LIMEQUAT: A New Hardy Ade Fruit

The peculiar zest of the juice of the West Indian lime makes it desirable that fruits of this type be grown over a much wider range than at present. Those familiar with citrus fruits know that the lime is the tenderest of all the commonly grown species of this group. It is frequently frozen severely even in southern Florida, so that its culture is chiefly restricted to the keys along the Florida coast. It is not grown commercially in California at all.

In 1909, the senior writer originated a new type of citrus fruit by crossing the West Indian lime with the kumquat orange. The kumquat is one of the hardiest of the evergreen citrus fruit trees, and is also highly resistant to some of the diseases affecting the lime and other citrus varieties. The fruit, however, has little commercial value and is used chiefly for preserves, or for decorative purposes.  These crosses resulted in a number of hybrids varying in character, but all producing fruits much like the lime in their acid quality.

The hybrid selected from among these as the most promising was the result of fertilizing the flowers of the common or West Indian lime with pollen of the round or Marumi kumquat. Since the cross was made at Eustis, Fla., the fruit has been named the Eustis limequat. It is strikingly beautiful in appearance, resembling the lime in size and texture, but with a light yellow color like that of the grapefruit. (Fig. 136.)  It is thin-skinned but firm, very juicy, has few seeds, and the flavor, except when dead ripe, can scarcely be distinguished, even by an expert, from that of the true lime. The fruit develops its juice content while still green, so that, like the lime, it can and should be used while still partially green. The tree is evergreen, of rapid, upright growth, and with small, pointed leaves. The spines on the bearing twigs are very inconspicuous, a decided point in favor of this hybrid, contrasting with the viciously spiny character of the lime. The limequat is more or less everbearing, so that fruit is usually available for nearly six months of the year. It has proved itself adaptable over a wide range of territory, withstanding temperatures in northern Florida and Alabama as low as 17° F. without serious injury. Even where frozen back severely it usually makes a quick recovery and has the ability, like its kumquat parent, to produce fruit on new sprouts, so that a fair crop may be obtained even following a damaging freeze. While thus proven quite hardy, it also fruits well in warmer regions, being quite at home in southern Florida and even in tropical Honduras, where its vigor and freedom from disease furnishes a striking contrast to the true lime. It is entirely immune from “lime wither tip,” a disease very destructive to the common lime crop. For budding, it has proved adapted to all the common citrus stocks except the sour orange; and it may be grown by rooting cuttings. Although it does not come true from seed, selected seedlings may produce very excellent trees. Nursery propagation is confined largely to the rough lemon stock for the warmer sections and the trifoliate orange for colder areas. Most of the larger citrus nurseries have undertaken the propagation of the limequat within the last few years.

FIG. 136.—The Eustis limequat, natural size

Aside from its use in making ades, the limequat is excellent for marmalade, for preserves, and in the crystallized form, since the rind, like that of the kumquat, is edible. California lemons are not to be had in Florida, owing to quarantine restrictions to prevent the possible introduction of brown rot, while Sicilian lemons are expensive and obtainable only in the larger towns. Thus it often happens that a good acid citrus fruit for ade making, salads, or for flavoring is actually a scarcity even in citrus-growing territory. A more extended planting of the limequat in home gardens and small groves will supply this deficiency to a large extent, and may lead to the development of a moderate demand in more distant markets.