A lime tree is a hybrid citrus fruit tree that originated in Southeast Asia.
Nowadays, you will find these trees thriving in tropical and subtropical areas across the world.
Their spread across the world is credited to Arab traders moving the fruit to Africa, and the Crusaders for the Mediterranean exposure.
The history of the fruit continued with the British using it to cure scurvy in the 1700s.
Lime trees have been crossbred several times, making them available in many varieties.
The lime fruit ranges in size, color, and shape.
While the conventional lime fruit is green to yellow, you may be surprised to see blood-red limes.
In this article, you will learn about some of the different types of lime trees in existence.
You will get to know their various uses and may even be inspired to grow one in your own backyard.
Table of Contents
Key Lime Tree
This is one of the most commonly found varieties of lime. It is also popularly known as the Mexican Lime or the West Indian lime.
The Key Lime is a hybrid of three different species of citrus fruits.
The tree of this variety reaches between 10 and 20 feet. It is slender and thorn bearing and can live up to 150 years.
The Key Lime tree is evergreen with green, medium-sized leaves. It has small, white flowers with purplish edges.
It is one of the most cold-sensitive species of lime but it is tolerant to drought. Regardless of its sensitivity to cold, you can grow it in warmer climates in a pot.
Because of its dense crown, it can be used for shade in your backyard.
The Key Lime fruits are round with an oval shape, a diameter of up to three inches, and a greenish-yellow to a pale-yellow hue when ripe.
It is juicy, acidic, and has many seeds.
The tree usually produces fruits in winter but may also be productive during other seasons.
The Key Lime is peculiar because it can grow from its base should it get damaged by the cold.
The Key Lime is a common ingredient in many culinary efforts. The famous Key Lime pie is made with this fruit. It is also used to give an extra kick to your drinks.
Tahiti Lime Tree: The Persian Kind
The Tahiti Lime is a hybrid of the Mexican Lime and other citrus species, usually a local lemon.
You can commonly see this tree climbing up to heights as high as twenty feet. The tree also sports long branches with fewer thorns than its parent plant.
The leaves of the Tahiti Lime Tree are long and wide, with a dark-green color. The flowers are also small, white, and in clusters.
This tree is better able to withstand chilly temperatures than its parent plant. It also produces fruits all year round.
This variety of the Tahiti Lime Tree is usually propagated by air layering or grafting.
The fruits of the Tahiti Lime tree are egg-shaped. They are also long and wide, measuring two inches long and two to three inches wide.
The rind is typically greenish-yellow when ripe, and the fruit is less acidic than the Mexican Lime, but juicy.
Tahiti Lime Tree: Bearss
This is the second major variety of the Tahiti Lime. Like the other cultivar, it is a cross between a Mexican Lime tree and a lemon tree.
The Bearss tree also grows to incredible heights of 20 feet, with few thorns on the trunk with similar leaf and flower shapes to the Persian variety.
There are a few major differences between the Bearss and the Persian varieties.
The Bearss variety has smaller, seedless fruits, and it is commonly grown in California.
The Persian cultivar, on the other hand, is common in Florida.
The Bearss fruit has a long shelf life, so you can commonly see it on your grocery store shelf.
Thai Lime Tree
This lime tree is also called by a controversial name – Kaffir Lime. The said name is thought to have racist undertones from colonial times.
Another name for this tree is the Makrut lime tree.
The Thai Lime tree is usually dwarfish, often growing as a shrub.
It is also very thorny. This is attested to by its botanical name, Citrus hystrix. The word “hystrix” translates to hedgehog.
The leaves of the Thai lime are green, thick, and glossy with fruit that is round, green and about two inches in diameter. The flowers are white with pink edges.
The fruit is peculiar because the rind is very bumpy, looking much like a lemon.
The juice, which you will find only a little of, is bitter.
Because of its bitterness, the Makrut lime is not usually used for its juice but the zest is commonly used as an ingredient in Asian cuisine.
Both the leaves and the rind contain significant amounts of aromatic oils. So both plant parts are used in cooking.
Mandarin Lime Tree
The Mandarin Lime tree is also known as Rangpur or Kona lime.
While most lime species have a green to yellow color, the Mandarin lime differs with its orange color, both inside and out.
This tree is a hybrid between a tangerine and a lemon. Hence, the distinct coloration.
This lime tree is medium-sized and evergreen, growing to a height of 15 to 20 feet. It is easy to mistake this tree for a tangerine orange tree.
The leaves are dull, green and oval-shaped. The flowers are small and mandarin-like.
The tree is much more tolerant of the cold than other species. It grows from seeds, so there aren’t many varieties around.
Regardless of its different coloring, the fruit is just as sour and acidic as other lime species.
It has the same uses in cooking and medicine as other limes.
Kusiae Lime Tree
This tree is a subspecies of the Mandarin Lime.
It is famous for its strong fragrance which is more intense than its parent tree.
The Kusiae tree grows up to 20 feet, and just like the Rangpur, it is very tolerant to the cold.
There are also thorns on this tree, just not as many as on the Rangpur.
The fruits are oval-shaped with a thick, yellow rind and seeds.
You can get a lot of clear and transparent juice from the Kusiae Lime, with a less acidic taste.
Blood Lime Tree
This is another uniquely colored lime species.
The Blood Lime is a hybrid between the Red Finger Lime and the Ellendale Mandarin Lime (part of the Mandarin class of limes).
This lime variety is mostly grown in Australia. It was developed to be salt-resistant as part of an investigation in a salt-rich region in Australia.
The trees of this lime are medium-sized and grow like a shrub. The tree has thorns and small leaves. It is often used for ornamental purposes.
The redness of the fruit from the Blood Lime tree is seen both inside and out.
The fruits are small and sweeter than the regular lime. You may also eat the skin with the fruit.
Calamansi Lime Tree
The Calamansi Lime tree is a hybrid of the Kumquat and a citrus species. It may also be called the Calamondin tree.
The Calamansi Lime tree is short, has broad leaves, and white flowers.
The fruit of the Calamansi tree is small, orange, and it takes a considerably long time before it ripens.
The skin is thin and delicate, which makes it hard to store or transport.
The juice from the Calamansi lime is acidic, but the rind is sweet.
Australian Finger Lime Tree
This is popularly called the Caviar Lime because of the small spheres in the fruit that contain the juice. Those spheres are referred to as vesicles.
The tree grows quickly, reaching up to 20 feet high. The leaves are small, and the branches are thorny with beautiful white flowers.
The Australian Finger Lime fruit is tube-shaped and dark-green, measuring up to 3 inches long.
It has a strong lemon-lime flavor and is usually employed in both sweet and savory dishes and is also used as a garnish.