A jGIOCULTUP RL ~ERIMEN STATIONS
ThE TUIVTBSITY C' FLORIDA
6E tPEODUXTI1ON O3 LIL5S IT TWORIDA
A. 7. Camp,
Head of Department
Contribution from the laboratories
IWEPAR ITT OF HORTICUL"j'TE
Revised Dec. 19, 1932
THE PIRODUTION OF LIMBS IN FLORIDA
A. 7. Camp, Horticulturist
and Head of Department
Prior to 1894 lemon production had reached considerable pro-
proportions in Florida, the largest shipment in a single season being about
140,000 boxes. Following the freezes of 1894 and '95, however, the industry was
not revived, most of the groves having been severely injured at that time. The
reasons for not reviving the industry were several: first, of course, the suscep-
tibility of the trees to cold and the consequent increased hazard in growing lemons
over that experienced with oranges and grapefruit; second, and probably not less
important, the occurrence of the lemon scab in the state and the great difficulty
involved in producing smooth, clean fruit when this disease was present--in this
respect Florida was under a great handicap as compared to the lemon industry de-
veloping in California; third, the great prevalence of gum diseases in lemons, and,
fourth, the difficulty of curing lemons during the warm, moist summers which pre-
vail in Florida. Curing is necessary to toughen and thin down the rind to make a
first-class shipping fruit and the difficulties experienced in carrying on this
sweating, coloring and curing process when the humidity and temperatures are as high
as they are in Florida during the summer and fall and when cold storage or cooling
facilities were unknovn or not available resulted in heavy losses from decay during
the curing period. It was apparently realized by the growers that, on account of
these difficulties, lemons offered a less reliable source of revenue than did oran-
ges aPA grapefruit and, as a consequence, lemon growing has been reduced to practi-
cF' ., the vanishing point in this state. As far as we have any records, no large
commercial shipments of lemons have been made for many years. As a result of this,
we have imported lemons to the extent of about 150,000 boxes a year.
For any acid fruit (lemons, limes, etc.) that might take the
place of this imported fruit, there is in Florida a sizable potential market and
considerable acreage would be required to supply it. In order to place these fruits
on the Northern market at a profit, it would be necessary to compete successfully
with lemons from California and Italy and limes from the West Indies and Mexico. It
will be very difficult to replace lemons in the 'Yorthern markets and the competition
that Florida limes will have to meet will be mainly from Mexico and the West Indies.
In Table I will be found data covering the importations of limes from foreign cou.-
tries. These importations consist mainly of the small seedy limes similar to or
identical with our Key limes.
TABLE I.--Importations of limes* into the United States by countries, 1931 .
Italy 4,000 1,104
Canada (transshipped) 10,750 243
Costa Pica 6,300 134
Honduras 4,890 124
*Primarily small seedy limes of the same type as the Florida Key lime, imported
under such names as Mexican, Dominican and West Indian lines.
*Data from Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, U. S. Dept. of Commerce,
Washington, D. C.
TABSI I. (Cont'dd)
Trinidad & Tobago
Other Br. W. Indies
Total- - - - - - -
Commercial id Frits
Of the acid citrus fruits grown in the state, the only ones
to reach commercial proportions in the last few years are the limes, and the pro-
duction of these is still relatively small. In Table II will be found the results
of the lime tree census taken by the inspectors of the Florida State Plant Board.
The count for Monroe County consists almost entirely of Key limes, whereas the
count in the remaining counties consists mainly of Persian or Tahiti limes with a
scattering of Key limes. The figures given include all trees, whether in groves
or in yards, and it is quite probable that nearly half of the trees of the Persian
or Tahiti lime are in home plantings.
TA'BI II.--rumber of lime trees in plantings in Florida as of Dec. 31, 1931*.
Figures supplied by Grove Inspection :
Office of the Florida State Plant
*ing : County Bearing
Palm Beach 4,243
St. Johns 14
St. Lucie 8,643
Santa Rosa 3
Total Bearing and
Table III shows the movement of lime and lemon trees from nur-
series for the last three years. This table indicates the increasing amount of
interest being shown in lime growing. In all probability there will be a great in-
crease in plantings during the coming winter (1932-33).
TABLI III.--umber of lime and lemon trees sold by Florida nurseries*.
1929-30 1930-31 1931-32
Limes 8,865 12,645 31,647
Lemons 4,740 2,390 5,251
*Tigures supplied by 1Mrsery Inspection Department of Florida State plant
Of the commercial limes, the Key lime has been considered the
standard Florida lime. This lime also goes under the name of the Mexican lime in
Florida and is imported as the Dominican, West Indian or Mexican lime. It is grown
on the Florida keys between Minrii and Key West, in Mexico, and on a number of West
Indian islands, notably Dofzinica, from which it obtains the trade name, "Dominican
lime". The tree is very sensitive to cold and commercial plantings on the mainland
of Florida havo not been very successful, although scattered trees may be found in
protected places near houses and in towns as far north as Cocoa on the East Coast
and Tampa on the 7est Coast. These trees, however, even though well-protected, are
subject to damage front cold and their crops consequently are irregular. In extra-
ordinarily well-protected locations on the mainland a few commercial plantings
exist. The only groves of any size are to be found on the keys and the subsequent
rnotes on the production of this lime refer to the conditions surrounding production
cn the keys.
