Can oranges have thorns?

skrip(z9/sun19/SoCal.)March 13, 2006

Stupid question perhaps... But I have had a mystery small citrus tree in my backyard for 3 years (since I bought the house) and ive been nursing it all along. Last year many of you told me it was a grapefruit. Well, it finally gave about 4 fruits. They taste just like oranges, look like oranges, and are pretty much oranges. My neighbor has a huge orange & lemon tree, and I have a tangerine as well. None have any thorns, well, their lemon has small ones.

The only thing that startles me is the HUGE thorns this so called 'orange' tree has, I mean there are some over 2" long! Is this just an early part of oranges or do I have some kind of hybrid? This tree was bird planted btw.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rickjames(9 Cali)

I would guess it's thorny just because the tree is a younger tree. The orange trees I have aren't noticably thorny, but they weren't seed-started either. Same goes for my sole grapefruit tree. The youthful thorns are to protect itself from being eaten.

If it was a hybrid, then perhaps the fruit wouldn't look and taste just like an orange? But I couldn't say for sure. I would assume it wasn't a navel orange, either.

Was it good? ;)

Also, if I may ask out of curiosity, how tall and wide is it now?


    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 3:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When I first got the house, it was about 4 feet tall and wide. It would always look dried out. 3 years later, it is about 8 feet high and about 6-7 feet wide. Its got what looks like tall shoots (its what makes it tall) and alot of new growth. But the thorns are ridiculous.

The oranges were good, but nothing to say theres something different... theres only one left. I also pruned it a little at the bottom to keep it going up.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 10:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rickjames(9 Cali)

Hmmm, not that large, really. You can just clip the thorns off if and where they bother you, or pinch them off from lower tender growth.

You're obviously doing something right ;) Sounds like a nice tree.

You can compare leaf morphology with pictures on the internet; I think I got this link from an old post here:

Here is a link that might be useful: ID Citrus Leaves

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 7:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, here's some pics anyways:

this is the tree when we first got the house 3 years ago:

this is the tree now:

this is the thorn detail:

Obviously, on the thorn pic, you can see alot of little new growth. Its pretty healthy now. Those thorns blow me away though... Im hoping it will give out some more fruit next season, cause 4 wasnt much.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 7:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The tree is prabably a seedling. Most all seedlings have large thorns.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 7:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

So does that mean the thorns will be that big forever? Yes it is definitely a seedling, all my fruit trees are... the previous owner told me the birds planted everything, he never did a thing to the yard ever. Believe me, if I show you the before picture, youd believe it without a doubt. In fact, here ya go for your enjoyment:

I would hope that the thorns go away eventually, or greatly reduce their size. Am I stuck with these things?

My tangerine tree which was a seedling does not have any thorns.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 8:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
paty99(z6 NY)

Sour orange trees tend to be quite thorny and they stay that way there entire lives. The thing about sour orange trees is sometimes there oranges are not that sour. This can be a trait of a particular tree and also is influenced by weather mostly how cold it gets, cold weather makes orange trees produce more sugar. On a tree that was grown from seed which might be a cross between a sweet orange and a sour oramge you might get good oranges but still have the sour orange tree traits (thorns). Or it might be a sour orange tree that is having a good year, making sweeter fruit because of cold weather and other environmental influences. If you do end up with a sour orange tree you should know they are usually very healthy trees and the juice is good as an orangeade or as a whiskey sour mix alternative.
Good luck, Pat

    Bookmark   March 16, 2006 at 11:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rickjames(9 Cali)

My understanding is that thorny trees that are thorny because they are young/seedlings will just sorta stop making thorns or make fewer as they get older. How old or how tall I haven't the faintest idea. Whether or not pruning twigs/branches (not the thorns) will affect this process I don't know either. I could be just spewing gardening urban legends gleaned off the internet LOL. I didn't think sour oranges were particularly thorny--I have one, and it's not thorny, just a few short ones here and there if you look for them. But, I am in the habit of pinching them off and so I may just not be noticing anymore; plus it's grafted. You learn something everyday :)

Do the thorns bother you very much? Though they are large, it's still a very nice tree. Nice job on your yard too.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2006 at 6:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Rick... thanks first of all. It was a lot of work. I did it all myself (no day laborers or whatever), I actually did every single thing you see. And Im not a gardener or anything, I work in an office.

