Poncirus trifoliata (Bitter/Sour/Hardy Orange)

eibren(z6PA)January 26, 2009

This well-thorned member of the Rutaceae family is often used as rootstock for orange trees, to which it appears closely related. However, the fruits are extremely bitter and are reported to contain a somewhat toxic saponic glycoside as well as an oil that can be irritating.

Despite this, I suspect it may have some healing qualities similar to an unrelated plant that also has saponic glycosides in it, as well as a bitter principle, which, I read, grows in South America. The Zulus and others use that plant for various purposes.


I would like to try to grow Poncirus. The seeds are said to be most viable when first taken from the fruit. Does anyone know of a nursery that sells self-rooted plants or the whole ripe fruit?

Here is a link that might be useful: Poncirus trifoliata

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What a beautiful plant!
Dave's garden has some links:


And this site sells seeds:

You might want to try posting this on a citrus thread too, probably get more hits. I post my plant requests in the California gardening forum and people are usually very knowledgeable regarding where to buy plants in my area. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 10:37AM
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Thanks, SS.

It is the only citrus-like plant I can find that would be hardy enough for my zone.

Also, we have enough "wild" cats in our area that I think the birds might appreciate one cat-proof tree to nest in.

The fragrance of the blossoms is not supposed to be as strong as in orange trees, but the flowers are supposed to be a bit larger, and it is supposed to be attractive to bees as well.

I am hoping it also has some medicinal qualities that would help the bees.

I would use it as a partial barrier at the back of my garden.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 3:42PM
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It's supposed to make an effective thorny barrier. I've used Rosa rugosa as a hedge for the same purpose (with the bonus of rose hips).

Here's an interesting variant of Poncirus with a contorted shape, still with fragrant flowers and apparently vigorous growth.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 12:59PM
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Thanks, Eric. I had read of the Flying Dragon in other links, but thought it did not flower.

I would really like to get a normal Poncirus if I could, though, as it would probably grow a bit larger. I saved the link just in case...looks like an interesting site as well.

Actually, if there were any hybrids with oranges or lemons that were frost-hardy, that would be even better, but I don't think the hybridizers have gotten it to that point yet--unless they're just not reporting it. Seems they would be...trade secret?

We have made such progress with things like chrysanthemums, one would think a food product would attract a great deal more attention. Of course, the life cycle is much longer, though.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 7:37PM
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Happy update! First, though, thank those who gave me source suggestions. I was lucky enough to find a local source, though--A year or two ago I spotted a Poncirus trifoliata in the gardens of a dedicated lavender grower in a small town near Gettysburg. I believe it was a Flying Dragon plant. In any case, it had fruited, and there were numerous small seedlings at its base.

I was permitted to collect a few of the seedlings, in hopes of getting one to live in my own garden. I took them home, planted them in an outdoor pot, and eventually transplanted the largest (about two inches tall at that point) in a shady spot next to my West-facing driveway.That spot is shaded by a tall pine tree and was in the process of becoming a garden after I discovered the remains of a large pile of mushroom mulch had become rootbound and was therefore no longer usable for mulch.

The Poncius was not to be seen at all last summer, although I did not have much time to seek it out due to a family emergency. Therefore, imagine my surprise when, a couple of days ago, I spotted my little Poncirus, now about five inches tall and bravely putting out some new little leaves, only a few feet from a small Nearly Wild rosebush! I can only guess that a rabbit or squirrel bit it off last summer, but that its reported bitter taste saved it from a total uprooting.

I placed a rock next it to afford it a bit of protection and am anxiously awaiting further developments. :o)


    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 12:17AM
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i know of a very old plant of this type that has been trained to grow flat against the side of a building, its gorgeous in and out of bloom and smells delightful when the flowers are open. good choice of plantand nice score on those seedlings : )

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 1:29PM
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