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Trifoliate Orange
Q: Walking in the woods a few days ago I found a small rangy tree with which Iím not familiar. It has a small yellow fruit about the size of a golf ball. When cut open it looks like citrus fruit of some type and smells like a lemon. The leaves have three dark green, soft leaflets and the limbs have long thorns.

Q: I have an odd tree that is about 15 feet tall right now. The leaves are about 2 inches long by 3/4 inch wide. It has thick thorns that are about 2 inches long. The fruit I picked is yellow; fuzzy like a peach and 5 1/2 inches around. It has sweet aroma like the flowers did in the spring.
A: These great descriptions make the plant easy to identify. Itís a trifoliate orange, Poncirus trifoliata. Also known as the Japanese Bitter Orange, it is a close relative of citrus plants. It is native of China and will survive temperatures as low as five degrees. The fruit is inedible due to the presence of a bitter oil called ponciridin.

'Flying Dragon' is a dwarf form of trifoliate orange. Some brave gardeners grow it as a unique ornamental shrub. It is often used as an understock onto which commercial citrus species are grafted to yield more cold-hardy plants.


Trifoliate orange thorns


Trifoliate orange fruit

 

 



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