The thorns do bother me because when I mow, they hurt. I have lots of scratches from them. But not only that, I have kids and kids come over and like to play. Ive had a couple who have been hurt by them. Which is why Im trying to prune it high every year so they can go under it. Also trying to get an orange is a risky thing (although only 4 have ever come out!).

I am a little afraid of cutting the thorns, because there is so much new growth on it, I dont want to do anything to affect that. Its growing so fast I dont want to mess it up. The pruning part was scary as it is.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2006 at 9:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rickjames(9 Cali)

Wow, all on your own? Strong work.

I don't think that just clipping the large and bothersome
thorns will do much damage to the tree--I do it all the time or else I'd look like I ran through barbed wire. And they don't have to be cut flush with the branch, you can just cut most of it. Then they'll be dull and short. They shouldn't grow back on areas where they have been taken off. In fact, it is easier on the tender young branches and growth because the thorns are still soft--just pinch it off. And then you can just remove the thorns that are in areas that are easy to reach--surely on top of the tree they aren't in your way? It will probably take some work, but not too much.

Unless you'd rather take out the tree altogether? But it's a nice established tree and you can *generally* expect the fruit to improve further with age. But do what you think is best, I am a sucker when it comes to citrus...

Or you could try drastic pruning, but that may not fix your problem in that the thorns may just come back on new growth again (and I don't know how that would affect your tree--I'd guess eventually stimulate lots of new growth and new thorns, or possibly open up the trunk to sunburn damage.) You can continue to try to gradually train it with taller branches that leaf out higher, but that won't help you today.

With picking fruit you can try one of those long-handled pickers--the padded-basket-looking thing that is mounted on a long pole. Useful for any tall frutiing tree and not too pricey.

Just my 2 cents. HTH.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 1:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
paty99(z6 NY)

Hi skrip,
Rickjames is right about pinching or cutting off the thorns, it won't hurt the tree. This may be a time consuming chore but it is definitely a good idea. Some sour orange trees aren't that thorny, some are very thorny. Looking at your tree again I see that it is pretty young, citrus trees do produce more thorns when they are young, so hopefully it will produce fewer thorns as it gets older. I have a sour orange tree that is about 18 years old and it still produces a lot of thorns. It's not grafted though. In the end, I would opt to keep the tree, and figure on having to spend a little extra time caring for it. By the way, sorry I didn't say so earlier, but very nice job on that yard!!
Good luck, Pat

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 7:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Rick, Paty & Pecanman, you guys are awesome. Thanks for taking the time to keep answering my questions!

Well, I think that is a great idea. I will have the kids and I cut thorns that are in the way, sounds like a fun thing to do anyways.

And I will keep it, I have grown emotionally attached to it since Ive been babying it for so long. To remove it would probably drive me nuts. That is very good news if they dont grow back in the same spot (thorns) and its true, the high ones I dont care about.

