West Indian Elm
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West Indian Elm
ntroduced Photo: Prashant Awale
Common name: West Indian Elm, Bastard cedar, Bay cedar, Pigeon wood • Hindi: रुद्राक्षी Rudrakshi • Marathi: रुद्राक्षी Rudrakshi • Gujarati: ભદ્રાક્ષ bhadraksha, ખોટો રુદ્રાક્ષ khoto rudraksha • Malayalam: രുദ്രാക്ഷം rudraksham • Tamil: Thenmaram, Thenpuchimaram, Kattu Utharaksham • Telugu: భద్రాక్శ Bhadraksha, రుద్రాక్శ Rudraksha • Kannada: ರುದ್ರಾಕ್ಷಿ Rudrakshi, ರುದ್ರಾಕ್ಷ Rudraksha, ಭದ್ರಾಕ್ಷಿ Bhadrakshi, ಭದ್ರಾಕ್ಷ Bhadraksha • Sanskrit: रुद्राक्ष Rudraksha
Botanical name: Guazuma ulmifolia    Family: Sterculiaceae (Cacao family)
Synonyms: Theobroma guazuma, Guazuma tomentosa

West Indian Elm is a medium-sized tree, usually branched from the base. Leaves are alternate, in flat plane along long branches, upperside dark green, underside light green-blue. Leaf base is prominently asymmetric, and leaves have a rough feel. There are three main leaf veins arising together from the leaf base, a characteristic of this family as well as several related families. The tree produces small, whitish-cream flowers during the dry season. These develop into odd, woody fruits which look similar to the true Rudraksh, used as beads in rudraaksh maala worn by sadhus. But the fruits have a cherry flavor if chewed. West Indian Elm is found in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. It has been cultivated in India for over 100 years.

Identification credit: Prashant Awale Photographed in Chennai.

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