My Friend, the Humble Lemon

My Friend, the Humble Lemon

Citrus limon ‘Eureka’

Whether it’s dad pissing on the lemon tree in the backyard or afternoons spent roaming the neighbourhood nicking exposed lemons, a lot of us have good-time memories of this humble yet ubiquitous tree. Can you even call it a backyard without one?

a) Average expected life of tree, in years, from sprout to death (approx numbers)

  • 50-100 years.

b) Years until trees first fruit (ie some trees fruit within a few years, others can take decades)

  • May bloom early but buds and flowers should be snipped off to preserve the tree’s energy until it reaches about 3 years.

c) Season of year when productive tree fruits (ie Summer, Autumn, Winter Spring or combo ie Su/Au)

  • Year-round but main burst in Winter.

d) Expected or average number years tree expected to fruit for once it begins. (ie year 8 to 20 = 12 yrs)

  • 47-97 years.

e) Country/area of origin

  • South Asia and north-eastern India.
  • The Eureka variety is from California, 1858

f) Average annual rainfall in area of origin

  • South Asia: 60-200 cm
  • North-eastern India: 100-200 cm
  • California: 54.5 cm

g) Latin name of tree and family

  • Latin name: Citrus limon
  • Family: Rutaceae


h) Any other products, benefits, useful or interesting facts about tree

  • Can grow as hedge or privacy screen
  • Can grow dwarf varieties in pots
  • Wood can be used for firewood or smoking food after 6 months’ drying.
  • Wood is bark-free (no mess), splits easily, not smokey, loud or pungent when burnt, and burns longer than softwoods.
  • Lemon leaves can be used in cooking: steaming, marinades, flavouring, oils
  • Lemons have enormous variety of uses: in cooking, as a digestive, alkaline body, cleaning agent, air freshener, face cleanser, hair lightener.

i) Height, width and shape of tree at maturity.

  • Foliage is spreading and sparse, low to ground
  • Height: 4-6 meters
  • Arbour diameter: 4-6 meters
  • Trunk diameter: 20-30 cm

j) challenges or special requirements, such as needing other varieties in order to fruit

  • Prune between February and April or any time the tree is flowering.
  • Food-loving: feed 3-4 times a year
  • Water often when young and when fruiting
  • Plant in sunny area away from frost
  • Fewer thorns than other varieties
  • Prone to:
    • citrus leaf miner, scale and sooty mould – apply pest/white oil.
    • ants – may be attracted by sooty mould, see above.
    • aphids – apply pyrethrum or confidor, or squash with fingers.
    • citrus gall wasp (lumps) – prune off damaged foliage before August when wasp eggs are laid.
  • Companion plants to draw away pests:
    • Marigolds, petunias and borage act as repellants
    • Nasturtiums attract aphids away from tree
    • More companion plants

By Carmen Reilly


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