What Is A Samara And What Do Samaras Do

by johnah on October 28, 2020

What Is A Samara?

A samara is a type of evergreen tree native to the Caribbean region. It is a deciduous tree with glossy green leaves and small white flowers which are followed by red berries. The name “Samaras” comes from the Spanish word “samar”, meaning “to eat”.

The samara is a member of the family Rosaceae, which includes such familiar trees as the fig (Ficus), sycamore (Populus) and oak (Quercus). The samara’s scientific name is Ficus religiosa.

In addition to its culinary uses, the samara has been used medicinally for centuries. In fact it was used in ancient Greece as a remedy for stomach ailments and other maladies. Its medicinal properties have been well documented over the years. For instance, the herb is known to relieve nausea caused by various medications and even aids in digestion.

The samara is considered a good source of vitamin C, potassium, calcium and manganese. It also contains several trace minerals including selenium, zinc and molybdenum.

The samara is also known under several different names including:

Buddha’s hand


Miracle fruit

Buddha’s hand is the most common name for this tree since its fruit resembles a clenched fist. It is grown for its ornamental value rather than for its fruit. The hands and the seed pods are used in flower arrangements or simply displayed by themselves.

Edible Uses

The fruit of the Ficus religiosa is not eaten since it is extremely foul tasting. However the tree has been cultivated for thousands of years for its medicinal uses and remains a staple for herbalists and alternative medicine practitioners.

In addition to being used as a remedy for stomach ailments, the leaves and bark have been used to cure a wide range of aliments from headaches to toothaches. The bark was boiled and the water used as a mouthwash to treat toothaches.

The fruit of the tree is not eaten due to its foul taste, instead it is allowed to dry on the tree and then harvested and made into a tea which is used as an all-purpose remedy for stomach cramps and gas pains.

The dried leaves are rich in tannins and have been used in the production of leather.

Sources & references used in this article:

Can the variation in samara mass and terminal velocity on an individual plant affect the distribution of dispersal distances? by DF Greene, EA Johnson – The American Naturalist, 1992 – journals.uchicago.edu

Flight characteristics and dispersal potential of maple samaras by RP Guries, EV Nordheim – Forest Science, 1984 – academic.oup.com

The terminal velocity and dispersal of spinning samaras by DS Green – American Journal of Botany, 1980 – Wiley Online Library

CuII-herbicide complexes: structure and bioactivity by …, V Tangoulis, CP Raptopoulou, E Samaras… – Inorganica chimica …, 1998 – Elsevier

Seed size and dispersal potential of Acer rubrum (Aceraceae) samaras produced by populations in early and late successional environments by PA Peroni – American Journal of Botany, 1994 – Wiley Online Library

Autorotation, self‐stability, and structure of single‐winged fruits and seeds (samaras) with comparative remarks on animal flight by RÅKE NORBERG – Biological Reviews, 1973 – Wiley Online Library

Samara Dispersal in Boxelder: An Exercise in Hypothesis Testing by PV Minorsky, RP Willing – The American Biology Teacher, 1999 – online.ucpress.edu

Biotic interchange through lowlands of Tibetan Plateau suture zones during Paleogene by …, FX Wu, G Srivastava, T Spicer, T Van Do… – Palaeogeography …, 2019 – Elsevier

Pitch and heave control of robotic samara micro air vehicles by ER Ulrich, JS Humbert, DJ Pines – Journal of Aircraft, 2010 – arc.aiaa.org



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