Characteristics of Buddha’s Hand Tree (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis)

Characteristics of Buddha's Hand Tree (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis)

Buddha’s Hand or Fingered Citrus (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) is a Citrus variety that has fruit with an unusual shape, like a finger, and resembles those seen in representations of the Buddha.

The origins of these Citrus varieties are generally in South or East Asia, perhaps in northeastern India or China, where most domesticated citrus fruits originate.

There are various names for Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis, such as Buddha’s Hand and Fingered Citrus in English-speaking countries, Jeruk Cakar Harimau and Jaruk Tangan in Indonesia and Malaysia, 佛手柑 and 佛手柑 in China, ブシュカン and ブッシュカン in Japan, and ส้มมือ in Thailand.


Buddha’s Hand Tree in Religion

The fruit can be given as a religious offering at Buddhist temples. According to tradition, Buddha preferred the “fingers” of the fruit to be in a position resembling a closed hand rather than an open hand, because closed hands symbolized the act of praying to the Buddha. In China, Buddha’s hand fruit is a symbol of happiness, longevity, and good luck. It is also a traditional temple offering and New Year’s gift.


Apart from belief, this tree is also cultivated as an ornamental tree in gardens and terraces.

Characteristics of Buddha’s Hand Leaf

Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis Leaf
Source: Leonora (Ellie) Enking

The leaves are large and oval, pale green in color, and about 10-15 cm long.

Characteristics of Buddha’s Hand Flower

Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis Flower
Source: Wendy Cutler

The flowers are purplish white from the outside, grow in groups, and have a fragrant aroma.

Characteristics of Buddha’s Hand Fruit

Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis Fruit
Source: Kai Yan, Joseph Wong

The fruit only contains a small amount of sour-tasting flesh, but some also have no seeds.

Characteristics of Buddha’s Hand Tree

Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis Tree
Source: The Palm Tree Company

Like other Citrus varieties, Buddha’s Hand trees grow as shrubs or small trees with long, irregular, thorny branches.

This tree is sensitive to frost, as well as heat and drought. Grows best in temperate climates. Buddha’s Hand can be grown with cuttings taken from branches that are two to four years old. However, if you want greater success, you can graft onto old stems.

Benefits of Buddha’s Hand Tree

Although valued primarily for its “shape and aroma”, Buddha’s hand fruit can also be eaten (often as a spice or flavoring) in desserts, savory dishes, and alcoholic beverages or made into sweets. Sliced and dried raw fruit rind is also used as a tonic in traditional medicine.

Buddha’s hand is very fragrant, in China and Japan it is used to freshen rooms and personal items such as clothes.

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