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CITRUS medica var. sarcodactylis

Image of Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis

James H. Schutte

Family

Rutaceae

Botanical Name

CITRUS medica var. sarcodactylis

Plant Common Name

Buddha's Hand, Fingered Citron

General Description

Beautiful and unusual, Buddha’s hand is grown for its large, yellow fruit that looks like it has fingers at the base. Intensely fragrant fruit, leaves and flowers distinguish this ancient citrus. Citron is believed to be the first citrus in cultivation, and has been used both for food and medicine. Today, it is eaten candied in fruitcakes and holiday breads. The true origin of this citron is unknown, but like most Citrus it is probably from the northwestern reaches of India. There have been seeds of this fruit found in archeological excavations that are about 4000 years old. Citrus medica arrived in the United States with Spanish explorers and commercial production began in California in the late 1800s.

Citron is a shrub or small tree which is evergreen and slow-growing. Its stiff twigs and branches are spiny and covered with strongly fragrant, elliptical to lance-shaped leaves that are much like those on lemon trees. The new leaves are purple hued and mature to dark green. The flowers are borne throughout the year but appear most abundantly from midwinter to spring. The fragrant flowers are light purple or red in bud and open to white.

Citron fruit is large and variable in shape and size. Generally it is oval, oblong or elliptical and has a very thick, leathery, yellow skin that may be rough or smooth. The base of the fruit has long, finger-like appendages with little or no flesh. The base of the fruit may have a bit of juiceless pulp. These ripen individually and are harvested by hand as they mature. Many can produce fruit throughout the year, but most ripen from early summer through fall. Unlike most citrus, they are not grafted onto rootstocks.

Citron plants are more cold sensitive than other Citrus. They prefer full sun, well-drained soil and areas with warm, dry winters and cool summers. The trees are somewhat drought tolerant once established but must have regular water for good fruit production. Citrus trees are heavy feeders and require regular fertilization. Citrons are often pruned so the branches are low or close to the ground. This is due to the large, heavy fruit which often bend branches to the ground and require staking for support.

Grow citron trees in subtropical and tropical yards and orchards. They also make great container-grown patio or conservatory specimens. These fruits are a favorite in Asian kitchens and considered lucky.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 11

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Fruit

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    8'-12' / 2.4m - 3.7m

  • Width

    6'-10' / 1.8m - 3.0m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Spring, Winter, Late Winter, Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Southern Asia, India, Melanesia, Australia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Purple

  • Fruit Color

    Yellow

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Tan, Brown, Sandy Brown

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Container, Edible, Feature Plant, Fruit / Fruit Tree, Hedges, Houseplant, Shade Trees, Topiary / Bonsai / Espalier, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds, Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes