IFAS Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service
The Spanish lime Meliococcus bijugatus is a medium-to-large
tree native to the Caribbean region of Tropical America. It is often known
in these areas as "genip" or "mamoncillo".
This tree is not known widely in Florida because of its tenderness
to cold, and is best known in the extreme southern portion of the state
and the Florida Keys. In its native areas, it is widely found over a broad
range of soil conditions, but it seems especially adapted to dry areas with
poor rocky soils.
Trees grow two to three feet a year and bloom period occurs in Florida
usually in April, with the fruit ripening from July through October. Although
trees often bloom quite well, many set few fruits and this is because the
trees are polygamous, often producing flowers that are both bisexual and
those which are only of one sex. Most bisexual flowers are non-functional
and do not set fruit unless cross pollination occurs. Isolated trees rarely
set fruit, and for best fruiting, plant several trees together in close proximity
so that adequate cross pollination will occur.
The fruits hang in clusters near the terminals of the tree and look
like large grapes; fruit size generally is about an inch to two inches in
diameter. Inside the tough greenish skin lies a layer of thin sweetish-tart
orangy-yellow pulp surrounding a large seed. Some varieties of Spanish lime
are sweet, while others are very acid.
The pulp adheres to the seed in most cases, making removal of the
pulp difficult. There are some varieties, however, that are said to be freestone,
and the pulp separates cleanly from the seed.
Spanish lime is propagated by seed, or better varieties can be air-layered
or grafted. There is much variation among seedling trees in yield and fruit
quality, so it is always best where possible to buy grafted or air-layered
trees to get superior fruit. Some named varieties available in Florida at
the present time include 'Queen', 'Montgomery' and others.
Trees both young and large are quite cold-sensitive, and should be
planted in areas where they are protected from freezing temperatures. Mature
trees will tolerate only a brief exposure to below-freezing temperatures
without serious damage, and small trees are badly damaged or killed if temperatures
fall to the freezing point.
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© 2000 BGCII Page posted March 2004