Again thanks for all your help in my little citrus situation!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 11:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think I have the same tree! My 6 year old planted a full orange last year in one of my pots. I got 3 sprouts. One is a dwarf orange tree, which sits on my kiten sink, the other died, and number 3 is now about 3 feet tall with HUGE spiny thorns. I've been trying to find out what kind of tree this is (smells and looks like an orange) but it's too young to bear fruit. I'd LOVE to know more about your tree!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2006 at 1:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You do have an orange tree and the thorns WILL remain throughout the life of the tree.
I had one at a house I just sold in San Antonio, TX and it was a mature tree of 20-25 feet high. The thorns on the thicker branches were serious weapons!
I clipped the thorns on the lower branches so that I wouldn't be injured while doing yard work and used a garden rake to pluck oranges from the higher branches...again to avoid injury.
The positive thing about the thorns for me was it kept neighborhood kids out of my oranges as the tree was in the front yard.
When it matures you will have scores of juicy sweet oranges. Mine used to produce so many that I would bag them and give them away to co-workers. I really miss that tree.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 2:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Your best bet is to get someone to graft your seedling with a thornless known variety. After a year or two the tree will be the same size as what you have already. I had a sour orange tree that was thornless. I took budwood from a mature sour orange tree at the top of the tree. I made marmalade for several years until I got tired of it. It was very tart even with all the sugar! I have now grafted the tree to 4 varieties of blood orange. One variety is thorny by the way. Contrary to popular opinion, nothing will make a sour orange sweet except adding sugar to the fruit after it's peeled.
And 99% of citrus come true from seed unlike New York apples.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 6:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This is a Louisiana Sweet Orange. It will keep it's thorns, grow tall and wide, and will have so much fruit you won't be able to eat it all before they rot, trust me(they also sell fast when priced at 4 for a dollar). Enjoy your tree, it is very unique!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 2:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You probably have a Sour Orange tree, also known as a Seville Orange. We've got one that was one of two trees we bought at Home Depot that were supposed to be a lemon and a lime. One turned out to be a lemon but the other is an orange tree with thorns. The fruit is thick and very juicy, but it is very sour. Our tree is about 15-20 feet tall now and has had tons of fruit for the past couple of years. They are highly regarded for marmalade and other products but are too sour to eat as fruit.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2008 at 7:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi everyone, am most impressed at what one can find out on the internet. I have this thorny tree growing in a small area in my back yard. Probably planted by the birds, as I certainly did not do it. It is now about 3-4 years old and growing like topsy. I pruned it quite heavily as the branches were over a walkway, but this year there are about a dozen fruit on it. Did not know initially if it was a lemon, orange or mandarin. Your comments have indicated an orange so will wait and see what develops when the fruit ripens, which is green and the size, not the shape, of a lemon. I too was rather perplexed at the size of the brutish thorns, but as it grows in a gap on our fence line it certainly would discourage any intruders who may have criminal intent. I really did not expect to find an answer about the tree, but all questions have now been answered. Thanks mates. Cheers from Australia

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 1:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

True Orange Trees do have thorns. Most trees that people are used to with no Thorns are hybrids. As much as people may think its an odd ball, wild orange trees do have the thorns to protect their fruit. Not much help against humans needless to say.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 1:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

One of my grafted citrus has thorns. It's not rootstock.. I can't recall its name, but what I do remember is it's Australian something or other. I'll check later..Toni

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 2:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Glenn_50(New Plymouth NZ)

My tarocco blood orange has thorns as big as your orange.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 5:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
newgen(9 Central California)

Are the thorns on every branch? I have some grafted orange trees, the branches that bear fruits are thorn-less. The root stock branches are very thorny. I was advised to remove all those branches with thorns. A lot of the sucker branches have thorns too. Cut them all off.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 11:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Some mature orange trees have thorns.

Old line commercial varieties mostly have been selectively culled out in favor of thornless bud lines. Torraco is an good example of this

Most immature (seedling) wood has thorns. These trees usually become thornless or slightly thorny when they approach bearing age.

Some varieties can revert to thorny growth after bearing age. Republic of Texas orange is an example of this type.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 1:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hello- never posted here before, but searched for this question after having noticed a trend in my potted citrus, and wanted to see if this is just me or if it is something real: if I'm out of town and my neighbor neglects to water them regularly, or if I get lazy with the yardwork, the trees growth becomes very thorny. After a couple months of regular waterings, the thorn growth slows down or stopps completely and is given over to thicker branches and more leaves. I've seen this happen thrww or four times.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 1:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lisascenic Urban Gardener, Oakland CA

It could be fun to experiment with grafting other varieties of citrus onto your tree!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 7:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When my granddaughter visited me here in TX, she would eat an orange and put the seeds in one of my plants in the kitchen. I noticed these little plants like months later. I removed them and put them in a separate pot. This stared about 5yrs ago. The orange tree is now about 8 ft tall and not very bushy.I was wondering if it will ever have blossoms and what can I do to help. There were about 5 little plants, I just put them altogether to make one tree.....It also has very long thorns.....

