Origin and distribution
Kaphal belongs to the family Myricaceae. It is called as Bay-berry and Box myrtle and known by various vernacular names like as Kaya-phal, Katphala, Kariphal, Kaidar-yamu, Marudam, Maruta, Soh-phie in north-western Himalayas. The trees are small, moderate size evergreen found in subtropical Himalayas from Ravi eastwards to Assam, Khasi, Jaintia, Naga and Lushai hills at an altitude of 900-2100 m.
The plants are 12-15 m tall, spreading, dioecious, evergreen generally found in groups. Leaves almost crowded towards the end of branches, lanceolate, 8-9 cm long, 2.5-3.5 cm broad; lower surface, pale green and upper surface, dark green. Pistillate flowers, very small, sessile, solitary and bracteates, compound inflorescence 3-3.5 cm long, catkin bears about 20-25 flowers. Flowering takes place in first fortnight of February and continues till second fortnight of March. The fruits are ellipsoid or ovoid drupe of cherry size, tubercle, reddish or cheese-colour when ripe in the month of April-May. Fruits have poor shelf-life (2-3 days). The seeds are light green in colour and ridged.
Nutritional value and uses
The fruits of kaphal are rich in minerals and have good nutritional value.The fruits are sold in the market. They are eaten raw and also used for pickle preparation. Fruits have a pleasant sour sweet taste and used in preparation of a refreshing drink. Ripe fruits are eaten with salt and mustard. The bark of the plant is astringent, carminative and antiseptic. A decoction of the bark is used in asthma, diarrhea, fevers, chronic bronchitis and dysentery. Bark is also used as a tan and a source of yellow dye.
The plants thrive well in loamy moist soil but lime free, in an open position and well-drained soil in sun or light shade. The plants can be propagated from seeds, stem cuttings, and suckers. Propagation from seeds, require extraction of seeds from fully matured fruits. The seeds are stratified for 3 months in sand or in refrigerator. The stratified seeds are planted in the plastic bags or in the nursery for germination in the spring season. The seedlings of 10-15 cm height are planted in the field in late spring. For propagation from cuttings, soft or half ripened wood of 5-8 cm are taken in the month of July-August. If suckers are to be used for propagation, it should be taken in dormant season and plant them directly at the desired place.
Two accessions viz. IC349959 and IC558086 were collected from midhills of Himachal Pradesh and have been established in the field gene bank. Germplasm is also maintained at the Regional Research Station, Kandaghat of Dr. YSP UHF, Solan and also at NBPGR Regional Station, Shillong. The fruit size of the germplasm of north-eastern region is comparatively larger than that is occurring in WH region.
- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Regional Station Phagli, Shimla –