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Citrus ID


Mandarins (Satsuma)





Cultivar or taxon


Citrus reticulata Blanco [Satsuma Group] (sensu Swingle and Reece 1967, Mabberley 1997); Citrus unshiu Marcov. (sensu Hodgson 1967; sensu Tanaka sec. Cottin 2002)



Hodgson (1967) noted that:

"The highly distinctive satsuma mandarin is considered to have originated in Japan sometime prior to 1600 A.D., the approximate period of the earliest known reference to it. Since it has never been found in China and its Japanese name Unshû is considered to be a corruption of Wenchow, an ancient province of China, it seems likely that it originated as a chance seedling from a fruit or form imported from that country, probably from Wenchow Province. According to Ziegler and Wolfe (1961), the first recorded introduction into the United States (Florida) was by George R. Hall in 1876. The satsuma reached California not long thereafter and within a few decades was established in collections in the Mediterranean basin and elsewhere."

"[The satsuma] is the famous and highly important Unshû mikan (Unshiu) of Japan. The name satsuma, by which it has become known in the Occident, is credited to the wife of a United States minister to Japan, General Van Valkenberg, who sent trees of it home in 1878. Satsuma is the name of a former province, now Kagoshima Prefecture, on the southern tip of Kyushu Island, where it is believed to have originated."



Crown compact or dense, not weeping. First-year twig surface glabrous; second- or third-year twig surface striate; thorns absent or not persistent, rarely straight; prickles absent or not persistent. Petiole glabrous, length short, medium or long; wings absent, if present, narrow, adjoining the blade. Leaflets one, margin crenate/crenulate, bluntly toothed, serrate/serrulate, rarely entire, shade leaflet blades flat or weakly conduplicate, sun leaflet blades weakly or strongly conduplicate. Scent of crushed leaflets mandarin-like. Fruit broader than long, as broad as long, or longer than broad; rind green-yellow (6), yellow (7-10), yellow-orange (11), orange (12), or red-orange (13); rind texture slightly rough (4-5), medium rough (6-7), or rough (8); firmness leathery; navel absent; flesh orange; taste acidic-sweet.

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

Fruit medium-small to medium, oblate to subglobose; sometimes slightly necked; seedless. Orange-colored but commonly matures prior to development of good color. Areole faint or indistinct and small; navel frequently present. Rind thin, somewhat leathery; surface moderately smooth and with large and prominent oil glands; easily separable. As the fruit passes through maturity, rind surface becomes increasingly bumpy and likewise its separation increases somewhat. Segments 10 to 12, with tough carpellary membranes, loosely separable; axis hollow. Flesh orange-colored; tender and melting; flavor rich but subacid. Pulp-vesicles short and broad. Season of maturity very early to medium early (includes the earliest-known mandarin varieties). Fruit holds poorly on trees after maturity and must be picked promptly, but stores well. The occasional seeds found have light green cotyledons.

Tree slow-growing, small to medium-small, usually spreading and drooping, nearly thornless; foliage open. Leaves dark green, large, long, lanceolate, and tapering at base and apex, the latter usually taper-pointed. Both main and primary lateral veins prominent above as well as below. Petiole slender, very long, and wing-margined. Tree very hardy to cold and resistant to unfavorable conditions."



Hodgson (1967) additionally noted that:

"The satsuma mandarin tree is the most cold-tolerant of citrus fruits of commercial importance, mature dormant trees having survived minimum temperatures of 15º F to 18º F in northern California and southern Alabama without serious injury. Moreover, because of its apparent low total heat requirement, some varieties ripen earlier than any of the oranges or other mandarins. However, warm weather is required during the growing season for the development of satisfactory quality. As a consequence, the satsuma is adapted to regions of winters too cold for other citrus fruits and with growing seasons sufficiently warm to produce fruit of early maturity and good quality. For reasons that remain obscure, this mandarin has not proven commercially successful in the milder and hotter portions of the subtropics or in the tropics. Its range of climatic adaptation for commercial culture is therefore narrow and restricted to the upper and colder portions of the subtropical zones.

In the United States, climatic conditions suitable for satsuma mandarin culture occur in parts of northwestern Florida, in a narrow strip extending along the Gulf of Mexico across Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana into eastern Texas, and in the thermal belt of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley basin of California. Some decades ago, there existed in the Gulf Coast region what appeared to be a thriving and promising young industry of some thousands of acres. Primarily because of a series of unprecedented vicissitudes—introduction of the citrus canker disease and necessity for its eradication and recurrent devastating freezes—those plantings have virtually disappeared. Replacements currently comprise only a fraction of the original acreage. At about the same time, small plantings were made in the Sacramento Valley of California which persisted for several decades but ultimately were removed or largely replaced with other varieties, primarily because of handling and marketing difficulties and possibly rootstock-scion incompatibility problems involving virus diseases. In recent years, however, there has been a revival of interest in this mandarin and about 1,500 acres have been planted, principally in the San Joaquin Valley."



Cottin, R. 2002. Citrus of the World: A citrus directory. Version 2.0. France: SRA INRA-CIRAD.

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.

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.

Ziegler, L.W. and H.S. Wolfe. 1961. Citrus growing in Florida. University of Florida Press, Gainesville. 248 pp.



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Citrus ID Edition 2
October, 2011