1067 Citrus meyeriCommon Names: Meyers lemon, improved Meyer lemon, Chinese dwarf lemon, Chinese dwarf lemon, dwarf lemon Family: Rutaceae (citrus Family)
The Meyer lemon tree is small, reaching just 6-10 ft (2-3 m) in height. It is a compact, symmetrical tree with shiny evergreen leaves, typical of citrus trees in general. The flowers have a pinkish tinge and are very fragrant. Meyer lemons tend to be more productive than true lemons (Citrus limon). The fruit is bright canary-yellow and rounder and larger, to 3 in (7.5 cm) in diameter, than that of the true lemon. The fruit's skin is smoother and thinner, and it lacks the lemon's "nipple." It also is sweeter, less acidic and juicier.
The Meyer lemon comes from China. It was introduced into the U.S. in the early 20th century by Mr. Frank Meyer, an explorer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who found it growing near Peking (Beijing). Some authorities believe the Meyer lemon is actually a hybrid (Citrus X Meyeri), the result of a cross between a true lemon (Citrus limon) and a mandarin (C. reticulata), or (more likely) a sweet orange (C. sinensis). Other experts consider it to be a selected cultivar of the lemon, and refer to it as Citrus limon 'Meyeri'. Regardless of it origin, the Meyer lemon is grown today in much of the semitropics (mild, dry winters as in Florida and the Gulf Coast), and subtropics (mild, wet winters as in California and the Mediterranean). Meyer lemons are grown commercially (albeit on a small scale) in California.
CultureLight: In general, citrus trees can tolerate partial shade, but always do best in full sun. Moisture: Like most other citrus trees, Meyer lemon should get 40 in (1 m) or more of rain per year. However, they need a good portion of that rain in the spring while they are flowering and putting on fruit. In Florida, springtime is often the driest time of the year, and so citrus trees usually need to be watered from March through June. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8B - 10. Meyer lemon is the hardiest of the lemons. It has withstood winter temperatures below 23 F (-5 C) here in North Florida. On the other hand, Meyer lemon is not well suited to cultivation in tropical climates. Propagation: Meyer lemon is easy to start from cuttings and grows rapidly, bearing fruit within a year or two. As with most citrus (even hybrids), the seeds come true. Meyer lemon seedlings can be expected to bear fruit within four years.
The Meyer lemon tree can bear fruit year around if grown on its own roots and in a climate without frost (or in a pot). Such trees often have flowers and fruit at the same time. Trees grafted onto trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) root stock (for increased cold hardiness) become partially dormant in winter and cease flowering. This pretty little lemon tree is well suited for indoor and container cultivation. Keep the container outside in summer.
Meyer lemon makes a great pie, some say better than Key lime. Use the recipe for Ruthie Belle's Famous Citrus Pie, which can be found in Floridata's rangpur lime profile. We use Meyer lemon juice anywhere lemon juice is called for. Ripe Meyer lemons remain on our tree here in North Florida from October to June. It's so nice to be able to step out the kitchen door and grab a fresh lemon anytime a recipe calls for a squirt of lemon juice.
The Meyer lemons we grow today are more properly called "improved Meyer lemon." It turns out that the original Meyer lemons were found to be symptom-less carriers of a virus disease that killed most other citrus trees. Therefore all Meyer lemon trees were destroyed and eventually replaced with a virus-free variety that was called improved Meyer lemon.
Steve Christman 12/09/07