Like all citrus fruits, limes are confined to tropical and subtropical areas. Used primarily for the tangy taste of their juice, limes add tartness to marinades, seafood dishes and desserts such as key lime pie and lime sherbet. Learning to distinguish lime trees from other citrus trees can help you to provide treatment for pests and diseases or to identify a source of wild limes for harvesting.
Lime trees vary greatly in size, with some appearing more like a shrub than a tree and others growing tall. Mature lime trees average 6 to 13 feet in height.
While it is possible to find lime trees without thorns, most have thorns. Those without thorns are less productive, notes Julia F. Morton in "Fruits of Warm Climates." Accordingly, most lime branches bear small spiny thorns. Lime trees produce many slim branches rather than a few large ones.
Lime fruits are ovoid in shape; they develop either along or in clusters of two to three fruits. Some limes have a small neck at the tip while others are smooth. Immature limes are dark green and glossy. When the fruit ripens, it takes on a yellow tinge.
Lime tree leaves feel rough and are dark green when mature. The leaves average 2 to 3 inches in length and have delicate teeth. Lime trees bear many leaves.
Depending on the variety, some lime tree flowers have a sweet fragrance. Young flowers bear a purple tinge; this fades with time, leaving a white flower. The flowers have four to six petals and yellow stamens.
Native to South and Central America, lime trees grow in subtropical climates. Today lime trees grow throughout the Caribbean and Mexico, as well as in the warmer portions of California, Florida and Texas.