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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - September 13, 2014

From: Hattiesburg, MS
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Fuzzy Citrus Fruit on Satsuma and Lemon Trees
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

A man asked you about fuzzy little small fruit-like balls that looked like tiny lemons. I have huge numbers of these on both my mature Satsuma and lemon tree this year. I get 100's of really great fruit on each tree every year. And usually only a few of the NOT shiny balls appear. This year both trees on new shoots have lots of balls and only 2-4 pieces of fruit. Are these seeds? Your insight would be really appreciated.

ANSWER:

One possibility is that your Satsuma and lemon trees now have shoots and fruit that are arising from the rootstock. Many citrus trees are grafted onto trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) and if the rootstock sent up shoots they could bloom and set fruit. Also if the top portion (the desirable citrus cultivar) is pruned below the graft or killed from extreme cold weather, you will be left with shoots coming from the base of the plant that will be from the trifoliate orange.  The rootstock is much hardier (zone 5) than the upper Satsuma or lemon top portion of the plant.

Take a close look at your plant to see if shoots are coming from below the graft. The trifoliate orange rootstock will have leaves that are in 3s and the stems have long thorns. The Wikipedia entry for trifoliate orange says that the fruit is small (less than 2 inches) and has a finely downy surface. The fruit of trifoliate orange is very bitter and only useful for marmalade.

If the fuzzy fruit is in fact coming from below the graft from the rootstock, prune these out so that you only have Satsuma or lemon stems.

 

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