mystery lime-like citrus fruit in Houston - help identify

pinks(9A Houston)August 17, 2009

I just moved to Houston and discovered 2 30-ft trees and a third smaller one, two of which are full of these green fruits that look deceptively like Persian limes. Although the cut fruit smells like a very mild lime, it tastes sweet (almost sugary) and floral, with a mild bitter aftertaste. The leaves look nearly identical to Citrus sphaerocarpa (Kabosu papeda), with sharp tiny teeth around the edges.

Over-ripe fruit on the ground are yellow.

I'd like to order my own plant if I can figure out what it is.

Please see the Flickr link for photographs.

Here is a link that might be useful: pictures of mystery fruit

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citrange2

Are you absolutely sure the twig and leaf pictures are from the same tree as the fruit? They don't look like citrus leaves at all to me.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 8:56AM
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trianglejohn

Sounds like the fruit you tasted were not fully ripe.

The leaves look like Bradford Pear leaves.

Could the two plants be growing in the same spot and have their branches intertwined?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 12:51PM
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fofoca(9b NorCal)

Pinks, kabosu leaves have a winged petiole (sorta like a kaffir lime leaf). I think yours are missing that feature.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 2:03PM
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pinks(9A Houston)

Thank you for your comments. The fruit and leaves are definitely from the same tree--I plucked them off together. One of the fruiting trees is more than two stories tall, and there isn't anything else growing near it (other than the second two-story tall non-fruiting version of the same tree, and a smaller fruiting tree nearby). The fruit looks and smell like a lime, so I can't imagine it being something else but citrus, but I have no expertise in this area.

Fofoca-you are right, looking at your picture, the leaves of this tree do look different from kabosu. Which makes me even more confused as to what the fruit could be.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 10:51PM
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fofoca(9b NorCal)

Do you like the taste of the fruit? If so, why don't you take the leaves and fruit to a local nursery that has citrus, and/or to the nearest Cooperative Extension office, or botanical garden. Somebody who can touch, taste, and smell it can probably ID it properly. I am really curious about it now! Maybe it is something excitingly exotic!

Perhaps you should ask the homeowner of the nearest house.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 11:40PM
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pinks(9A Houston)

fofoca: I do like the taste of the fruit--your idea of going to a local nursery is a good one. I've tried ringing the doorbell of the adjacent homeowner, but no luck yet on meeting him or her.

Trianglejohn and citgrange: Upon further reflection, I'm going to pay another visit to the tree tomorrow to make sure that there isn't a second tree growing in the vicinity. There is a walled-off courtyard next to the trees, so it is possible that branches of the tree in the courtyard could be hanging over.

I'll let everyone know what it is when I figure it out!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 10:05PM
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pinks(9A Houston)

citrange and trianglejohn, you are correct. There was a citrus tree hiding in a walled-off courtyard, using the larger tree on the sidewalk to support its branches. I feel stupid for having led everyone astray!

The leaves of the real tree are 4 inches long, oval shaped, with serrated edges. The leaf is extremely fragrant and would taste lovely in southern indian or thai food. Because of the walled-off courtyard, I can't tell how tall the tree is. The fruits range in size from golf ball to tennis balls, and all are dark green. There were several more fruits on the ground today, beginning to yellow.

The upside is now that I know the tree is growing on private property, I can try to get in contact with the owners to figure out what it is. The downside is no more fruit for me, now that I know the tree isn't growing on city property.

I would still love to hear your theories, as the owners seem somewhat reclusive (I've tried ringing the bell, with no luck).

Here is a link that might be useful: the real citrus leaf

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 9:14PM
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fofoca(9b NorCal)

Pinks, don't feel dumb, it was an easy mistake to make! I'm sorry I can't help with the ID, but I have a suggestion... why don't you leave a note expressing your admiration for the tree, and include your phone # and e-mail address. If the owner is shy that gives him or her some idea about you and the opportunity to initiate contact.

Some people are reluctant to open the door to a stranger out of the blue.

Do let us know when you find out something!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 10:45AM
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brooklyngreg(7a NYC coastal plain)

I read everything and note that it seems to have a key lime quality - but leaves do not indicate warm weather citris. Cooler weather odd citris's do have leaves like that. Suggestion: You probably have a great exotic and should send others some seeds, so when the trees get to old you get still get a hold of seed.

Also, its it tastey in cool drinks - pies etc.. then use it and enjoy - just be sure its etible.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 2:16PM
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pinks(9A Houston)

fofoca: Thanks, I left a note in the mail flap and hopefully will get a response.

brooklyngreg: If it is related to the key lime, than it is larger and sweeter than the ones we can purchase at the store. The juice of this fruit is mild enough to drink straight (and is lovely in a gin and tonic).

I will update if I figure this out. Meanwhile, I am attempting to germinate the seeds from the few fruits I have taken. Maybe in 10 years I will have my own fruit-producing tree :).

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 6:40PM
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citrange2

When trying to identify citrus from a leaf, the leaf stalk (petiole) is most important. The size and shape of the petiole is very distinctive for different citrus varieties. Unfortunately, it was not shown in your photo.
My guess is your citrus is Rough Lemon, Citrus Jambhiri. This has very fragrant leaves and seems to fit other details. Has often been used as a rootstock in the past.
Try a Google search. I've included one link to a picture.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 1:57AM
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trianglejohn

Also consider how easy some citrus hybridize - this could be some unknown variety, a chance hybrid or some relic of a breeding experiment from long ago - you may never know.

You might want to find someone that can help you graft it onto a mature citrus plant so you won't have to wait so long for fruit.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 10:57AM
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fofoca(9b NorCal)

I second trianglejohn's suggestion - learn to graft, then you can propagate this gem for all the rest of us! ;-)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 12:32PM
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fishman49(AL 8b)

I second the motion by fofoca to take leaves and fruit to the ag extension agent. Yours is at 3033 Bear Creek Drive in NW Houston. Even if they don't know, they most likely can point you at someone who does.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 2:06PM
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pinks(9A Houston)

I have an update on the tree. The current owner e-mailed me, saying that it is, indeed, some kind of a lime tree, but that he didn't know which type. He is in contact with the original owner who planted the tree, and will get back to me with the information. He also said I can have all the limes I want, and offered to lend me his ladder :). If the original owner doesn't remember or I don't hear back, I will take the leaves and fruit for identification.

The current owner's recollection is that the tree came from a local nursery, so it might be some common sweet lime.

I will try to get better pictures.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 10:30PM
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fishman49(AL 8b)

Pinks;

Would you be interested in trading some grafting cuttings from that tree for 1-2 dozen fresh 2009 crop 'Flying Dragon' seeds. It is a cold hard dwarfing citrus rootstock. If so, email me at allum_donalde@bellsouth.net.

Don

    Bookmark   August 25, 2009 at 9:32AM
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fofoca(9b NorCal)

Pinks, congratulations! So nice to hear the owner contacted you! Let us know what you find out.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2009 at 12:02PM
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VoodooII

Did you ever figure out what kind of fruit this is? I just purchased a house north of Houston and I have a small maybe 7ft tree in my backyard that has the same fruit on it.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 11:00PM
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pinks(9A Houston)

Yes--I am quite sure that it is a palestinian sweet lime tree. It is ripe when it turns yellow. You can actually buy the fruits at Central Market.

Sadly, the owner cut back the tree so it no longer grows onto public space. He doesn't like the taste of the fruit and too many rats were getting into his courtyard from outside. Alas.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 11:11PM
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