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Citrus aurantiifolia - (Christm.) Swingle

Common Name Lime, Key Lime, Mexican Lime, Mexican Thornless Key Lime
Family Rutaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling
Habitats Not known in a truly wild situation.
Range Tropical Asia.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Citrus aurantiifolia Lime, Key Lime, Mexican Lime, Mexican Thornless Key Lime

James Steakley wikimedia.org
Citrus aurantiifolia Lime, Key Lime, Mexican Lime, Mexican Thornless Key Lime
T.Voekler wikimedia.org


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Citrus aurantiifolia or commonly known as Lime, Key Lime, Mexican Lime, or Mexican Thornless Key Lime is small evergreen tree found in tropical Asia. It grows up to 5 m tall and it has dense and irregular branches, spiny twigs, small, dark green leaves, and yellowish white flowers. The fruit is thin-skinned, juicy, very acid, and fragrant. It is eaten raw or cooked, used as flavouring, or made into jellies, juices, jams, or marmalades. In Persian cuisine, it is dried and used in cooking. The peel is chopped and used to make a sweetmeat. The leaves are sometimes added to soups and used as a condiment in Javanese dishes. Medicinally, various plant parts of lime are used. The leaves are infused and taken orally for headaches and colds. When used with other plants, it induces abortion (with leaves of Renealmia guianensis) and can be used for a bath for very hot feet (with leaves of Begonia glabra and Ocimum campechianum). Fruit juice is used as treatment for viccis, and is added to various medicinal preparations. It is also used in the treatment of snakebites, wounds, and dandruff itch. The root is used for haemorrhages and veneral disease. Futher, lime yields oil that is used in making perfume, soap, chewing gum, food, and sweets.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Citrus aurantiifolia is an evergreen Tree growing to 6 m (19ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Citrus acida Pers. Citrus davaoensis (Wester) Yu.Tanaka Citrus depressa voangasay (Bojer) Bory Citru

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves
Edible Uses: Condiment  Drink

Fruit - raw, cooked or used as a flavouring. A thin-skinned, very acid, juicy, fragrant fruit[ 200 , 303 ], it is mainly used to add flavour and as a garnish[ 301 ]. The rich flavour and acid taste make lime a favourite for hot and spicy dishes, either fresh or in the form of pickles and sauces[ 303 ]. They can also be made into jams, marmalades, jellies and juices (usually combined with other fruits)[ 238 , 301 , 317 ]. Dried limes are widely used in Persian cuisine[ 301 ]. The ovate fruit is 3 - 6cm in diameter[ 200 ]. The chopped peel is used to make a sweetmeat[ 301 , 317 ]. The leaves are sometimes added to soups[ 301 ]. Used as a condiment in Javanese dishes[ 317 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Abortifacient  Anthelmintic  Antidiarrhoeal  Aromatic  Astringent  Contraceptive  Digestive  Febrifuge

The lime is an aromatic, astringent, cooling herb. Various part of the plant are used medicinally, especially the leaves, fruit, peel and essential oils[ 238 ]. An infusion of the leaves is taken internally in the treatment of minor complaints such as bilious headaches and colds[ 238 , 348 ]. An infusion of the leaves, combined with Renealmia guianensis leaves, is drunk to induce an abortion[ 348 ]. The leaves are combined with the leaves of Begonia glabra and Ocimum campechianum to make a bath for very hot feet[ 348 ]. The juice of the fruit is used to treat 'viccis', a fever that leads to a desire to sleep and uncontrollably relaxed digestive muscles[ 348 ] The juice is added to various medicinal preparations, especially for the treatment of diarrhoea, chest colds and fevers[ 238 , 348 ]. It is mixed with grated garlic and some water and drunk for snakebite[ 348 ]. Applied externally, the juice is used to cleanse wounds[ 348 ]. It is mixed with oil and rubbed on the stomach to relieve sagging muscles of the sexual organs[ 348 ]. It is used for the treatment of ground itch and for dandruff [ 348 ]. The root is anthelmintic and contraceptive[ 348 ]. It is used for treating haemorrhages and venereal disease[ 348 ]. The roots are boiled, the water mixed with alcohol, and drunk to abort a foetus up to six weeks old[ 348 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Cosmetic  Essential  Hair  Hedge  Soap making

