Origin and distribution
Sea buckthorn is deciduous, usually spine shrub occasionally small tree grows abundantly in cold dry regions of western Himalayas between 3000-4000 m. It belongs to the family Elaeagnaceae. Its natural occurrence reported in China, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Russia and Mongolia. In Europe, this plant grows naturally in Britain, Germany, France, Finland and Romania. In India, particularly in central and western Himalayas, it is called as Chharma, Ames, Dhurchuk, Gartsak, Sarla, Treskas, Sorna, Tasru and Dhurchule. It is generally grows in remote and far flung areas i.e. Niti, Mana, Virhi, Urgam in Uttarakhand; Milan, Lahul-Spiti in Himachal Pradesh; Nubra and Siachin valley Ladakh and Leh in Jammu and Kashmir; and Tadong in Sikkim
on the river-sides and sun facing slopes.
It is a thorny shrub or small tree of 9-12 m height above the ground with profuse branching, have a life span of 100-150 years. It can tolerate winter temperatures as low was -430C. Male and female plants are separate.Leaves are small, lanceolate, covered on both sides with silvery scales, flower small greenish or yellowish, fruits enclosed by succulent receptacles, ovoid, orangish-yellow or scarlet matures during September-October.
The fruit contains 90-95% yellow sour juice. Female plants bear fruits in the fourth year of age and fruiting is continue up to 60 years.Nutritional value and uses: The fruits of sea buckthorn are the richest source of vitamin C, which is about 4-10 times higher as compared to known fruits. Fruits (berries) are used in preparation of juices, jams, squash and wines. Recently Leh-berry juice is very popular in the markets of metropolitan cities In Ladakh, pregnant ladies and children are given the sea buckthorn fruit called sastalulu as supplement of vitamins. The local ethnic doctors called Amchi prescribe the fruit seed and bark to check cold, malnutrition, skin diseases and lung problem. The bark of sea buckthorn plant is considered blood purifier.
Oil extracted from sea buckthorn seeds, pulp, tender branches and leaves are used for making different kinds of life-saving drugs and medicines to combat numerous diseases such as cancer, blood pressure, heart problem ageing, memory loss, brain disorder, healing wounds, treating burns, eczemas, exterior ulcer, skin burn due to radiation, oral mucositis, gastric ulcer, rectal and vaginal mucositis because of antibacterial, analgesic and regenerating tissues properties. Sea buckthorn plants are good soil binder and fix 100-150 kg nitrogen from the atmosphere. In China, sea buckthorn is being used as traditional Chinese medicine since Tan Dynasty and currently more than 250 products ranging from food products, medicines and cosmetics are being made out of it.
Sea buckthorn thrives in deep, well drained, sandy loam soil with ample organic matter. Sea buckthorn may be propagated by seeds, soft wood, hard wood, layering, and suckers. However, easy and most successful method of propagation is from seed. It is relatively simple which produces a large number of seedlings at fairly low cost as compare to other propagation methods. Seeds are extracted from fresh or frozen ripe fruit, they are cleaned and dried (6% moisture) and stratified in moist sand for 90 days at 50C. Seeds are sown in the pots in the month of January or first week of February and germination start within 5-10 days.
Seedlings grow rapidly, a small dose of fertilizers may be given in soluble form. Seedlings can be planted in the field once they attain the height of 8-10 cm. Another method of propagation is soft wood cutting. The cuttings are collected from selected plants in late spring. Cutting length should be 10-15 cm long containing 2-3 nodes. The base of the cuttings should be dipped first in the water then in rooting hormone (IBA 0.1%) solution for 10-15 seconds, and placed in the nursery bed.The propagated plants can be planted in the dormant stage in early spring. The row to row distance is generally used 4-5 m apart and 1 m plant to plant within row.
Irrigation is done immediately after plantation and also in summers. It needs manure and fertilizer at the rate of 10 kg FYM and 400 g mixture of NPK per plant/year for producing better quality fruits and high yield. Sea buckthorn grows up to 3-4 m in 4th year and forms its crown at the base of the main stem. The crown should be pruned annually to remove overlapping branches and long branches should be headed to encourage development of lateral shoots. Mature fruiting plants should be pruned to allow more light to penetrate if bush is dense. Fruits are available in the month of September-November. They are harvested with the help of a bamboo stick or picked carefully as thorn may harm the hands of collectors.
The seeds of 28 accessions of sea buckthorn have been conserved for long term storage in National Gene Bank while about 10 morphotypes are being maintained in the field gene bank of FRL, Leh. Germplasm introduced from other countries and also collected ingeniously is also maintained at CSK HPKV, Regional Station Lahaul & Spiti. Other species are H. salicifolia and H. tibetanaa occurring in cold arid region of India.
- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Regional Station Phagli, Shimla