Is There A Lemon Orange Tree? (Experts Explain)


We all know the pointlessness of comparing apples and oranges, but what about lemons and oranges? After all, oranges are a bit lemony while lemons are a bit orangey. Are hybrids possible? Is there a lemon-orange tree?

Lemon Orange trees do exist, though they do so in different ways. One way is through grafting the bud wood of one onto the rootstock of the other. This tree produces both fruits. The other way is through hybridization. This tree produces a new fruit with the properties of both lemons and oranges.

Join us as we take a look at the science behind both fruits, before diving into the feasibility of lemon-orange trees and fruit. You might be surprised by some of the amazing facts surrounding this topic.

Can A Lemon Tree Turn Into An Orange Tree?

Let’s begin by clarifying that while lemon and orange trees are from the same genus (Citrus), they are very different species. With that said though, can a lemon tree morph into an orange tree?

Lemon trees can either have orange tree bud wood grafted into its rootstock or there can be cross-pollination between the two. Many agree that a grafted scenario would constitute a Lemon Orange Tree and produce both fruits. Hybridization would yield an actual new lemon orange fruit.

Let’s first look at what each are, why there can be hybrids of the two, and what grafting entails.

What Species Are Lemon And Orange Trees?

Lemon trees belong to the limon species. Lemon trees are evergreen, originating in the northern regions of India. Lemons themselves are normally yellow in color and have an ellipsoid shape.

The acidity level of lemons are particularly higher than that of their sweeter cousins, oranges. Though acidity is a trait of all citrus fruits, the lemon is at the top of the list, which gives it such universal usefulness in many recipes and even cleaning applications.

Orange trees, on the other hand, belong to the sinensis (sweet orange) species or the aurantium (bitter orange) species. Like most other citrus trees, orange trees are also evergreen. The species was first acknowledged in Southern China and Northern India around 300 BC.

Though still containing acidic properties, the orange is known for its natural sugar content and sweet taste. This lends its uses more to drinkable juice and dessert style applications. Though you will find orange scent in some cleaning products, it is there not for its acidic cleaning properties, but for its sweet, familiar smell.

If you are looking for an easy way to have your own fruit tree yielding oranges in your home, I would recommend starting with this easy tree setup that can be delivered right to your door from Amazon… Calamondin Orange Tree – Indoor/Outdoor Patio Citrus Trees

Then, once it is established you can graft in other citrus bud wood and have it producing multiple citrus fruits as it matures. To learn more… read on.

Self-Fertilization Or Cross-Pollination In Citrus Trees

Much like most of their citrus kin, orange and lemon trees can reproduce by cross-pollination or self-fertilization (parthenogenesis). 

I immediately went to asexual reproduction in my mind when I learned about parthenogenesis in college. In this case it may have some thinking of multiple spontaneous oranges or lemons popping out of leaf clusters like Sea Anemones cloning themselves at the bottom of the ocean.

Yet, this is not what this means. This means that the flowers on these trees can take and use the pollen produced by the same tree, other trees, or even from none at all. This is a convenient micro-evolution throughout time that ensures survival of the plant species even when isolated.

Parthenogenesis is why even a solitary orange or lemon tree can bear fruit every year without being pollinated by others.

Lemon And Orange Trees Can Cross-Pollinate One Another? Really?

Interestingly, when it comes to cross-pollination, citrus trees can reproduce with each other. That’s right, lemon trees and orange trees can pollinate each other to bear fruit.

For cross-pollination to occur, citrus trees must be within 100 feet of each other along with other favorable conditions.

That said, the fruit stays the same…

i.e., if a lemon tree receives pollen from an orange tree, it will bear lemons and vice versa. There is no change in the nature or characteristics of the fruit from a cross-pollinated tree (well, for the most part).

Hybridization from inter-citrus pollination actually reveals itself in the next generation. The seeds from a cross-pollinated tree can later germinate into trees that bear fruits with lemon and orange attributes. Whether these trees are “lemon-orange” trees is still up for debate though.

This hybridization of the lemons and oranges mass produced for worldwide markets though has a unique problem that African farmers and scientists have tried to overcome using in vitro cross-pollination (done by humans intentionally). This type of hybridization is not pertaining to taste though. It has to do with reducing seeds both in size and number.

