Citrus var. limon (Linnaeus, 1753)
Christine Ashe
Don Herbison-Evans

Even the most brown-thumbed Australian gardener should be capable of growing a lemon tree. In general our climate and soils suit them very well. Lemons will tolerate total neglect and still produce fruit, albeit of lesser quality. To give them ideal conditions choose a well drained, loamy, slightly acid soil. Give them sunshine all day long, ample water, lots of nitrogenous fertilizer, and a temperate climate, not too hot and not too cold, you will be rewarded with a small, round-canopied, glossy-leaved, ever-green tree, at most two metres tall, that will produce oodles of fruit for the family, neighbours and friends.

tree in fruit

The most commonly grown lemons in Australian backyards are Eureka and Lisbon; both belong to the Citrus x limon family.

Eureka is a vigorous, non-thorny tree, ideal for coastal climates. This is the favourite of commercial growers as it can produce a crop all year round.

Lisbon is an equally vigorous, but very thorny lemon that tolerates cooler climates.

The Meyer lemon is the most popular for temperate areas and is excellent for home gardeners, but it belongs to the Citrus x meyori family. It is thought to be a natural hybrid between Citrus limon and Citrus aurantium.

The acidic juice of lemon is used to make such delights as lemonade, lemon meringue pie, lemon delicious pudding, lemon butter, and lemon icing. As well, the juice of the lemon can bleach hair and is used as a home remedy against all sorts of ills, ranging from coughs and cold, headaches, asthma, and fungal conditions such as ringworm and tinea. It is not just the juice of the lemon which is useful.

Lemon skin and lemon zest are also used, mostly in baking.

Lemon oil is extracted from the skin and used in a wide variety of applications from food stuffs to cleansers, perfume bases and wood polish. Herbalists recommend lemon oil to help fight against infections, for aiding the digestive system, soothing headaches, migraines and muscular problems, and use it for clearing greasy skin and hair.

Whether it really is the all purpose fix-it for diseases needs more study, but we do know that lemons supply vitamins A and C and minerals Potassium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium and Iron, which the body needs to keep us strong and healthy.

We can thank our adventurous ancestors for bringing us the lemon tree. There is not total agreement on the source of the citrus family but it generally is agreed that it is native to south-east Asia. The early travelers, whether crusaders or explorers, knew a great import when they saw one, and so lemons were taken back to Europe, cultivated, and then gradually spread around the world. Once the province of the very rich now anyone can enjoy the fruit of the lemon.

flowers and fruit

All lemons, whatever the variety, have beautiful, sweet smelling creamy-white flowers in flushes throughout the year, with the main flush in spring. The scent of a lemon flower, indeed any citrus, is truly exquisite. Citrus flowers have long been a favourite in wedding bouquets. The lemon flower means fidelity – a true and faithful love. Surely every bride (and groom’s) intention.

Bronze Orange Stink Bugs Musgraveia sulciventris at home

Many creatures call the lemon tree home. Lemon trees are a host plant for Scale Insects ( Coccoidea ), Bronze Orange Stink Bugs ( Musgraveia sulciventris ), Spined Citrus Bugs ( Biprorulus bibax ) and alas, the Mediterranean Fruit Fly ( Ceratitis capitata ).

Lemon trees are also home to a number of Australian butterfly and moth caterpillars which have adapted to the introduced lemon species. Some have become pests, damaging the fruit, such as:

Ophiusa coronata

Eudocima materna

Eudocima salaminia

Others have larvae that feed on its foliage, including :

Papilio anactus
Dainty Swallowtail

Papilio aegeus
Citrus Swallowtail

Papilio fuscus
Canopus Swallowtail

Cephonodes kingii
Gardenia Bee Hawk

Ectropis bispinaria

Ectropis excursaria

Phyllocnistis citrella
Citrus Leafminer

Helicoverpa armigera
Corn Ear Worm

Conogethes punctiferalis
Yellow Peach Moth

Psorosticha zizyphi

Prays nephelomima

Epiphyas postvittana
Light Brown Apple Moth,

The dead flowers are scavenged by the larvae of :

Pyroderces rileyi
Pink Scavenger

Link to
Caterpillar FAQs
Australian Butterflies
Australian Moths
Link to
Flowers in Australia

(updated 28 December 2009)