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 Citrus × limon subsp. var.  Lemon
Citrus × limon
Habit: tree
Height: to
Width: to
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Lifespan: perennial
Exposure: sun
Water: moist, moderate
Features: evergreen, flowers, fragrance, edible, fruit, bees
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: to
Sunset Zones:
Flower features: white
Rutaceae > Citrus × limon var. ,

The lemon (Citrus × limon) is a hybrid citrus tree of cultivated origin. Trees can reach 10 meters (33 feet), but usually are smaller. Branches are thorny, forming an open crown. Leaves are green, shiny and elliptical-acuminate. Flowers are white on the outside with a violet streaked interior and have a strong fragrance. Flowers and ripe fruits can be found on the tree at the same time.

Lemon fruit are ovoid with a pointed tip at the end. When ripe, they have a bright yellow skin, a layer of pith underneath and a paler yellow segmented interior. Small seeds commonly known as 'pips' are found within the fruit.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

LEMON (Citrus Limonia). Prior to 1894, the culture of the lemon in Florida was an industry of considerable importance. An annual output of 140,000 boxes had been reached, but the cold of 1894-1895 injured the trees and marked the beginning of the end of commercial lemon-production in the state for the time at least. Another contributing cause to the extinction of the industry was the development of anthracnose, a fungous disease causing brown spots on the fruit, particularly during curing and after shipment. The nature and control of this disease was not then understood. By 1901-1902 the crop had fallen to only a little over 1,000 boxes.

Since 1894, the citrous industry of Florida has moved southward. In consequence regions have been opened up, which because of their more favorable location are very free from the blighting effects of cold. There is now a very noticeable awakening of interest in lemon-culture and it would not be surprising if the next ten to twenty years would see the industry once more established in the state. The outlook is further improved by the great advancement made in methods of orchard-heating and the control of the disease above mentioned.

Great care must needs be exercised in the selection of locations for growing lemons. The trees respond readily to increased temperatures and hence are too often in poor condition to withstand the low temperatures which often follow. Particular attention must be given to air-drainage and water-protection. Plantings of some size have been made in the last two or three years and still larger ones are contemplated.

The favorite variety and practically the only one planted is Villa Franca. It has proved to be materially hardier than other varieties such as Genoa and Eureka. The Rough lemon, a variety of uncertain relationship, grows as a wild or semi-wild tree in southern parts of Florida. Occasionally the fruit finds its way into the markets of the state. Its principal use is to furnish seed to grow seedlings on which to propagate different citrous fruits. Everbearing is grown here and there as a home fruit. Ponderosa, a large-fruited variety, is grown as a yard tree. When filled with fruit, the tree is very ornamental and the fruit is valuable for home use. This great fruit may be mistaken for a grapefruit (see Pomelo).

Lemon trees in Florida, are grown almost entirely on Sour orange and Rough lemon stocks, choice between these two being governed by the soil type and moisture conditions. It is best that the stocks be budded some distance above the ground. In northern Florida, Villa Franca is sometimes grown on Poncirus trifoliata stock and fruit is often secured.

Plantings are usually spaced 20 to 25 feet apart each way and the general care and cultivation is much the same as for other citrous fruits. In general, the plan pursued is to cultivate frequently during the usually dry spring season, March to June, after which a cover- crop of beggarweed, native grasses or cowpeas is given possession of the ground. By the middle of November, this cover-crop should be incorporated with the soil, either by shallow plowing or by cutting it in with a disc-harrow. It has been frequently demonstrated that injury to trees from cold is much less severe if all vegetation is cut into the soil, than if the ground is covered with grass and weeds.

Pruning requires careful attention to keep the trees low and compact. Lemons are very prone to produce long bare branches without fruiting twigs. They must be headed in to cause the development of fruiting spurs well in toward the center of the tree.

Protection of the fruit and trees must be provided. Up to this time the Scheu oil-heater is the best heating device that has been brought forward for this work. The temperature must not be allowed to go below 29° F. for any length of time if there is fruit on the trees. With these heaters there is no question but that the trees can be protected against cold in the southern parts of the state.

The lemon in California.

In general, the culture of lemons in California is similar to that of oranges (which see). Especially is this true in regard to soil requirements, propagation, irrigation, fertilization, and the like. The picking and handling of the fruit and pruning of the trees, however, differ radically from that of the orange.

The commercial lemon areas of California are situated near the coast, chiefly in the counties of San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara, and in the western corner of San Bernardino. In this region the cool, moist summer climate causes the trees to bear a larger proportion of high-priced summer fruit. In the hot interior valleys some lemons are produced also; but while the trees will grow just as well under desert conditions, the fruit tends to mature mostly in the winter when the price is low. The fruit itself under such conditions is shorter-lived and will not keep so long nor ship so well as that produced near the coast.