Most markets around the world respond better to less noticeable seed count and size in their fruits. This is true not just of lemons, oranges and other citrus fruits, but most others as well. Did you know natural banana have seeds?

Hybridization here is in an effort to use other citrus pollen that has less tendencies to produce these seeds on the flowers of fruits that do. If you remember, I said that if you pollinate an orange tree with lemon tree pollen, you would still get oranges. But what these scientists attempt to do is not get different fruit, but smaller seeds.

The problem arises when pollen from hybridized mature trees producing fruit with low to no seed counts pollinate trees farmers don’t intend to produce fruit with this trait. In a study done at the University of Kwazulz-Natal, Durban, South Africa researchers are exploring the use of in vitro to try and isolate areas and control cross-pollination.

To read more articles you will like…

Can A Lemon Tree Turn Into An Orange Tree And Vice Versa

As for whether a lemon tree can turn into an orange tree (or the other way around), the answer is yes!

A lemon tree can turn into an orange tree or a mix of the two by grafting. It is still up for debate whether the terms ‘morphing into’ or ‘changing into’ can be applied to the results of cross-pollination. Yet, many agree that with human intervention grafting can successfully achieve this.

You see, the process called grafting is where bud wood from one tree is joined to the rootstock of another, essentially creating a whole new tree. This process can be done to crossbreed lemons and oranges. Lemon bud wood can be grafted onto orange rootstock (or vice versa) to create lemon-orange or orange-lemon trees.

One thing to keep in mind is that it is namely the production of a specific type of fruit we are talking about here. If a lemon tree is originally producing fruit and an orange bud stock is grafted into it then it would eventually produce both types of fruit if successful.

Yet, if the tree subsequently stopped producing lemons and continued to produce oranges, most would recognize it as a transformation. The catch here is that there is no fundamental change to the cellular makeup of the original tree. It is doing this because citrus trees share significant similarities in the right areas.

The tree would technically still be a Lemon Tree. It would just now produce oranges from the matured, grafted in section.

If raised under the right conditions though, these graft trees will thrive and produce both lemons and oranges. This is because both the bud wood and rootstock would have followed their natural developmental courses while sharing resources.

For those looking for an all in one solution to grafting for one of your fruit trees, I recommend this handy setup from Amazon… Grafting Tool, Pruner Kit

What Conditions Allow Grafting A Lemon Into An Orange Tree?

The “right conditions” include several things, the most important of which is the grafting process itself. 

The first thing to do is to make use of healthy bud wood and rootstock. Unfortunately, the interrelatedness of citrus plants also makes them susceptible to similar diseases. Therefore, you should be sure of where you’re getting your buds and stock from.

Buds must be selected from strong and fast-growing plants. We recommend using buds that are about 8-12 inches long. The buds must be grafted immediately to maximize their odds of latching on successfully. The best time to graft citrus in North America is any time between April and November.

The rootstock must also be suited to quick development in your local climate. You must use a knife to create a slit in the bark of the rootstock. The slit will house the bud wood as it joins onto the stock. 

Once the bud wood is in place, you must use budding tape to secure it to the stock. The tape should be removed within a month, by which time successfully grafted buds would have taken.

If the grafting process is done incorrectly, the buds and, ultimately, the lemon-orange tree won’t take.

Other conditions necessary for successfully growing a hybrid tree from grafting are temperature and sunlight. Grafted trees must be kept in environments with an average temperature range of 55-90 degrees Fahrenheit. As for sunlight, the trees will need about 6-8 hours of direct exposure per day.

Within a few years, you will find the tree producing both orange and lemon fruit.

Is There A Cross Between A Lemon And An Orange?

We touched on this earlier when I discussed hybridization. There is a very good example of this.

There is a cross between a lemon and an orange tree that produces fruit with the qualities of both lemons and oranges. Though in reality, the Meyer lemon as it is called, has more in common with the a lemon than with oranges in outer coloration, acidity, and taste.

This level of successful hybridization was discovered by the American explorer Frank Meyer in the region of Asian now part of modern day China. He discovered the tree near Peking in 1908 and introduced it to the North American continent soon after.

The Meyer Lemon – The Lemon-Orange

The Meyer lemon is a hybrid fruit that has inherited many of its attributes from lemons and oranges. These fruits were also discovered in China and have been imported by the U.S. for nearly a century. 

