Surely the lemon has to be one of the most popular plants in the Australian garden?
Whilst the variety may change depending on the climate and soil qualities of a particular area, lemons can be found all over our country.
What many of us think of as the modern lemon is probably a hybrid selection of the species Citrus limon, crossed with an Indian lime and the pomelo. At some point it migrated from the foothills of the Punjab in Pakistan and India to be cultivated in the West. In contrast, the ‘Meyer’ lemon originated in China. It is actually an orange, lemon hybrid cross. The ‘Lisbon’ lemon is a favourite with South Australian growers, but over in the west it is the Eureka lemon that is dominant.
Whatever type of lemon you are used to, you don’t have to go far before you find a garden with a lemon tree.
Please see here if Citron are of particular interest to you.
Introduced to Australia in 1824 from Portugal, this is the most common lemon for home gardeners in Mediterranean climates who are looking for a year round crop. That said, these lemons produce their heaviest fruit in the winter months and the best examples are a comparatively large, oval, bright yellow fruit. They are unusual in that they set their fruit within the tree, unlike most other lemons.
If planted in a sheltered spot, the tree can grow to a formidable 8 metres. If this is too much, then it can be pollarded to produce a more manageable plant, better suited to backyards.
The ‘Lisbon’ is pretty hardy and though it can fall victim to citrus scale this rarely stops a mature tree from fruiting.
There are many ‘Lisbon’ selections, such as ‘Prior’, ‘Limoneira’ and ‘Frost’ , but they are usually all sold to home gardeners as ‘Lisbon’.
For those of us who live in a cooler area of Australia and who want their lemons in the summer (gin and tonic by the pool, anyone?) the ‘Meyer’ lemon is the go to choice. Luckily for us in the colder climes, this variety is fairly frost hardy to -2C. This also makes it a good choice for those wishing to cultivate lemons inland where the temperatures can be less forgiving.
Chosen from a lemon/mandarin/orange hybrid growing near Beijing, China in 1908, if you allow it to mature on the plant, you’ll be rewarded with a round, pale orange fruit which is quite sweet when compared to other lemons. Having said that, the skin lacks the robust nature of some of its cousins and this softness means it isn’t good for zest.
The Meyer Lemon is also a great plant to cultivate in a pot. See learn more, see here.
‘Eureka’ Lemon (Garey’s Eureka)
Loved in our Western state, this lemon is also very popular in Argentina, Israel, South Africa and California. In fact, it has it’s origins in the Los Angeles in South California – probably from imported Italian lemons which germinated and grew.
The ‘Eureka’ Lemon tree has an open structure and is virtually thornless. It’s at its most productive in March & April, but will crop all year round in hot coastal locations like Perth, where it is the favoured cultivar.
The fruit has a noticeable nipple at its base and a rough skin which can have a ribbed texture. The flesh of these lemons is acidic and tart, but yields a good amount of juice.
See here, if you’d like some specialist growing advice on ‘Lisbon’, ‘Meyer’ and ‘Eureka’ lemons.
Beloved by citrus growers in Darwin, it is a selection of ‘Meyer’ but the neck of the fruit is longer.
The ‘Tropical lemon’ is at its most prolific from December to March, but it will also set a smaller crop from July to August. The fruit is quite large and of a light green hue. Taste-wise it is low in acid and yields lots of juice.
Lemonade (Brisbane Lemon)
Arriving in Brisbane from the Pacific Islands in the mid 1980s this lemon has an extremely mild acid profile. So mild, in fact, that it can be eaten as a regular citrus fruit. Some may even argue that it isn’t really a lemon!
It grows on a thorny tree and fruits multiple times a year.
‘Villa Franka’ Lemon (Villafranca)
This variety is said to be from Sicily in Italy and was imported to Florida in the USA in 1875.
The tree can grow to an impressive 8 metres, but unlike the similarly large ‘Lisbon” has less thorns and the fruit bears a closer resemblance to the lemons of the ‘Eureka’ cultivar. ‘Villa Franka’ lemons have few seeds, but are quite acidic. It’s main crop is in mid winter, though it is popular in Queensland as the climate encourages it to yield healthy summer harvests.
‘Verna’ Lemon (Berna)
Hailing from Spain, this is a late season cropper which grows on a thornless tree. The lemons produced are smooth-skinned and hang on the tree for a long time.
Developments over recent years have meant that elite budwood is becoming more available and we may see this variety come onto the market for the home gardener and not just the commercial grower.
‘Fino’ Lemon (Primofioro/Mesero & Bianco)
Like the ‘Verna’ above, this also comes from Spain.
It is a selected seedless clone which produces high quality fruit which forms in a very large set. Apart from the abundance of lemons that you can expect form a ‘Fino’ tree, it is also quick to mature.
Again, elite budwood now being more widespread may result in this variety making its way into suburban backyards soon.
‘Rough Lemon’ (Bush Lemon/Citronelle)
These lemons are often found on damaged plants where the rootstock has become dominant. Its trees grow to a good size and carries small thorns.
The ‘Rough Lemon’ is distinguished by its rough form. Once cut open, you’ll find the fruit has loads of seeds and a mildly sour flavour. That said, the zest is good in a range of dishes.
The ‘Rough Lemon’ has its uses as a rootstock in clay- heavy soils.