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 7:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Without seeing a picture of the tree, you normally cut the trunk of the seedlings when they reach the approximate height *you* want them to start branching at -- like at 24" or so.

That orange tree will eventually drop all the leaves and weakly growing scraggly branches off the trunk, once it gets thick enough, but if it's indoor (at 8' tall) and not getting a lot of sunlight against the trunk you won't have a whole lot of low branching. It will likely fork a few at the top and then sub-branch from there.

>>>> There were about 5 little plants, I just put them altogether to make one tree..
You really gotta post a picture now. I'd suggest you start a new Post and ask "how should I prune this seedling" with the address to a picture somewhere (like on Photobucket).

Posting on the end of someone else's real old post is not the best idea.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 1:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Sweet orange trees can definitely have thorns. I have a pineapple orange tree, (in the ground 10 years) that has some wicked thorns, especially on new growth. I've got a cara-cara red navel that also has thorns on new growth. I like what you've done to your yard and how you've taken care of this tree, (2nd picture). I would leave the tree as is and feed it fairly well over the summer and continue to do what you've been doing with it.

With many citrus trees being self-fertile; citrus seed can be rather interesting as many times they are poly-embryonic, (meaning you can get multiple individual plants from a single seed). Usually you get 2 plants. One being exactly like the tree that bore the fruit and the other being the result any cross pollination that may have occurred. This is how we got grapefruit trees, (a natural hybrid), limequats, lemonquats, orangequats and many trifoliate-orange based rootstocks.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 10:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have two orange trees which produce an abundance of oranges.They can not be eaten because they are so sour, I was told that because of the thorns on the brances and not being properly taken care of the fruit is not edible. My ? to you is their any way of rectifying this problem, I only thow the fruit out, its a lot of waste.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 9:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The care of the tree can have some influence on the juiciness and flavor of the fruit. However, just because the tree has thorns doesn't mean that the fruit is inedible. The type of tree that is bearing the fruit will have more influence on edibility than just about anything else. There is a possibility that through neglect the rootstock has succeeded in overtaking the scion, (if these are grafted trees). The best thing you can do is post some pictures of the trees on this site, especially of the leaves of the plants, (please make the pictures as detailed and as close up as is feasible). This will allow the knowledgeable among us to help positively identify the type of trees that you have, and make possible recommendations on solutions to your situation. Grafting a desirable orange/other citrus may be possible.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 6:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am so thankful I found this web site. I too have a thorny Citrus tree. I have 2 trees side by side planted a year apart. One thorny the other not. The one not thorny is at least 5 years old and is producing fruit Satsumas for the first time this year. The other is so thorny that husband has to trim it so he can mow under it. I have been told it will not produce but just could not cut it down because it is growing so well. We live in Southeast TX. and we have a drought this year but both trees are doing great. Growing that is.. Will let the thorny one continue to grow thanks to this Link. Thanks you guys

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 8:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

the one that you consider thorny, do the leaves look different than the other. If the other is so bad it could be the rootstock has taken over. If that is the case then yes cut it down and put something new there if you are wanting fruit.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 9:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Two years ago I purchaced two Navel Orange trees that later died. I left them in the ground hoping they would come back. From under the graft shoots started springing up. Now the shoots have thorns all over it just like one of the photos showed. It still hasn't produced any fruit yet.Im not sure if it will or not. I talked to several people from florida that tell me some of trees have thorns and the oranges are sweet .Others say the orange was grafted from a healthy root ball from a sour tree if you have any feed back let me know if itg ever bears fruit i'l let you know

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 12:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Hunmaster, your orange trees are no longer. What you have growing now is the rootstock, which will not produce oranges. Might as well remove, and replant something you want to eat.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 12:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lynn1027(9a Florida)

