Lime trees are native to Southeast Asia and India and provide households or landscapes with a splash of color, garden shade and a harvest of fruit for cooking or juice. Lime trees are split into two major varieties based on appearance, origin and taste; the Mexican (or key) lime and the Tahiti (or Persian) lime. Lime are evergreen trees that reach heights of anywhere from 6 to 20 feet. Limes are technically berries, and range from 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Lime trees can typically grow in any region with lots of sun and winters that rarely have frosts. They need lots of water and full sun when planted on landscapes.
Mexican lime trees, also known as key lime, are small, bushy trees with small thorns on the thin branches. Explorers introduced the tree, originally from Asia, to the Caribbean islands before it made its way to Florida, according to Purdue University. These limes are small (about 1 inch in diameter) with skin that ranges from green to pale yellow. The limes are tangy with bright green juice and fruit inside, and a strong citrusy odor. Varieties within this category include the Everglade (light yellow fruit that grows in bunches), Kagzi (no thorns) and the Palmetto (yellow skin and very juicy).
The Tahiti (also known as Persian or Bearss) lime can be very susceptible to disease, thus many varieties under this category are indistinct. This variety is larger, growing up to 20 feet tall with wide hanging branches. These limes were imported from Tahiti to San Francisco where they spread across the country, according to Purdue University. Tahiti or Persian limes turn color from bright green to pale yellow when ripening, with smooth unblemished flesh and a very small amount of seeds (if any) compared to the Mexican lime.
Trees Mistaken for Lime Varieties
Several citrus trees include the term "lime" in the name, but are not actually lime varieties. These include the Palestine sweet lime, the Kaffir lime, the Rangpur lime (a cross between a lemon and mandarin), and a hybrid called a limequat, which is a cross between the Mexican lime and a kumquat.