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Citrus ID


Limes (Common)




Swingle and Reece (1967) noted that: “The lime is apparently indigenous in the East Indian Archipelago. From there it has spread by human help to the Asiatic mainland and to many other tropical or subtropical regions of the world. It is a distinct species, not closely related to any other species of Citrus. However, limes hybridize freely with other species of Citrus and many such hybrids are found in the East Indies. The Tahiti lime ([Hodgson 1967]) which is widely grown in Florida and California, was found by Bacchi (1940) to be in a triploid cytonomic state; Uphof (1931) had already discovered that it produces no pollen grains or viable ovules.”

Hodgson (1967) noted that:

“The group name for the limes is lime in English and French and lima in Italian and Spanish. In Arabic-speaking countries and the Orient, the limes and lemons are generally grouped together under the term limûn (limoon, limoun) for the former and nimbu or limbu (numerous modifications) for the latter.

Like the citron and lemon, the limes are believed to have originated in northeastern India, adjoining portions of Burma, or northern Malaysia and to have followed the same general path westward to the Mediterranean basin and thence to the Western Hemisphere. Because of their grouping with the other acid citrus fruits, however, it is difficult, if not impossible, accurately to trace and time their westward distribution (see chap. 1, this work). It is virtually certain that the sour lime was among the fruits taken by the Arabs across North Africa into Spain and Portugal and highly probable that it was also taken to Italy by the Crusaders, although it seems not to have persisted long in Europe. It is known to have been brought to the Americas by the Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the early part of the sixteenth century, where it escaped from cultivation and became feral in parts of the West Indies, some Caribbean countries, and southern Florida.”

“Although it is known that the West Indian lime was planted on some of the Florida Keys (reef islands off the southeast coast) as early as 1838 and that ultimately it became naturalized there (hence the term Key lime), it was not until the early part of the present century that a small commercial industry was developed in Florida. It was short-lived, however, and suffered a reverse from the disastrous hurricane of 1926, from which it never recovered. Early introduced into southern California by the Spanish mission fathers, attempts at its commercial culture invariably resulted in failure and were abandoned many years ago. “



Crown compact or dense, not weeping. First-year twig surface glabrous or pubescent; second- or third-year twig surface striate; thorns absent or not persistent or straight; prickles absent or not persistent. Petiole glabrous or pubescent, length short or medium; wings absent, if present, narrow or medium, adjoining the blade. Leaflets one, margin crenate/crenulate, bluntly toothed or serrate/serrulate, shade leaflet blades flat or weakly conduplicate, sun leaflet blades flat, weakly or strongly conduplicate. Scent of crushed leaflets sweetly orange-like, spicy or peppery, freshly lemon-like, or mandarin-like. Fruit broader than long, as broad as long, or longer than broad; rind dark green (3), medium green (4), light green with some break to yellow (5), green-yellow (6), yellow (7-10), yellow-orange (11), orange (12), or red-orange (13); rind texture smooth (1-3), slightly rough (4-5), or medium rough (6-7); firmness leathery; navel absent; flesh green/greenish, orange, or yellow; taste sour.


Swingle and Reece (1967) provided the following additional notes on the species: “A small tree with rather irregular branches; twigs with short, stiff, very sharp spines; leaves small, 5-7.5 cm long, elliptic-ovate or oblong-ovate, obtusely pointed at the tip and rounded at the base, margins crenulate, pale green, petioles narrowly winged, spathulate; inflorescences axillary, short, lax racemes of 2-7 flowers (rarely single); flowers small, white in the bud, calyx cupulate, 4-5 lobed; petals 4-5, 8-12 X 2.4-4 mm; stamens 20-25; ovary depressed, globose, with 9-12 segments, not merging into the style but clearly set off from it; style soon deciduous; stigma depressed, globose; fruits small, oval or subglobose, often with a small apical papilla, greenish-yellow when ripe; peel very thin, prominently glandular-dotted; seeds small, oval, white inside. [See Hodgson 1967]”


Hodgson (1967) provided the following additional notes on the species:


“While exhibiting certain basic similarities, the true limes constitute a highly varied group of which the members differ so significantly that separate species standing appears to be justified. They fall into two natural groups, however, the acid or sour limes and the acidless or sweet limes. The acid limes include small-fruited and large-fruited kinds and varieties.


While similarities exist between the small-fruited and large-fruited acid limes, the differences are much greater. Moreover, there are marked differences in climatic tolerances and reactions as well as in resistance or susceptibility to certain diseases. Their separation into different species seems therefore justified.


The tree differences are notable. Thus, the West Indian lime is less vigorous and robust than the Tahiti, much finer-stemmed, very much thornier, and has much smaller leaves of a distinctly paler color. It is much more cold-sensitive (about like the citron) and requires more heat to develop good fruit size. In contrast with the Tahiti lime, it is highly susceptible to the withertip fungus (Gloeosporium limetticolum), citrus canker (Xanthomonas citri), and the tristeza virus, for which it is currently the most widely used indicator plant. It is markedly resistant to the citrus scab fungus (Elsinoë fawcetti).

The fruit differences are less marked, but in addition to the larger size of fruit the Tahiti group is virtually or entirely seedless, and the odor, while similar, is less pronounced. The flavor, though about equally acid, lacks the strong pungency and aroma of the West Indian lime.”



Bacchi, O. 1940. Observações citológicas em citrus. I. Número de cromosômios de algumas espécies e variedades. Jornal de Agronomia [Piracicaba] 3: 249–258.

Hodgson, R.W. 1967. Horticultural varieties of Citrus. In: Reuther, W., H.J. Webber, and L.D. Batchelor (eds.). The Citrus industry, rev. University of California Press.

Reece, P.C. and F.E. Gardner. 1959. Robinson, Osceola and Lee—new early maturing tangerine hybrids. Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society 72: 49–51.

Swingle, W.T. and P.C. Reece. 1967. The botany of Citrus and its wild relatives. In: Reuther, W., H.J. Webber, and L.D. Batchelor (eds.). The Citrus industry. Ed. 2. Vol. I. University of California, Riverside.

Uphof, J.C.T. 1932. Wissenschaftliche Beobachtungen and [sic] Versuche an Agrumen. IV. Der polygamische Zustand einiger Citrusarten. Gartenbauwissenschaft 7: 121–141.




Citrus ID Edition 2
October, 2011