Trifoliate Orange — Citrus trifoliata

Invasive Species in Alabama

Family – Rutaceae
Order – Sapindales

Trifoliate Orange
Trifoliate Orange

“A native of China, Hardy Orange (Poncirus trifoliata)aka Trifoliate Orange, was once grown in northern Europe where the fruit rind was candied and dried. As a cold-hardy pseudo- citrus American colonists also grew the Hardy Orange because the fuzzy fruit has pectin which was used in making jams and jellies. The fruit, minus, seeds, was also made into a not-sweet marmalade. In China the bitter fruits were used as seasoning (dried and powdered) and young leaves are occasionally boiled and eaten. Fresh fruit allowed to sit for two weeks after picking yields about 20% juice which can be diluted and made into a drink. The flavor is a cross between lemon and grapefruit. A slice of it is good in a gin-and-tonic. Do note that processing leaves a hard-to-wash off resin on utensils. The University of North Carolina, which I think believes every plant is toxic, lists the Hardy Orange as “poisonous.” It says the fruit can cause “severe stomach pain and nausea, prolonged contact can cause skin irritation.”  But it also says “causes only low toxicity if eaten, skin irritation minor, or lasting only for a few minutes.” The fruit may also have some anti-allergic activity. In Chinese medicine it has been used to treat typhoid, toothache, hemorrhoids, conjunctivitis, colds and itchy skin.”

“The Hardy Orange grows to about six feet (sometimes 20 feet!) and starts bearing around 12-years old. They are a common bonsai specimen. It loses its leaves in winter and can be grown in protected areas as far north as Canada. It has been cultivated in China for thousands of years and in Japan since the 8th century. As mentioned above it came to North America in colonial times and was introduced into Australia in the late 1800s. It is also commonly used in Argentina. Hardy Orange prefers low-lime soil.”

“The botanical name, Poncirus trifoliata, is said  pon-SEER-us try-foh-lee-AY-tuh, some say pon-SIGH-russ. Poncirus is from French meaning a citron. Trifoliata means three leaves.”

Extracted from   See info for recipe and warnings.

Also see Invasive Plant Atlas of the US

“There is a Nov. 1906 Scientific American Supplement that says “the common variety” was introduced into the U.S. by William Saunders of the Dept. of Agriculture in 1869.”

“The Exotic Plant Pest Councils of the Mid-Atlantic States, South Carolina and Georgia have listed Hardy orange as a problem plant and in 2007 Alabama added it to their list. It is not listed as one of our worst offenders (Category 1 plant) but is on the Watch list for Managed Forests and a Category 2 (Scattered and Localized Infestations) for the Urban Interface, Pastures and Natural Areas and Parks……The worst invasive plant species tend to have the ability to be spread over vast areas – primarily by birds eating the fruit and then spreading the seeds. Hardy orange is not a bird delicacy so it tends to spread by the following – first by fruits dropping to the ground and small thickets springing up around the mother plant, or by small animals eating the fruit and then defecating the seeds as they move around. ” Extract from here.

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