Looks just like my Valencia Orange. Awesome thorns, 2" long, all over the branches. But also awesome fruit!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 2:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Lynn, Hunmaster's oranges all died back to the roots. Go back and read his post. He clearly states, "...from UNDER THE GRAFT...". Unless he has a seedling tree, which is very unlikely as he has identified a graft line, this will not come back as a Valencia orange. All commercial citrus trees with nearly zero exceptions are grafted to some sort of rootstock (mostly trifoliate, but they can also be on rough lemon and sour orange). If his tree is coming up from the roots, it's not a Valencia anymore. The graft has died, and what Hunmaster has is rootstock growing. Yes, young citrus, especially seedling citrus will just about all have thorns. Some quite wicked. It is the young citrus tree's way of protecting itself from foraging animals. But, in this specific instance, it is highly unlikely this person has anything more now than rootstock.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 5:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have a tree we originally thought was a orange tree. The fruit was large (softball + size)and slightly orange, sort of yellow. The branches VERY thorny, 2-3 inches long. When we cut open the fruit, it is very sour, very juicy. Is this some type of hybrid lemon?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 9:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have a tree with thorns just like those! For 6 years since we moved into this house it has never bloomed. I almost cut it down a few years ago b/c of those thorns but when i got a small potted orange tree, I notice it looked very similar to the tree in my yard. This year the darn thing bloomed and now has small green balls of fruit all over. I'm so happy that I never got rid of the tree. It's about 7 feet tall. We had a very mild winter and I'm not sure if that is why it finally bloomed or what. It was a pretty good size when we moved in 6 years ago. Anyway, I'm very excited to see what the fruit tastes like but I'm pretty sure it's some type of orange tree.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 12:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for all who posted valuable information here..
I too have something interesting..i bought a seedling and it has grown to around 5 foot tall..and gave some 5 to 6 fruites..Big and sweet..not suddenly i noticed another plant( this time with large thorns) started to grow ...the interesting thing here is..both are from the same stem.. The second plant started from arond 6 inches above on the main stem of the previous plant...It is quite surprising..
both are growing equally good..but the first plant stopped giving fruits since 3 months( a small fruit of the size of an hen egg( now) is coming up on the first plant...second one is growing too tall with looong thorns..this plant even looks little whitier than the first plant( in the main stem)...Not know how to upload photos here...thanks

    Bookmark   June 9, 2012 at 3:49AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have a nice tree with sour oranges. Beautiful fruit, nice size, juicy. I originally bought a texas grapefruit tree and the first time it produced I had several light colored, yellow fruit. I was told that the sour orange was probably the root stock and had grapefruit grafted on and that it has gone back to the original root stock. I do have huge thorns on this tree and I keep it to a manageable height by pruning. Had about 100 fruit. Sure wish they were good to eat. My plan is to try to find a few good and proven citrus and graft on to this once I learn how

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 10:43PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Ants on blossoms?
Is it okay for the Blossom/plant?
KinnowLS, XieShan, Dekopan in CA.
Anyone know where these can be purchased or ship to...
Avacado planted
Planted this darling in a 511 mix, next day I get this...
What rootstock should I use on Mineola tangelo to make it dwarf?
What type of roostock should I use to get a dwarf mineola...
Cuban Shaddock, a dwarfing rootstock? I doubt it
It is difficult to find information about this rootstock...
axier - Z10, Basque Country (Spain)
Sponsored Products
Eastwood Leather Single Arm Chaise - Brighton Breeze Green
Joybird Furniture
Catalina Organizer by Copeland Furniture
$1,461.00 | Lumens
Half Dome Satin Nickel Three-Light Chandelier
$190.80 | Bellacor
Hang Up the Faucet Wall Mount
$27.99 | Dot & Bo
Plush Black & White Wallpaper R1046, sample
Walls Republic
Safavieh Hand-woven Indoor/Outdoor Reversible Multicolor Braided Rug (5' x 8')
Living Room Round White Textured Linen Flush Mount
Indoor Area Rug: Enchant Brown 7' 9" x 9' 9" Plush
Home Depot
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™