. Avoid wet poorly drained soils. Intolerant of hot summer conditions, drought and frost.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis, commonly called Buddha's hand or fingered citron, is a thorny shrub or small tree that typically matures to 8-15' tall. It is native to northwestern India. It is noted for producing a unique fruit (to 6-10" long) which separates as it ripens into finger-like projections which have an inner white pith but no juice or pulp. Ripe fruits turn bright yellow to orange yellow. The hard outer rind/peel has an intense lemony taste which can be grated to form an excellent zest for food dishes or drinks. Extremely fragrant, 4-5 petaled, white flowers (to 1" long), each with 20-30 center stamens, emerge on and off during the year, but mainly in spring and fall. Flowers are often flushed with pinkish-purple. The main fruit harvest in the U.S. (southern Florida, California and Hawaii) occurs from late fall into winter (November to January), but small amounts of fruit are seen throughout the year. Thorny branches are clad with serrated, elliptic, evergreen leaves (to 4-6" long) which are aromatic (scent of lemon) when crushed. Historically, fruits have been used in the Buddhist religion as temple offerings (hence the common name of Buddha's hand) in large part because each fruit (especially one with closed fingers) purportedly resembles a closed hand in prayer. Additional fruit uses in the Far East include room freshener (place ripe fruit in the center of a room to add a touch of lemon to the air) and clothing perfume. Culinary uses throughout the world include (1) zest for salad dressings, marinades, cooked foods or drinks (break off a finger and grate the exterior); (2) rind can be candied; (3) marmalades or jams; (4) fingers can be thin-sliced longitudinally and added to salads and cooked foods.

Variety name comes from the Greek words sarkos meaning fleshy and dactylos meaning finger in obvious reference to the fruits.

Genus name is from classical Latin.

Specific epithet means medicinal.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy this shrub may be grown as an interesting landscape accent for harvest of its fruits or for ornamental purposes. Commercial growth has only recently begun in California.