A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but a lemon by any other name will not taste as sweet. There is a huge difference between the Meyer lemon and the Eureka lemon, in both appearance and taste. So it's a good idea to make your choice if you are planning on growing them in your garden or planning a special lemon-flavored treat for dinner.
Genetics and History
Although both considered lemons, only Eurekas are "true lemons" in that they are a variety of Citrus limon that was developed in California in 1958. The Meyer lemon is a hybrid, whose origin is unknown but believed to be a cross between a true lemon and either the mandarin orange or orange. It was discovered growing as an ornamental plant in a dooryard in China in 1908.
Meyer lemon trees grow about 6 to 12 feet tall and tend to be compact. Eurekas grow about 10 to 12 feet tall and are more wide-spreading the Meyers. Meyers require about half the space of Eurekas--about 8 to 10 feet. The Meyer lemon tree is more open and has very few twigs and branches, which makes its fruit more susceptible to blemish, sunburn and frost damage because they are not protected by a leaf canopy. Both trees are evergreens with glossy, textured leaves. They also tend to be less thorny than other varieties of lemon trees, making the fruit easier to pick.
Meyer lemons are medium-sized and may be egg-shaped or more rounded than Eureka lemons. The nipple, or the end of the lemon that peaks outward, is usually rounded with a short or absent "nipple." In contrast, Eureka lemons have a more pronounced nipple. Meyers are bright yellow to light-orange in color, while Eurekas are pale yellow.
The pulp of a Meyer lemon is usually pale orange-yellow while the pulp of a Eureka lemon is greenish-yellow. Both have 10 segments and are juicy. Meyer lemons taste sweeter, have a medium lemon favor and are less acidic. Eureka lemons usually have fewer seeds while Meyer lemons have smaller seeds.
Meyer produces fragrant white flowers with a pinkish hue year round, with the main harvesting period being between December to April. Eureka flowers are white to near white and are produced mid-spring, and its main harvesting period is during the late winter to early spring, although the harvesting period lengthens as the tree ages.
Eureka lemon trees need an acidic soil with a pH 4.5 or below, while Meyer lemon trees prefer a soil that is more neutral between 6.1 and 7.8. Both prefer full sun, but Meyers will tolerate partial shade. Both have average water needs and require regular watering, but not over-watering.
Meyer lemons are the most cold-hardy of all lemons, up to USDA zone 8a. Eureka lemons are hardy up to Zone 9b. Meyers are very popular in Texas, California, Florida and Australia. Eureka lemons are more common in Israel, Argentina, Australia and South Africa, but is not suitable for Florida.