3 Key lime

Key lime

Key Lime
Tree-ripened key lime. Color is bright yellow, unlike the more common green Persian limes.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Citrus
Species: C. aurantifolia
Binomial name
Citrus aurantifolia
(Christm.) Swingle

The Key lime (Citrus aurantifolia) is a citrus species with a globose fruit, 2.5–5 cm in diameter (1–2 in), that is yellow when ripe but usually picked green commercially. It is smaller, seedier, has a higher acidity, a stronger aroma, and a thinner rind than that of the Persian lime (Citrus x latifolia). It is valued for its unique flavor compared to other limes, with the key lime usually having a more tart and bitter flavor. The name comes from its association with the Florida Keys, where it is best known as the flavoring ingredient in Key lime pie. It is also known as West Indian lime, Bartender's lime, Omani lime, or Mexican lime, the latter classified as a distinct race with a thicker skin and darker green color.



C. aurantifolia is a shrubby tree, to 5 m (16 ft), with many thorns. Dwarf varieties are popular with home growers and can be grown indoors during winter months and in colder climates. trunk rarely grows straight, with many branches that often originate quite far down on the trunk. The leaves are ovate 2.5–9 cm (1–3.5 in) long, resembling orange leaves (the scientific name aurantifolia refers to this resemblance to the leaves of the orange, C. aurantium). The flowers are 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter, are yellowish white with a light purple tinge on the margins. Flowers and fruit appear throughout the year but are most abundant from May to September.[1][2]


C. aurantifolia is native to Southeast Asia. Its apparent path of introduction was through the Middle East to North Africa, thence to Sicily and Andalusia and via Spanish explorers to the West Indies, including the Florida Keys. From the Caribbean, lime cultivation spread to tropical and sub-tropical North America, including Mexico, Florida, and later California.

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect, many Key limes on the US market are grown in Mexico and Central America. They are also grown in Texas and California.

When in contact with the skin, the Key lime can sometimes cause phytophotodermatitis, in which a chemical reaction makes the skin extra sensitive to ultraviolet light.


Flowers of the key lime plant

This variety of citrus can be propagated from seed and will grow true to the parent. Be sure to keep the seeds moist until they can be planted, as they will not germinate if allowed to dry out.[citation needed] Digging around a mature tree to sever roots will encourage new sprouts that can be transplanted to another location.[citation needed] Cuttings can be used to propagate new trees but normally do not develop strong roots.[citation needed] Clones are often bud grafted[3] into rough lemon or sour orange to obtain strong root stocks (see also fruit tree propagation). Lime trees like soil with good drainage.[4][5]


The English word "lime" was derived, via Spanish then French, from the Arabic word ليمة līma (Persian لیمو Limu).[6] "Key" would seem to have been added some time after the Persian lime cultivar gained prominence commercially in the United States following the 1926 Miami hurricane, which destroyed the bulk of US C. aurantifolia agriculture, leaving it to grow mostly casually in the Florida Keys.[2]

In Malay it is known as "limau nipis", literally, "thin lime". In Indonesia it is known as "jeruk kunci'.

See also


  1. ^ P. Golob; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (1999). "Alphabetical List of Plant Families with Insecticidal and Fungicidal Properties". The use of spices and medicinals as bioactive protectants for grains. Food & Agriculture Org.. pp. 13–. ISBN 9789251042946. http://books.google.com/books?id=99B3ktmecWAC&pg=PA13. Retrieved 19 June 2011.  Webarchive mirror
  2. ^ a b ''Citrus aurantifolia'' Swingle. Hort.purdue.edu. Retrieved on 2011-06-19.
  3. ^ Plant Propagation – T or Shield Budding. Aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu. Retrieved on 2011-06-19.
  4. ^ Morton, J. 1987. Mexican Lime. p. 168–172. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. Hort.purdue.edu. Retrieved on 2011-06-19.
  5. ^ Home Fruit Production – Limes. Aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu (2005-07-29). Retrieved on 2011-06-19.
  6. ^ lime – Wiktionary. En.wiktionary.org. Retrieved on 2011-06-19.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Key lime — Key′ lime′ n. coo a yellow lime with a bitter rather than sour taste • Etymology: after the Florida Keys …   From formal English to slang

  • key lime — noun small yellow green limes of southern Florida • Hypernyms: ↑lime * * * noun Usage: often capitalized K Etymology: key (IV) : a small aromatic lime * * * a yellow lime with a bitter rather than sour taste. [after the Florida Keys] …   Useful english dictionary

  • key lime — rūgščiavaisis citrinmedis statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Rūtinių šeimos dekoratyvinis, maistinis, prieskoninis, vaistinis nuodingas augalas (Citrus aurantiifolia), paplitęs atogrąžų Azijoje (Indokinijoje); jo vaisiai valgomi, iš jų… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • key lime — noun Usage: often capitalized K Etymology: Florida Keys Date: 1929 a small aromatic lime …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Key lime — a yellow lime with a bitter rather than sour taste. [after the Florida Keys] * * * …   Universalium

  • key lime — noun A small yellow lime, Citrus aurantifolia, from southern Florida …   Wiktionary

  • Key lime — noun a small yellowish lime with a sharp flavour. Origin named after the Florida Keys …   English new terms dictionary

  • key lime — /ˈki laɪm/ (say kee luym) noun → lime2 (def. 3). {from the association with Florida Keys; see key2 (def. 1) …   Australian English dictionary

  • Key lime pie — is an American dessert made of key lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk in a pie crust. The traditional conch version utilizes the egg whites and has a meringue topping. [ Conch Cooking L.P. Artman, Jr., August 1975 Florida Keys… …   Wikipedia

  • Key lime pie — Key lime pie. Découpe de la tarte. La Key lime pie (« Tarte …   Wikipédia en Français

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