Herb: Dwarf Russian Almond


Latin name: Prunus tenella


Synonyms: Amygdalus nana, Prunus nana


Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)



Medicinal use of Dwarf Russian Almond:

Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Shrub

Height:
80 cm
(2 feet)

Flovering:
April

Habitat of the herb:

Dry grassland. Grasslands, valleys, hollows and dry slopes at elevations up to 1200 metres in Tibet.

Edible parts of Dwarf Russian Almond:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit is quite variable in quality, the best forms are somewhat mealy with a fairly nice flavour. The fruit is about 25mm in diameter and contains one large seed. Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity. Oil from the seed is used as an almond flavouring, it is inferior to the bitter almond oil obtained from P. dulcis.

Other uses of the herb:

Used as a frost-resistant rootstock for P. dulcis. Plants make a fairly good ground cover when spaced about 1 metre apart each way. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit.

Propagation of Dwarf Russian Almond:

Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Layering in spring. Division of suckers during the dormant season. They can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry grassland. Grasslands, valleys, hollows and dry slopes at elevations up to 1200 metres in Tibet.

Known hazards of Prunus tenella:

Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.