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Japanese Bitter Orange

Sam White


Joined: Mar 08, 2011
Posts: 203
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
I stumbled upon Japanese Bitter Orange (Poncirus trifoliata) in an article on growing citrus from an old edition of Grow Your Own magazine. Has anyone had any experience growing this tree? If so, what kind of results did you get? And what was/is the fruit like?

I'm interested as I'd like to grow citrus (or citrus-like fruit) here in Wales and understand that Japanese Bitter Orange is cold hardy to -20 degrees Centigrade (-4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Thanks!


"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
Cris Bessette
volunteer

Joined: May 20, 2011
Posts: 651
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 8A
    
  26
I have about 7 of these planted in my yard, unfortunately they are only a few years old and I haven't had a chance to try the fruit.
Maybe I should say "fortunately" as the vast majority of people that have tried the fruit say it is horrible. Apparently they are extremely bitter, sticky, have little juice and they are jam packed with seeds.

Why would anyone plant these if they are so horrible?

1. They are extremely cold hardy. Mine have survived 10F / -12C with no damage. (I even had some in pots outside that froze solid, these came back in the Spring with some damage. )

2. They are very ornamental. One of the main reasons I am growing them is for the citrus flowers, the glossy green foliage and the attractive ping pong ball size fruits. These will work great in my "tropicalesque" garden.

3. Despite the bad things I've heard about the flavor, there are recipes for poncirus-aide and jams/preserves made for these.
I'm thinking about possibilities for cooking and preparing these for different uses.

4. Thorns. These things have huge wicked thorns and some people plant them as fences to keep out intruders. 

5. Rootstock. These are commonly used as rootstocks for other types of citrus. A mandarin, kumquat,etc. grown on poncirus rootstock will be some what dwarfed and be more cold hardy than grown on their own roots.


Apparently Poncirus does pretty well in the UK in general. You might also want to read up about other cold hardy citrus that are crosses with poncirus.
One I would suggest is the Citrangequat (sweet orange/poncirus/kumquat cross)
which is said to take very low temps close to freezing, but survive and make decent fruit which are edible out of hand at full maturity (can be used like a lemon before full ripeness. )


Great site about Poncirus in the UK:

http://www.homecitrusgrowers.co.uk/poncirustrifoliata/poncirus.html

Sam White


Joined: Mar 08, 2011
Posts: 203
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
Thank Crispy, exactly the kind of info I was after. Great link too.
Cris Bessette
volunteer

Joined: May 20, 2011
Posts: 651
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 8A
    
  26
Sam wrote:
Thank Crispy, exactly the kind of info I was after. Great link too.


I believe you said you were in Wales? I don't know if you've seen this, but apparently you can see mature poncirus specimens here:

http://www.homecitrusgrowers.co.uk/wheretoseePT/dyffryn.html
hvala Hatfield


Joined: Aug 21, 2011
Posts: 79
bitter orange is not planted for eating more for some medicinal and aromatic purposes. oil form fruit skin is good mosquito repeller. for medicinal i dont remember now but i can check in books what is good for.
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame


Joined: May 23, 2010
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
    
    3
Satsuma mikan is another Japanese variety of citrus that is moderately cold hardy (15c?) and quite delicious.  Yuzu is another japanese citrus that is cold hardy, though it used mostly for the juice or zest which are used for flavoring.

Cris Bessette
volunteer

Joined: May 20, 2011
Posts: 651
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 8A
    
  26
Since my last post in this thread I have had a chance to taste a few Poncirus T. fruit.
I found a mature tree growing near where I live.

Impressions:

Yep, pretty horrible tasting right off the tree. In my opinion it has a bitter, skunky/musky taste. Kinda like a Muskrat ate a lemon, then barfed it up semi-digested.
I tried mixing some of the juice with water and sugar and tasted something like lemonaide, but not really.... Maybe cooking alters the flavor?

The good impressions were the visual aspect of the plant covered with little orange balls and the wonderful floral/citrusy scent of the fruit.
The exotic appearance of the plant makes it worth having for the "what the hell is that!??!" effect. Fruit would make interesting incense.

Each fruit had about 30 seeds, which pretty much filled the inside of the fruit. I planted the seeds from one fruit and now have about 25 seedlings coming up.
Maybe I will use them to make a fence. Those thorns could stop anything.
maikeru sumi-e


Joined: Dec 14, 2010
Posts: 312
Do you think it could work for a livestock fence/hedge?


.
Cris Bessette
volunteer

Joined: May 20, 2011
Posts: 651
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 8A
    
  26
maikeru Hatfield wrote:Do you think it could work for a livestock fence/hedge?


It has been specifically used for that. (Google "Poncirus fence", you'll see.)

I remember reading somewhere that the US government has used it at times as security fences to keep people out of places.

I've seen two comments by people saying that these thorns will puncture tractor tires.