The production of the Key lime prior to 1926 had developed to
considerable proportions but following the storms, many of these groves were
neglected and allowed to go back to jungle, which happens very quickly on the keys.
A few of them were cleared out, the trees set up and missing trees replaced. Because
of the recent revival in interest, an increasing acreage is being cleared out and
oughtt back into production. It is very difficult to estimate the bearing acre-
age at the present time but it is probably in the neighborhood of 300 acres of good
bearing trees well kept up with about twice as much more grove being brought back
or left in jungle form.
The Key lime groves are made up of seedling trees, budding
having been attempted only in isolated cases. One or two named varieties have
been selected ii, the past, but these have not been accepted commercially and the
tem, "Key lime" may be considered as covering a miscellaneous group of seedling
trees of the Pame general type but varying greatly in size and character of fruit
The small seedling trees are planted in pot-holes in the reck
or, occasionally, holes are blasted in the rock for them. For this reason most of
the groves are very irregular in planting scheme and lock more like jungles than
groves of citrus trees. The trees are not cultivated but the native vegetation is
moved. or cut three or four times a year. Except in isolated cases, no fertilizer
is cse& and spraying is seldom done.
The fruit is small and seedy, but with a juice of very fine
quality and carrying the characteristic lime flavor. The juice content of the
fruit is high and the percentage of citric acid is also high as compared with
lemons or other acid citrus fruits (see Table IV.).
TABLB IV.--haracteristics of Florida limes and lemons.
Variety Date Avg. Spec.
and ana- wt. of No. gray- citric Total
type Source lyzed fruit of % ity Brix pH acid sugars
(gms.) seed Juice (Juice) (Juice) (Juice)(Juice) (Jice)
lims stead 7-26-32 89.2 0 58.2 1.039 9.8 2.4 6.22 1.74
Alfred 10-4-32 111.2 0-2 62.6 1.035 8.8 2.3 6.06 0.87
Key limes Keys 8-11-32 31.2 3-9 58.1 1.032 8.1 2.4 7.99 0.44
lemons Alfred 10-5-32 230.0 7-22 37.07 1.035 8.8 2.4 6.30 0.50
lemon 10-7-32 137.5 13-26 39.03 1.033 8.3 2.1 5.33 0.93
Lemon Italy* 12-17-32 75.7 0-16 41.9 1.048 11.9 2.4 7.07 2.02
"Italian lemons bought on local market for comparison.
The oil in the rind is pleasant, char-cteristically "limey"
and adds a very agreeable flavor to limeade and other drinks. The fruit is picked
.n the "full" stage or when it is f-'lly rounded out and smooth of skin and full of
juice. At that time the greer color has lightened snd the picked fruit varies from
a light-green to a light-yellow. The fruits are usually graded according to size,
those an inch and a quarter or larger in .iameter being graded as No. l's and the
smaller fruit as N1o. 2's. The fruits are packed, for the most part, in the standard
orange crate which carries from 800 to 1500 limes per crate, depending upon their
size. At least one grower is attempting to develop a trade for fruit in small car-
tons containing about 225 large limes shipped by express direct to sweet shops or
drug stores ordering them.
The harvesting season usually covers the period from about the
first of July to the first of December, but may extend over a considerably longer
period when conditions are favorable. This long shipping season is due to a tenden-
cy to an ever-bearing habit. Bloom is produced in profusion at the regular blooming
time for citrus, namely, February or Miarch, but other bloom follows through the sum-
mer so that a succession of crops is harvested. There are no accurate figures as to
the production from these groves, as none of the producers contacted have kept accu-
rte records and the irregular seasons and unusual conditions met with in the last
few years have made it impossible to arrive at a satisfactory figure either per tree
or per acre.
In the past this fruit has usually been preferred to other
limes because of its size and quality. Its small size makes it possible to use one
lim for one drink and thus un-sed halves lying on the counter are eliminated. It iz
also so characteristic in flavor that it is difficult to substitute either lemons or
other limes for it and the name "limen on the commercial market has come to apply
almost solely to this product.
