Lemons and limes are some of the most frequently confused fruits. Due to the amount of times they are used in similar contexts, it can become difficult to tell which is which.
Of course, the fruits have the obvious distinction of colors. Lemons are typically bright yellow, while limes are a dark green. However, even this major difference can fall short sometimes, as some lime varieties turn yellow when ripe.
Without bearing these very telling fruits, distinguishing between a lemon and a lime tree is near impossible to the untrained eye. After all, these two trees flourish in similar environments, and they even have the same appearance at first glance. Still, experts on fruit trees know what details to look for to identify what they're looking at.
To help you gain some fruit tree know-how, here's what you need to look for to know if it's a lemon or a lime.
First and foremost, look carefully if the tree has grown fruit. This is the easiest and quickest way to identify what tree is in front of you.
Apart from its vibrant yellow color, lemons are usually shaped like a small football; slightly pointed on both ends, and a little elliptical. Its skin is bumpier and thicker than limes. Limes, on the other hand, are smaller and more rounded. Its green skin is thinner and smoother than lemons.
If still in doubt, cut a fruit open. Limes are tinted green, while lemons are yellowish. Tasting and smelling the fruit can also cement the answer if you're familiar with either fruit.
Remember to be careful when interacting with these fruits. Some can cause irritation upon contact, usually due to sensitivities or mishandling.
In case no fruits are present, you can go ahead and check the leaves. At first glance, lemon and lime leaves look the same. Their leaves are a dark and glossy green, as is the norm for most citrus fruit trees.
The most apparent visual feature to differentiate between lemon and lime is the shape of their leaves. Lemon leaves are typically longer and oval-shaped, kind of how lemon fruits are more elliptical than limes. Leaves from lemon trees can grow up to about 5 inches, while lime leaves barely reach 2 inches.
If you encounter difficulties in looking at the leaves, you can always try smelling them. Take a leaf and crush it, then smell the oils released to identify the plant. Predictably, lemon leaves should emit a strong lemon scent, while lime leaves should smell like limes.
Flowers aren't usually a point of conversation when it comes to limes and lemons, but it is a pretty useful way of identifying a fruit tree. This method of distinguishing a tree can still be hard, because occasionally, lemon and lime trees have similar-looking flowers.
Some lime flowers are white with a tinge of purple, making them look more similar to lemon flowers. This depends on the particular variety of the lime, such as Persian limes. Usually though, lime flowers are pure white and clustered together. On the other hand, lemon flowers typically have the purple tint, and grow in pairs or singles, completely different from the cluster of lime flowers.
When in doubt, rely on your sense of smell. It is likely that the scent of these flowers will be similar, but lemon flowers usually have the stronger odor.
If you're ever in a pinch, and you still haven't decided whether the tree in front of you is a lime or a lemon, then it's time to use the tree bark.
Physically, lemon and lime barks look the same. There is no notable physical difference that can help you in identifying the tree. However, if you try smelling a lime bark, the scent of lime becomes very apparent. A lemon tree's bark has no perceptible smell.
Do not try to excise a bark just to check what type of tree it is. This will likely cause damage to the plant, especially if done with no expertise and precision. Container plants are particularly sensitive to this.
Do You Want A Lemon or Lime Tree?
Surely there's a reason behind all the effort you're putting into differentiating lemons and limes. Is it because you want one yourself?
No problem! All you need to do is figure out what type of lemon or lime you want. You can always start by planting a seed on your own, but it will take a significant time before any progress is made. Or you can purchase a growing fruit tree from a farm or nursery.
Experts on fruit trees like the Lemon Citrus Tree Company have farms that offer a wide range of citrus trees for you to choose from. Of course, this includes the different varieties of lemon and lime.
The most popular type of lemon for potting or for limited spaces is the Meyer Lemon Tree, a dwarf variety perfect for smaller areas. Similarly, Kaffir Lime Trees are also a nice addition to any place. It can be kept in a pot, plus, it emits a refreshing lime scent from its leaves and flowers.