Marsha Richardson


Joined: Feb 15, 2012
Posts: 20
At our place we call it the "hedge of death." Truly, if you fell into it there is no way to escape. It is easy to grow if you have adequate moisture for it but be sure and plant it where you want it to stay because transplanting it when it gets a little size on it (3 ft and up) is a dangerous undertaking. Even dealing with pruning debris requires extreme caution. The prunings dry to a rock hardness that can be useful. Piling them up in windrows around the edge of the yard makes a long-lasting barrier which keeps almost everything out of the garden. It will go through a tire, a shoe or anything else that comes in contact with it. I always figured it was the thorn plant from around sleeping beauties castle. On the otherhand - it is a gorgeous plant in bloom and the polinators love it. The birds nest all through it and predators can't reach them. A really fun plant.
Erica Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Feb 10, 2009
Posts: 692
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
    
  81
I suspect my friend has a potted relative, based on the thorn description. Although I don't know if it has ever fruited for her, it has tolerated a lot of moving around, outdoor neglect, and had leaves come back strongly in a new setting after more than 6 months with bare, curvaceous, thorny green branches. I can't be sure if it's the Flying Dragon version or a similar, thicker-stemmed relative, but it has that quality of horrific fascination and visual appeal. An elegant and lethal-looking plant, especially when it is in a snit and drops all its leaves, displaying nothing BUT thorns.

If the original question has been satisfactorily answered, can I chime in to ask about small ornamental citrus in general?

I am interested in learning to bonsai a very small citrus such as kumquat or Meyer lemon for a houseplant. (Boatplant. House-boat-plant. . .?)
General hardiness would be good, especially tolerance to salt air, and varying moisture and temperature. The first link offered (thank you!) says the Flying Dragon poncirus is grown as a bonsai plant.

Does anybody have a recommendation for other, tastier small citrus spp that will fruit at small tree sizes / tolerate a lot of pruning as bonsai or indoor garden candidates?


Thanks,
Erica


Play with nature, make nifty stuff:
www.ErnieAndErica.info
Cris Bessette
volunteer

Joined: May 20, 2011
Posts: 651
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 8A
    
  26
Erica Wisner wrote:I suspect my friend has a potted relative, based on the thorn description. Although I don't know if it has ever fruited for her, it has tolerated a lot of moving around, outdoor neglect, and had leaves come back strongly in a new setting after more than 6 months with bare, curvaceous, thorny green branches. I can't be sure if it's the Flying Dragon version or a similar, thicker-stemmed relative, but it has that quality of horrific fascination and visual appeal. An elegant and lethal-looking plant, especially when it is in a snit and drops all its leaves, displaying nothing BUT thorns.

If the original question has been satisfactorily answered, can I chime in to ask about small ornamental citrus in general?

I am interested in learning to bonsai a very small citrus such as kumquat or Meyer lemon for a houseplant. (Boatplant. House-boat-plant. . .?)
General hardiness would be good, especially tolerance to salt air, and varying moisture and temperature. The first link offered (thank you!) says the Flying Dragon poncirus is grown as a bonsai plant.

Does anybody have a recommendation for other, tastier small citrus spp that will fruit at small tree sizes / tolerate a lot of pruning as bonsai or indoor garden candidates?


Thanks,
Erica



Meyer lemon might be the best for this type of situation. Even grown from seed it will fruit/flower at only 2-3 feet from what I've read.
There are various dwarf citrus though, you might want to check out this link:
http://www.fourwindsgrowers.com/index.php

Though there is a difference between Bonsai and simply small trees. Bonsai won't necessarily give you good fruit production, but it will look pretty.
Erica Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Feb 10, 2009
Posts: 692
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
    
  81
Cris Bessette wrote:

Meyer lemon might be the best for this type of situation. Even grown from seed it will fruit/flower at only 2-3 feet from what I've read.
There are various dwarf citrus though, you might want to check out this link:
http://www.fourwindsgrowers.com/index.php

Though there is a difference between Bonsai and simply small trees. Bonsai won't necessarily give you good fruit production, but it will look pretty.


Thanks for the link, they have all kinds of good tips and encouragement . Looks great.

I'm unlikely to practice orthodox Bonsai techniques, but I'm interested in learning how they maintain a compact and attractive plant, well into maturity. Hopefully I can balance some of the tricks that slow the bonsai growth, against the needs of a fruiting plant. If fruiting depends on a different approach, I will definitely adapt .
I think a fruiting plant might need more roots, for one; perhaps I can compromise with limited root trimming in lieu of perpetually-increasing pot sizes. I hope to find a combination of gentle trimming/pruning, and fertilizer, to maintain healthy fruiting on a small plant. (We should have nearly-infinite supplies of worm compost, and fish and seaweed foliar fertilizers, on a boat.)
I'm visualizing an indoor planting area with a small fountain or spongy/mossy thing to moisten the air, good ventilation, a big overhead skylight with auto-vents, and small fruiting trees or bushes in containers with their own carefully-chosen companion plants (possibly mosses) to stabilize air moisture and soil conditioning. A little nook of green and gray in an ocean of blue.

I am excited! Tempted to start practicing now, while the boat is still in planning stages, in case I need to make the 'conservatory' larger.

I suppose I will also have to be very strict about clean plants, no pests, and watch regulations about transport in protected growing areas.

Thanks,
Erica
Cal Edon


Joined: Jun 24, 2012
Posts: 36
Be sure to protect the young seedlings from browsers. All of the potted plants I had were eaten to within two inches of the soil - basically a stalk with one or two leaves remaining. And this despite their having quarter-inch long thorns.
 
 
subject: Japanese Bitter Orange
 
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