Lemons are picked from ten to twelve times a year, each lemon being removed from the tree when it has reached a certain size, namely 2 1/4 inches in diameter. Each picker carries an iron ring of the above diameter and removes every fruit which will not pass through it, regardless of whether the lemon is ripe and yellow or perfectly green. Great care is taken to avoid the slightest abrasion of the skin. The stems are clipped off even with the "button," and the fruit is handled only in gloved hands and canvas picking-bags. The largest pickings are ready in the winter from December 1 to March 1, and as this is the time when the price of lemons is low, it is necessary to defer picking the main crop till March and April and to store an immense amount of fruit, holding it until the high prices of summer prevail. Sometimes seventy-five or one hundred carloads of lemons are stored in one house and held for three to six months. The smallest pickings come in the summer from June 1 to October 1, at a time when the price is the highest. It is necessary, therefore, to subject the green lemons to such an artificial treatment as will result in a good color in the shortest time possible. Thus the lemon-grower has two problems: one is to be able to retard respiration and the ripening process as much as possible and the other to accelerate these same processes.

For the process of spring storage, large houses are provided which are so constructed as to admit of perfect control of ventilation. On the storage-floor, there are a number of suspended canvas tents, each tent accommodating one carload of fruit. When the fruit is brought from the orchard, it is washed in a solution of one-fiftieth of 1 per cent of copper sulfate in water and piled loosely in boxes which are stacked under the tents. During moist, foggy weather the tents are raised and free circulation of air permitted. Should a dry, hot wind from the desert prevail, the tents are kept closed as tightly as possible in order to retard evaporation.

Lemons picked in September, however, after being run through the copper sulfate solution, are removed to a small fireproof building known as a sweat-house. The sweat-house usually has several rooms, each room accommodating one carload of fruit. The fruit is stacked in these rooms in the picking-boxes, the greenest and most immature in the rear and the lightest-colored fruit next the door. The room is then closed tightly and several kerosene stoves are burned in a basement below. Pans of water are kept on the stoves and the gases arising pass through cracks in the floor into the fruit-room. These gases consist of a mixture of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and water vapor. The temperature of the room is held as near 90° as possible and is regulated by the number of burners under the room. Great care is taken to keep the atmosphere saturated with moisture. Lemons are artificially colored in this manner in three to six days, depending on the depth of the green color in the rind.

The curing process causes the lemons to shrink in size slightly and the rind becomes thinner, more pliable, with a texture and general finish greatly desired by the market. During the whole process of picking and curing lemons they are handled very much more carefully than oranges. The grading and sizing is done almost entirely by hand, the washing-machine being the only bit of machinery through which lemons are passed. For many years the lemon business in California did not flourish. Until fifteen years ago, California lemons had a very bad reputation for decay in the eastern markets, and perhaps justly. California growers did not possess the knowledge and the skill necessary for successful handling. One of the most serious troubles of those days was the brown-rot, which not only destroyed a third or more of the lemons on each tree in the orchard, but continued its ravages in the storage-house. The nature of this and many of the other troubles is now well understood and control methods systematized. The business has been readjusted to conditions until the old bad reputation has been lived down and by 1912 California lemons were selling steadily in the New York City auction at a premium over the European product.

On account of the peculiar troubles to which the lemon is susceptible, the expenses of production are greater than in the case of the orange. Until recently the increased tariff has to some extent offset this difference and at present the acreage of bearing lemons is being increased very rapidly.

Practically all varieties of any value in the Old World were introduced into California and tested out in the early days. Most of them, however, were not suited to our climatic conditions. Fifteen years ago the list had been reduced to six, namely the Eureka, Lisbon, Villa Franca, Genoa, Bonnie Brae and Messina. Five years ago the list had shrunk to three varieties, the Eureka, Lisbon and Villa Franca. Today the Eureka is practically the only variety widely planted, although there are many old orchards of the other varieties still in bearing. The Eureka is a seedling which originated in Los Angeles. During the years of its propagation it has split up into several strains, some of which are very much more desirable than others. The best strain of Eureka is precocious, vigorous, prolific, thornless and almost seedless. The chief objections to the Eureka are its habit of throwing out long, ungainly branches which fruit on their ends, and the thinness of the foliage in the springtime which allows a good many lemons to sunburn.

While the orange requires only a medium amount of pruning, the lemon tree demands almost constant attention. The young tree should be regularly pinched back and built up wholly of short, stocky branches, strong enough to bear a heavy load. All growth is cut off at some arbitrary level, at 8 to 10 feet from the ground. A great many vigorous young shoots will arise from the top and should be removed twice each year, once in the spring and again in late summer. In addition to this, many of the large growers keep a gang of expert pruners occupied the year round cutting out the weak and decadent branches and thinning the fruiting brush. One experienced pruner working continuously will care for 25 to 40 acres of Eureka lemons, and a somewhat less amount of Lisbons, which are very thorny and not easily handled. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


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  • 'Bearss'
  • 'Eureka'
  • 'Lisbon'
  • 'Ponderosa'
  • 'Variegated Pink' ('Pink Lemonade')



See also


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