Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Connecting Traditions with Science: 2. Wild Himalayan Cherry (Prunus cerasoides)

English names: Wild Himalayan cherry, Sour cherry

Hindi names: Padam, Padmakh, Padmakashtha

Himachali name: Pajja

Botanical name: Prunus cerasoides

Synonyms:  Prunus puddum, Cerasus  cerasoides, C. puddum

Family: Rosaceae

A fully grown tree

Distribution: It occurs in the sub-temperate forests of Himalayas from Himachal Pradesh in North West India to South West China at an altitude of 1,200 - 2,400 metres above the mean sea level.

Description: It is a small sized (3-10m tall) and moderately branched deciduous tree with grayish black bark (although young branches are green). Leaves are simple, ovate-lanceolate or oblong-ovate and 8-12 × 3.2-5 cm in size. Petiole is 1.2–2 cm, leaf base is rounded, margin is serrate and leaf apex is acuminate. Flowers mostly open before the development of leaves. They are born in 1-4 flowered umbellate inflorescences. Sepals are usually reddish and triangular. Petals are pink and ovate to obovate. Stamens are approximately 30 in number and shorter than petals. Style is as long as stamens and stigma is disciform. Fruit is an orange or red drupe.

Flowering: October - November

Fruiting: Fruits ripen in March- April.

A Flowering branch


1. Medicinal uses: The plant is considered to have conceptive and anti-abortion properties. It reduces pain and flatulence. It is useful in fever, cold and cough.  It is considered to be a general tonic and useful in burning sensation of the body, seminal weakness and in pregnancy. Young twigs are crushed and taken internally to prevent abortions. Seeds are used to remove stones. 
Ripe Fruits

2. Sacred Value: It is considered pious in many parts of Himachal Pradesh and worshiped and used during marriages with a wish for the happy and fruitful married life. This plant is also used in rituals by the local inhabitants in Nepal. The name Padam for the plant might have its origin from the name of Lord Vishnu (Padam-Anuttamam: The unequalled state of perfection; Lord Vishnu is considered as the protector of the world) as the plant has conceptive and anti-abortive properties.

In Himachal Pradesh, Shivaratri Pooja is considered incomplete without the leaves of wild Himalayan cherry. Rosaries are made up of its leaves and dedicated to Shiva and Parvati, most revered figures in upper areas of Himachal Pradesh. 
 Shiv-Parvati Pooja on the occasion of Shivratri 
(Photograph courtesy: Niyati Chauhan)
  Rosary of wild Himalayan cherry in front Shiv-Parvati on the occasion of Shivratri 
(Photograph courtesy: Niyati Chauhan)

Rosary of wild Himalayan cherry, Hedera nepalensis and Allium sp.  in front Shiv-Parvati on the occasion of Shivratri 
(Photograph courtesy: Gulshan Negi, Kinnaur) 

3. Ornamental value: It bears beautiful pink coloured flowers at a time when all other plants shed their leaves and flowers in autumn. It can be promoted as landscape tree in colder areas.

4. Food value: The fruits can be eaten raw or cooked.

5. Other Uses: Gum obtained from the trunk can be used as a substitute for gum tragacanth. Fruits and leaves yield a dark green dye. Seeds can be used in necklaces. The branches can be used as walking sticks.

Ripe Fruits

Hazards: All members of the genus Prunus contain amygdalin and prunasin (responsible for bitter taste of seeds and leaves), substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). This toxic compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being in small amount. It is mostly present in very low quantity in the seeds.  Some studies claim it to be beneficial in the treatment of cancer (source not known). Higher quantity of hydrocyanic acid can cause respiratory failure and even death.


  1. The readers are requested to kindly give their suggestions for further improvement of the article. If they know any other use, kindly comment.

  2. Can it use for grafting cherry plants

  3. πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘Œnice ..great to know the value of ..pajja tree☺☺

  4. Pajja is native to India . It is also called Charu in Sanskrit meaning the beautiful one.
    We have one such tree in our campus ,it was fully bloomed in Nov till mid Dec after which it was covered with leaves.