From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
is a common term and genus (Citrus
) of flowering plants in the rue family, Rutaceae. Citrus is believed to have originated in the part of Southeast Asia bordered by Northeastern India, Myanmar (Burma) and the Yunnan province of China. Citrus fruit has been cultivated in an ever-widening area since ancient times; the best-known examples are the oranges
, and limes
The generic name originated in Latin, where it specifically referred to the plant now known as Citron (C. medica
). It was derived from the ancient Greek word for cedar (kédros
). Some believe this was because Hellenistic Jews used the fruits of C. medica
during Sukkot (Feast of the Tabernacles) in place of a cedar cone, while others state it was due to similarities in the smell of citrus leaves and fruit with that of cedar. Collectively, Citrus fruits and plants are also known by the Romance loanword agrumes
(literally "sour fruits").
The taxonomy and systematics of the genus are complex and the precise number of natural species is unclear, as many of the named species are hybrids clonally propagated through seeds (by apomixis), and there is genetic evidence that even some wild, true-breeding species are of hybrid origin. Cultivated Citrus may be derived from as few as four ancestral species. Natural and cultivated origin hybrids include commercially important fruit such as the oranges, grapefruit, lemons, some limes, and some tangerines.
Research suggests that the closely related genus Fortunella
(kumquats), and perhaps also Poncirus
and the Australian Microcitrus
, should be included in Citrus
; most botanists now classify Microcitrus
as part of the genus Citrus
. Two additional genera: Triphasia
are likewise very closely related, and bear hesperidium fruits, but are not considered part of the Citrus
genus. At least one, Clymenia
, will hybridize with kumquats and some limes.
These plants are large shrubs or small trees, reaching 5–15 m tall, with spiny shoots and alternately arranged evergreen leaves with an entire margin. The flowers are solitary or in small corymbs, each flower 2–4 cm diameter, with five (rarely four) white petals and numerous stamens; they are often very strongly scented. The fruit is a hesperidium, a specialised berry, globose to elongated, 4–30 cm long and 4–20 cm diameter, with a leathery rind or "peel" called a pericarp. The outermost layer of the pericarp is an "exocarp" called the flavedo, commonly referred to as the zest. The middle layer of the pericarp is the mesocarp, which in citrus fruits consists of the white, spongy "albedo", or "pith". The innermost layer of the pericarp is the endocarp. The segments are also called "liths", and the space inside each lith is a locule filled with juice vesicles, or "pulp". From the endocarp, string-like "hairs" extend into the locules, which provide nourishment to the fruit as it develops.
Citrus fruits are notable for their fragrance, partly due to flavonoids and limonoids (which in turn are terpenes) contained in the rind, and most are juice-laden. The juice contains a high quantity of citric acid giving them their characteristic sharp flavour. The genus is commercially important as many species are cultivated for their fruit, which is eaten fresh, pressed for juice, or preserved in marmalades and pickles.
They are also good sources of vitamin C and flavonoids. The flavonoids include various flavanones and flavones.
Citrus trees hybridise very readily – depending on the pollen source, plants grown from a Persian Lime's seeds can produce fruit similar to grapefruit. Thus all commercial citrus cultivation uses trees produced by grafting the desired fruiting cultivars onto rootstocks selected for disease resistance and hardiness.
The colour of citrus fruits only develops in climates with a (diurnal) cool winter. In tropical regions with no winter at all, citrus fruits remain green until maturity, hence the tropical "green oranges". The Persian Lime in particular is extremely sensitive to cool conditions, thus it is not usually exposed to cool enough conditions to develop a mature colour. If they are left in a cool place over winter, the fruits will change colour to yellow.
The terms "ripe" and "mature" are usually used synonymously, but they mean different things. A mature fruit is one that has completed its growth phase. Ripening is the changes that occur within the fruit after it is mature to the beginning of decay. These changes usually involve starches converting to sugars, a decrease in acids and a softening and change in the fruit's colour.
Citrus fruits are non-climacteric and respiration slowly declines and the production and release of ethylene is gradual. The fruits do not go through a ripening process in the sense that they become "tree ripe." Some fruits, for example cherries, physically mature and then continue to ripen on the tree. Other fruits, like pears, are picked when mature but before they ripen, then continue to ripen off the tree. Citrus fruits pass from immaturity to maturity to over-maturity while still on the tree. Once they are separated from the tree, they will not increase in sweetness or continue to ripen. The only way change may happen after being picked is that they will eventually start to decay.
With oranges, colour cannot be used as an indicator of ripeness because sometimes the rinds turn orange long before the oranges are ready to eat. Tasting them is the only way to know whether or not they are ready to eat.
Citrus trees are not generally frost hardy. Mandarin Oranges (C. reticulata
) tend to be the hardiest of the common Citrus species and can withstand short periods down to as cold as -10 °C, but realistically temperatures not falling below -2 °C are required for successful cultivation. Tangerines, tangors and yuzu can be grown outside even in regions with more marked sub-zero degrees in winter, although this may affect fruit quality. A few hardy hybrids can withstand temperatures well below freezing, but do not produce quality fruit. Lemons can be commercially grown in cooler-summer/moderate-winter coastal Southern California, because sweetness is neither attained nor expected in retail lemon fruit. The related Trifoliate Orange (Citrus trifoliata
) can survive below -20 °C; its fruit are astringent and inedible unless cooked but a few better-tasting cultivars and hybrids have been developed (see citranges).
The trees thrive in a consistently sunny, humid environment with fertile soil and adequate rainfall or irrigation. Abandoned trees in valleys may suffer, yet survive, the dry summer of Central California's Inner Coast Ranges. At any age citrus grows well enough with infrequent irrigation in partial shade, but the fruit crop is smaller. Though broadleaved, they are evergreen and do not drop leaves except when stressed. The stems of many varieties have large sharp thorns. The trees flower in the spring, and fruit is set shortly afterward. Fruit begins to ripen in fall or early winter months, depending on cultivar, and develops increasing sweetness afterward. Some cultivars of tangerines ripen by winter. Some, such as the grapefruit, may take up to eighteen months to ripen.
Major commercial citrus growing areas include southern China, the Mediterranean Basin (including southern Spain), South Africa, Australia, the southernmost United States, Mexico and parts of South America. In the United States, Florida, California, Arizona, and Texas are major producers, while smaller plantings are present in other Sun Belt states and in Hawaii.
As ornamental plants
Citrus trees grown in tubs and wintered under cover were a feature of Renaissance gardens, once glass-making technology enabled sufficient expanses of clear glass to be produced. An orangery was a feature of royal and aristocratic residences through the 17th and 18th centuries. The Orangerie at the Palace of the Louvre, 1617, inspired imitations that were not eclipsed until the development of the modern greenhouse in the 1840s. In the United States the earliest surviving orangery is at the Tayloe House, Mount Airy, Virginia. George Washington had an orangery at Mount Vernon.
Some modern hobbyists still grow dwarf citrus in containers or greenhouses in areas where it is too cold to grow it outdoors. Consistent climate, sufficient sunlight, and proper watering are crucial if the trees are to thrive and produce fruit. Compared to many of the usual "green shrubs", citrus trees better tolerate poor container care. For cooler winter areas, limes and lemons should not be grown, since they are more sensitive to winter cold than other citrus fruits. Hybrids with kumquats (× Citrofortunella
) have good cold resistance.