The Meyer lemon is a cross between standard Eureka lemon and Mandarin orange. It typically has the roundness of oranges but you may encounter a few ellipsoidal ones. The skin is yellow while the pulp is orange. Meyer lemons are also noticeably smaller than regular lemons.

As for the taste, Meyer lemons lean towards their orange ancestry. They are sweet with very trace hints of lemony acidity. Regular lemons are nearly 1.5 times more acidic than Meyers.

If you do encounter a sour Meyer, chances are that the taste is a result of underwatering rather than the “lemon DNA”. Skin peels from Meyer lemons also have a friendlier zest than that of Eureka lemon skin.

Meyer lemon trees tend to produce fruit between December and May, which is a fairly brief window. Luckily, the juice can be extracted and stored in a freezer for several months until the fruits are in season again.

The fruit only has culinary uses as food or juice. You can use it to make Meyer lemonade as well as a whole assortment of dessert snacks.

It lacks the necessary acidity that gives regular lemons their versatility as food items, preservatives, and cleansing agents. Dishes that require acidity will be better served by regular lemons than by Meyers.

The major downside with Meyer lemons is their availability and cost. They are primarily imported from the Far East and are only grown in a few Citrus zones in the U.S. Their susceptibility to damage makes shipping them much more difficult than regular oranges and lemons, which makes them more expensive.

If you are looking at starting your own Meyer Lemon Tree or want to gift one to someone you love, I have a great option for indoor or outdoor locations. I recommend this easy, ready to go tree that can be delivered right to your door from Amazon… Dwarf Meyer Lemon Gift Tree

Can Citrus Besides Lemons Or Oranges Come From The Same Tree?

If there is a lemon orange tree, then can other citrus fruits be grafted into a lemon tree? Are there trees that produce other citrus than lemons and oranges?

There are Fruit Cocktail trees that can not only produces both lemons and oranges, but a wide variety of other citrus fruits. Most citrus fruits can be grafted into a lemon tree for instance resulting in one tree that could feasibly yield lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit.

The combinations that can come from the same tree are rather shocking for those unfamiliar with fruit tree grafting. The process is rather simple and for those living in regions that are favorable to these types of trees it is a good idea to cut down on fruit waste.

What Regions Support Lemon Orange And Fruit Cocktail Trees?

You are only going to find the Lemon Orange or Fruit Cocktail Trees where humans have done the work of grafting them together. They are also limited in their outdoor growing areas.

Growing Lemon Orange Trees or Fruit Cocktail Trees like most citrus varieties will be possible in ground in zones 8 to 11. These zones in the United States include the states of:

  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Arkansas
  • Texas
  • New Mexico
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Oregon
  • Washington

The temperature ranges in these areas, at least in parts of the listed states, range between 55 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. To plant these trees in the ground, it takes these types of conditions with proper rainfall and soil.

According to Citrus.com for regions where temperatures for at least portions of the year fall outside of this range, it is best to keep the citrus tree potted. This is so that it can be brought in during times of extreme temperatures to save the plant from suffering damage.

Potted Lemon Orange Trees and Fruit Cocktail Trees should be left outside during most of the year. Yet, if the temperatures drop below freezing for any extended period of time, they should be brought indoors. This would also apply for zones 8 – 11 if extreme weather events occur.

The Final Touches On Lemon Orange Trees…

If you were wondering about Lemon Orange Trees, hopefully this article has cleared up some of the confusion. Though the hybridization with its in vitro process can be beyond the capabilities of many amateur and even professional gardeners, grafting most definitely is not.

If you have a large, mature tree that is producing only one citrus fruit, it is likely that you will have many of them go to waste, even after offloading them off on family, neighbors and friends. Grafting an orange bud wood onto a Lemon tree to turn it into a Lemon Orange Tree would begin a process that could cut down on much of the trees fruit waste.

More from LawncareGrandpa.com…

References

https://www.allrecipes.com/article/what-is-a-meyer-lemon/

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/cross-pollination-between-orange-lemon-trees-103182.html

https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/indoor-citrus/#:~:text=Citrus%20is%20very%20promiscuous%20and,on%20the%20classification%20of%20these

Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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