Agroforestry Uses: The lime is especially well adapted for hedges. It grows readily either from seed or from cuttings. It sends up stout vertical shoots from the roots and forms dense thickets if left undisturbed[ 459 ]. Other Uses An essential oil, obtained from the peel and known as lime oil, is a good source of chitral[ 238 , 317 ]. It is used in the manufacture of perfume, soap, chewing gum, food, and sweets. Another essential oil, known as lime-leaf oil, is obtained from the leaves[ 317 ]. A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed[ 46 ]. Used in making soap[ 46 ]. Attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Food Forest  Food Forest  Hedge

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Three main climates are suitable for commercial citrus production - tropical climates, subtropical with winter rain such as in the Mediterranean and semitropical with summer rainfall as found in Florida and southern Brazil[ 200 ]. Limes grow at elevations up to 2,200 metres[ 303 ]. The optimal temperatures for their cultivation range between 25 - 30°c, with the coldest month having an average minimum of at least 15°c[ 200 ]. Growth generally ceases below 13°c and above 38°c[ 200 ]. They are most competitive in areas that receive from about 700 to 1,000 mm of mean annual precipitation[ 303 ]. If there are dry periods of more than three months, then irrigation will be necessary[ 200 ]. Prefers a deep, well-drained but moisture-retentive loamy soil in full sun[ 200 ]. The tree is quite drought-resistant[ 303 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 6.5, tolerating 4.8 - 8.3[ 200 ]. Plants can flower and produce fruit all year round[ 303 ]. Layered trees can produce fruit in the second year after planting, but growers aim at maximum growth to get a more substantial crop in the third year[ 303 ]. The average yield of lime in Thailand during the 1988/1989 season was 2,400 kg/ha. In India trees are expected to bear 600 - 1,500 fruits per year[ 303 ]. A high incidence of bacterial canker is a limiting factor for growing limes in the wet tropics[ 303 ]. Limes hybridize freely with other Citrus species, and many hybrids are known, e.g. Lemonimes (lime x lemon), Limequats (lime x kumquat)[ 303 ]. Limes are divided horticulturally into acid and sweet limes[ 303 ]. There are many named varieties[ 200 , 301 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

The seed is best sown in containers as soon as it is ripe, after thoroughly rinsing it[ 164 , 200 ]. Sow stored seed in containers as soon as possible]. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 3 weeks at 13°c. Seedlings are liable to damp off so they must be watered with care and kept well ventilated. The seed is usually polyembryonic, two or more seedlings arise from each seed and they are genetically identical to the parent but they do not usually carry any virus that might be present in the parent plant[ 200 ]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on until they are 10cm or more tall before planting out into their permanent positions. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. This species grows easily from cuttings[ 200 ]. Air layering[ 303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Citrus aurantiifolia or commonly known as Lime, Key Lime, Mexican Lime, or Mexican Thornless Key Lime. Other Names: Ambu, Arunam, BartenderÕs lime, Chanh, Chanh ta, Dayap, Dehi, Derem, Elumichai, Erumichinaraham, Hindehi, Jeruk nipis, Kagati, Kaghzi nimbu, Kaghzinimbu, Kagji-nemi, Key lime, Khatalimbu, Kro'ch chma, Laimi, Laini, Lemon riri'i, Lima-da-persia, Limau asam, Limbe, Manao, Mdimu, Mexican lime, Moli laimi, Nabbu kaghdi, Nimbe, Nimma, Obulimawa, Omani lime, Patinebu, Pohon jeruk nipis, Somma nao, Suan Ningmeng, Sweet lime, Te raim, Thesikkai, West Indian Lime. Philippine varieties have various names, including dayap and bilolo.

Africa, Asia, Australia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Caribbean, Central Africa, Central African Republic, CAR, Central America, China, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, C™te d'Ivoire, Cuba, Dominica, East Africa, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Europe, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia*, Mediterranean, Mexico, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Niue, North Africa, North America, Northeastern India, Pacific, Pakistan, Palau, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Peru, Philippines, Sao Tome and Principe, SE Asia, Senegal, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America, Sri Lanka, Tahiti, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tasmania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tokelau, Tonga, Uganda, USA, Vanuatu, Vietnam, West Africa, West Indies.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(Christm.) Swingle

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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