Citrus latifolia

Tahitian limes


Citrus latifolia

(Tanaka ex Yu.Tanaka) Tanaka 1951

pronounced: SIT-russ lat-ih-FOH-lee-uh

(Rutaceae — the lemon family)


common name: Tahitian lime

Citrus is the Latin word for the citrus tree; latifolia is from latus, wide, and folium, a leaf.

Tahitian Lime is a moderately vigorous medium to large tree up to about 6 m, with nearly thornless, widespread, drooping branches.

The leaves are broad-lanceolate, with winged petioles; young shoots are purplish.

The flowers, borne off-and-on throughout the year, are slightly purple-tinged.

The fruit is oval, obovate, oblong or short-elliptic, usually rounded at the base, occasionally ribbed or with a short neck; the apex is rounded with a brief nipple. The whole fruit is to about 6 cm wide by 7.5 cm high; the peel is vivid green until ripe, when it becomes pale yellow, smooth, thin, and tightly clinging. The pulp is light greenish yellow when ripe, in 10 segments, tender, acid, usually seedless, rarely with 1 or 2 seeds, especially if planted among a number of other citrus species. The flowers have no viable pollen.

The Tahitian lime isused for making limeade, and for other similar purposes as the Mexican Lime (Citrus aurantifolia), the one most commonly found in our shops.

dangerous 2Excessive exposure to the peel oil of this fruit may cause dermatitis. Rolling the fruit between the hands before squeezing, in order to extract more of the juice, will coat the hands with oil, and this will be transferred to whatever parts of the body are touched before the hands are washed. Subsequent exposure to sunlight often results in brown or red areas that itch intensely, and sometimes cause severe blistering. The sap of the tree and scratches from the thorns may also cause a rash in sensitive individuals.

Due to the small numbers of seeds produced, and the variability of the seedlings produced, the Tahitian lime is grown by budding on to rough lemon. In recent years, the alemow (Citrus macrophylla) has become increasingly used instead of the lemon. The process of air-layering is now often used in the commercial growing of this species. It is reckoned that some 40% of Tahitian Limes are grown by this method. Air-layered trees bear a year earlier than budded trees, but, as they mature, generally do not bear as well as budded trees do.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2011
Page last updated 10th November 2018