The lemon tree is a popular citrus tree that produces a fruit known for its pleasant fragrance, attractive appearance and acidic taste. These small evergreen citrus trees, which are the most sensitive to cold temperatures of all citrus trees, originally came from India. They were brought to Europe where they were later carried to Hispaniola (a Caribbean Island including Haiti and the Dominican Republic) by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Early Spanish colonists probably introduced them to St. Augustine, Florida.
The lemon tree (Citrus limon) is a perennial tree coming from the Rutaceae or citrus family and is named for its oval yellow fruit. Flowers of the lemon tree have five petals, five sepals, one pistil and several stamens. While the upper surfaces of petals are white, the lower petal surfaces are pink. The sweet smell of lemon flowers are similar to the fragrance of orange flowers.
Size and Time Frame
An average lemon tree grows to roughly 20 to 30 feet high, according to Tree Help.com. It’s not until its third year that a lemon tree starts bearing fruit. According to Lemon Info.com, many lemon trees have been known to produce as much as 1,500 lemons annually.
Lemon trees are grown in tropical and subtropical areas worldwide such as Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Greece, Italy and Turkey. In the United States they’re cultivated in warm climates such as California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. According to Purdue Horticulture.com, California and Arizona lead the United States, besides the Western Hemisphere, in producing lemons.
There are several varieties of lemon trees. The two main types of lemons used today come from Eureka and Lisbon lemon trees. Eureka lemon trees produce lemons in clusters during spring and summer. Lisbon trees are thick and have thorny vertical branches. True lemon trees have sharp thorns on their twigs and mildly fragrant flowers. The Meyer lemon tree doesn’t produce a typical lemon, but yields a fruit used as lemon substitutes that’s not as acidic as normal lemons. Rough lemon trees produce fruit that are bumpy, larger and seedier than other lemon trees.
Diseases and Pests
Lemon trees battle the same diseases and pests as most citrus trees. Citrus canker, a bacterial infection, causes scabs and yellow lesions on leaves, twigs and fruit. Root rot has symptoms of dark brown hardened patches on tree trunks and can also cause fruit browning and decay, in addition to foliage turning yellow.
Aphids are common pests to lemon trees. These insects, which are light grayish green, greenish yellow, brown or black, leave signs of their presence on leaves by puckered marks. Twisted leaves are another symptom of aphids. The citrus whitefly is commonly found eating the undersides of leaves. A leaf that curls and appears covered with a sticky mold material is a sign of an infestation of citrus whiteflies.
The peel of a true lemon can easily be bruised, which causes peel oil to be released. This leads in the lemon's peel becoming seriously spotted with oil. Oil spotting has no affect on lemon juice, but it can shorten a lemon’s life. One way to avoid the problem is to avoid picking lemons following rain because handling wet fruit can cause bruising.