Tahiti lime.--During the last few years the so-called Tahiti or "Per-
sian" lime has become increasingly prominent in Florida. A variant of the Tahiti
lime is grown in California under the name 3earss. According to Webber", this vari-
ety is superior to the coimon Tahiti as grown in CelifoMria. It would seem almost
impossible to differentiate between the Tahiti lime as grown in Florida and the
Bearss as described by Webber. The tree of this lime is considerably more hardy
than is the tree of the Key lime and it has been possible to produce groves on both
the East and West coasts in protected locations and as far north as Winter Haven in
the central part of the state. At the present time there are commercial groves in
bearing at Homestead, Lake Placid and Winter Haven and probably many others of which
record is lacking. The total acreage in producing groves is small, probably not ex-
ceeding 100 acres, but there are numerous Olantings of a few trees each from which
fruit is being sold. The tree is larger than the tree of the Key lime and tends to
be slightly drooping in Prowth habit. Usually it is budded on rough lemon and it is
commonly reported that it does not grow or bear well when budded on sour orange. This
information, however, may be slightly misleading, inasmuch as there are records of
at least a few trees on sour orange on fairly heavy soil that have borne very well.
The response to rootstock may be tied up very closely with soil and moisture condi-
tions. It would hardly be considered safe to make an extended planting on sour
orange except under very favorable conditions unless more producing trees on sour
stock than we have on record at the present time are found. One grove at Homestead
has been produced by top-working grapefruit trees which were, in turn, budded on
rough lemon and the result, as far as growth and production is concerned, has been
very satisfactory. It might be pointed out that some difficulty has been experi-
enced in California with the bud unions between lemon and sour orange and that pos-
vibly the same difficulties might be experienced in connection with limes on sour
orange in Jlorida.
Tahiti limes require considerably more protection from cold than do
orange and grapefruit trees and only locations that are practically frost-free
should be selected for this fruit. Attempts to grow them generally in the locations
adapted to oranges and -rapofruit will result in a great many failures due to cold
damage. On the other hand, carefully selected grove locations well protected from
c. .d by lake or ocean should produce trees satisfactorily. The trees are treated
about like orange and grapefruit trees, in so far as cultivation and fertilization
are concerned. The planting in the grove, however, is closer spaced, since the trees
are considerably smaller than those of the other two types of citrus mentioned.
The fruits are large, being fully as large as the ordinary commercial
lemon, seedless and of exceptionally fine quality. They are ready for market during
summer and fall and thus come at a time when other citrus fruits are generally lack-
ing in this state. The fruits are- picked when "full" but at that time they are
still deep green in color. The condition referred to as "fall" is that period when
the lime has lost its "dirpled" appearancee and become smooth and velvety in texture.
Ak that time the fruit is full of juice and of very fine quality. If the fruits are
left on the tree until ripe they are likely to decay with blossom-end rot either
w~,le still on the tree or in transit, so that picking during the earlier stages is
very- necessary. The fruit is shipped without artificial coloring and the green
color has not been found to be a disadvantage on the market and, in fact, may serve
to separate it from lemons. In the Homestead area most of the fruit is packed in
avocado crates but in the remainder of the state the standard citrus crate or the
half-strap is used or the fruit is shipped in bulk by truck.
------------ ---------- -------------------
*Webber, H. J. The Lime in California. The California Citrograph XV II. 12-457.0.
At the present time there is no established market comparable to the
market for oranges and grapefruit and this must be developed by the grower. There
is not sufficient acreage at any one point to make it possible to open a packing
house or other center for handling, though this ay coae with increased production.
Most of the fruit is handled by commission houses that are familiar with the fruit
and build up a demand for it. The fruit going outside of the northern area is in
considerable part shipped by truck to southern points in Georgia, Alabama, South
Carolina or Tennessee. Some of the growers are shipping extensively in small pack-
ages to a private trade in the North. Any grower expecting to go into the production
of this fruit will have to keep this very carefully in r.ind, as he will not have a
packing house ready to handle his fruit as is the case with oranges and grapefruit.
For the next few years there should be a very large potential market available in
Florida in supplying fruit to the trade now taking lemons from Sicily or California.
With a little judicious advertisin- and the development of a "Buy Home Products'
sentiment, it should be possible to market a large proportion of the crop in this
state. The comparison of this fruit with lemons is very satisfactory and once the
housewife has been apprised of their quality and characteristics, there should be no
difficulty in getting her to buy them. How far this market can be developed, how-
ever, is a question and considerable advertising and missionary work will have to be
done. For the individual grower who has the initiative and the right contacts, it
should be possible to develop a considerable sale for the fruit in small packages
but, if the production increases materially, more general commercial methods of
selling will have to be developed.
Anyone attempting to go into the production of this lime should
remember that he will be going into a more or less experimental field in that there
is no large body of knowledge covering its production and handling such as is
available for grapefruit, oranges and tangerines, and he will experience many dif-
fijulties that will have to be overcome. The trees, in all probability, will be
somewhat more difficult to care for than the trees of orange and grapefruit and some
diseases are likely to appear, such as wither-tip and blossom-end rot. Nollocation
should be picked for a line grove that will not give adequate protection from frost
and this will largely limit the plantings.
Florida Agricultural Experiment Station
s.iane sville, Florida