Saturday, June 29, 2013

A TALE OF TWO LEMON TREES (Citrus x meyeri) (Citrus jambhiri)

I have two lemon trees in my garden: a Meyer lemon (Citrus x meyeri) in the front yard that gives fruit in the autumn and winter and a Rough lemon (Citrus jambhiri) in the back yard that keeps me in fruit in the spring and summer.

Rough Lemon on left, Meyer Lemon on right, compared to a lemon from the supermarket.

The Meyer lemon I bought as a grafted tree and it produced fruit within a year. The fruit are huge and juicy and often grow in bunches.  Most years I expect about fifty fruit on my tree but a couple of times it has super produced so that I end up selling some.  The first time this happened was the year that Oahu had a noteworthy forty days of rain.  So....lemons like lots of water.  The second time this happened is this year. My tree is of course bigger now but there must be over a thousand young lemons on it right now.  I could not believe how the flowers kept coming out on the tree.  It may mean that I will have lots of little lemons instead of the usual big ones though.  So what do I think is causing the super fruiting this year?   Well we have had fairly good rain this spring, but the other difference is that I moved about a dozen pots of young red ginger plants under the tree to give them some protection from sun and wind.  Maybe it is because the tree is getting more consistent watering because I have to water the gingers in the pots.  Maybe there is a regular feeding coming from the pots too as the fertilizer in them leaches down into the rooting zone of the lemon tree.  If I get such good results again next year I will know I have really hit on a good thing.

Immature Meyer lemons

My Meyer lemon in the front yard

Another problem I get in the Meyer lemon tree is aphids on the new growth.  As soon as I see them I look for ant nests that they build within the bunches of fruit and blast them out with the water hose.  It is the ants that bring in the aphids like herds of milk them of their sweet body fluids.

The Rough lemon in the back yard we usually call by the Samoan name, Tipolo Pakupaku as I first got to know of this lemon in Samoa.  It is a popular lemon in many islands of the South Pacific, not only for its fruit, but also for its very fragrant leaves that are used in making tea or added to desserts along with coconut milk.  The  large bumpy fruit of the tree does not keep well when picked so I leave them on the tree until I need them.

Our Rough lemon I grew from seed so it was several years before the tree was old enough to fruit. It is a very tough thing with big thorns.  It grows in the very sandy back yard with the full force of the salt winds from the beach about 300 yards away.  I am afraid it is a rather sad looking tree because of that with about half of the tree covered with dead branches because of the salt wind.  I leave them there as a wind break for the rest of the tree.  Because the Rough lemon is such a tough tree, is is used as rooting stock for grafting in many parts of the world.

My poor windblown  Jambhiri Lemon tree in the back yard

I expect my uses for lemon are much the same as yours so I really cannot think of any exceptional way of using them.  I like squeezing lemon juice in my ice tea, on my breakfast papaya, and on salads and fish etc.  You can freeze lemon juice in ice trays and then bag the juice cubes to freeze for future use, although my two trees keep me supplied all year.  Home made lemonade is just right on a hot summer day and if you want something really special, try adding  a bit of ginger root tea to the lemonade.  The leaves of the Rough lemon make a beautiful tea so that is worth trying.
Immature Jambhiri Lemons

As an end note, I also want to comment on how the two lemon trees are part of nature in our little part of the world.  Both of the lemon trees get lots of visits from the Citrus Swallowtail butterfly which I enjoy seeing in the garden and I do not see any damage to the tree from them.  The two trees are also very popular for nest building by the little red wax billed rice birds.  There are several of their tunnel door nests in the trees and they will add on to them the next year.  I am glad that they find needed protection in my loved lemon trees.


PS   February, 2015
Well I am still getting lots of flowers and lemons on my Meyer Lemon tree so I have decided that having the several pots of newly propagated ginger kept under the lemon tree is really giving the tree a boost with the constant water and fertilizer from the pot plants going to the lemon tree as well.  Last week I had another surprise in my lemon tree too.....have a look at this photo!

Yep....this is a huge swarm of honey bees that showed up.  It was at least two feet long. The whole thing is just made up of bees surrounding their queen bee. They have split off from a hive and are looking for a new home.  A bee man was very happy to come and get them to build up his hives.  It all caused quite a bit of excitement around here!

PS July, 2016
I am very sorry to have to tell you that my Rough Lemon tree has died.   It has always had a tough life out in the back yard because of sandy soils and salt winds coming off the ocean.  Last year it was hit by really big winds a few months before Christmas which left the tree almost naked but it grew new leaves in and still looked good.  Then a few months after Christmas we had another big salt wind session and the tree just did not have the energy to grow new leaves all over again and has died.  I will miss my source of lemons in the spring time so I guess I will be freezing lemon juice from the Meyer Lemon to keep me going in between seasons.  I have also  grown several baby Rough Lemon trees from the seed so hopefully there will be more fruit in the future.

August, 2017
Rough lemon number two is now growing out in my back yard and big enough to at least provide fragrant leaves for tea making even though it will be five years or so before I get some fruit.  This time I have planted the tree closer to the crown flower tree for protection from the salt winds.  I have been trimming the crown flower tree to grow out on one side to give more protection.


  1. I'm reading through your garden blog and each post. I really enjoy all your garden visits throughout the world. Keep it up!
    I also put your blog on my blog list over on my garden blog. I hope you get a lot of visitors!!!

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