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Bearss Lime Tree Care

Bearss Lime

(Citrus latifolia)

 

Bearss lime overview:

  • This is a vigorous tree which produces lots of large juicing limes.
Bearss lime cultivation

Bearss lime ripe for home picking

 

Bearss Lime Fruit:

Bearss lime fruit appearance:   

  • When ripe the fruit is dark green to pale green, depending on when you pick (see below discussion).
  • With increased ripening, small patches of yellow will appear as well as other changes (see below discussion).
  • The Bearss lime fruit is usually slightly smaller or similar in size to a standard lemon.
  • The skin is rather smooth and thin.
  • The flesh of the fruit is tightly clinging to the flesh and the pulp is light greenish-yellow when ripe.
  • The Bearss lime has a characteristic thin nipple on the blossom end of the fruit which is the leftover end of the flowers stigma.
Bearss lime size

Bearss lime size: Both fruit in the picture are from the same tree, just at different levels of ripeness.

Bearss lime fruit taste: 

  • This is a wonderful acid lime with a fragrant somewhat spicy aroma.  The flavor is less intense/acid than the Mexican lime/Key lime.
  • The Bearss lime is marketed as a seedless lime, however, I do find a few seeds in the fruit about half of the time.

Fruit season:  

  • The main Bearss Lime crop for me is from October to December.
  • However, this tree is a heavy producer for me and there seem to be fruit on it all year long.
  • Yesterday (8/1/15) I started picking another crop from my 4yo Bearss Lime tree.  Each crop is bigger than the last.  This last crop was even too large for a 5 gallon bucket… and there is still more fruit on the tree! (see video below).

When ripe:

  • The fact that Bearss limes are green when unripe and also green when ripe is a bit of an obstacle to harvesting success.  To further complicate things, there seems to be a narrow time window for optimal ripeness.
  • Overall, if you pick the fruit too early there will be little juice and the fruit will not have the distinct lime flavor that you are looking for.
  • On the other hand, if you pick the fruit later, it may become a sweeter but in doing so may also not have that desired lime flavor.
  • Of course if you are really late to harvest then the end of the fruit may turn soft and brown at the end (stylar-end-breakdown) and if this happens the fruit will taste rotten. Just throw these damaged fruit away and pick earlier next time.
Bearss lime stages of ripeness

Bearss lime at different stages of ripeness: (Commercial ripeness on the left.  A bit past optimal home ripeness ripeness in the middle.  Getting overripe on the right)

 

Huge lime crop from a single young tree

Huge crop from a single young lime tree. These fruit are at optimal ripeness for home picking.

 

Overripe limes:

  • There is a phenomenon known as stylar-end-breakdown, or stylar-end-rot.
  • This results in a round tan/brown, soft area at the apex of the fruit.
  • I have personally noticed that this stylar-end-breakdown only happens to over ripe fruit that has turned yellow and left hanging on the tree. I have asked around and apparently this happens to all limes that are left to ripen too long on the tree (however, I have never seen it happen to Mexican lime/Key lime).
  • Local experts have told me that this lime stylar-end-breakdown is basically the fruit rotting on the tree and it should not happen to the green fruit.
  • I have also read elsewhere that this stylar-end-rot disease is made worse with summer heat and can happen to fruit left out in field boxes in commercial picking.  Some have also suggested that this process is preferentially induced in larger fruits, but this has not been my experience.
Brown spot on lime

The Bearss lime on the left has ‘stylar end breakdown’

When to pick Bearss limes?

  • So how do you know when to pick then?
  • To avoid the risk of the stylar-end-breakdown problem and to cater to customer expectations, the fruit is usually dark green when picked for commercial maturity (in stores).
  • However, for the home grower you have the advantage of picking at the absolute best time, which is a little later than commercial pickers.  I wait till the dark green of the young fruit starts to lighten to a little bit. You might also see a splash of pale green in areas of the fruit skin at this stage as well. This is the optimal time for flavor and juice for me. I try to pick before the fruit starts to turn yellow.
  • With a bit more time, you might get some yellow on the skin surrounded by green and at this point I am pushing the envelope but the fruit is still very good.
  • Some people actually like to wait until the fruit is completely yellow.  However, others insist that the Bearss lime tastes “off” when it is completely yellow.
  • Another indicator or ripeness is the feel: unripe fruit will feel very solid when squeezed and a ripe Bearss lime will give a bit when squeezed.
When to pick limes

Bearss lime at commercial maturity

 

 

Bearss Lime Tree Care:

Bearss lime tree fertilization:

  • Large infrequent applications of fertilizer 2x a year can result in rapid growth and bark splitting.  This can expose the plant to disease and in some cases the extreme splitting by itself can result in trunk girdling and death of a tree. To avoid this spread the fertilization application into at least 4 separate applications.  I personally try to fertilize with a mix of slow release and regular granulated fertilizer from spring to summer.
  • As always, it is important to water-in the granulated fertilizer because the drip line won’t do it.  If you skip this point then you could get into some major problems down the line.  Without watering-in that granulated fertilizer, it will sit there through the dry summer doing nothing.  Then, when the winter rains come, that whole season of fertilizer will be soaked into the root zone in one large dose at the exact wrong time and wrong concentration.
Prolific Bearss Lime

One part of one crop from a 4yo Bearss Lime

 

Bearss lime growing temperature:

  • In general, limes are more cold sensitive that most other citrus.
  • Because lime trees grow all year-around they are more susceptible to cold damage. This is because young leaves are especially susceptible to the cold.  Therefore, time my fertilization to discourage cold weather growth.
  • The good news is that the Bearss lime is said to be hardier than the Mexican lime/Key lime.
  • Mine will tolerate an occasional light frost.  However, a deep freeze will kill any citrus.
  • Planting close to a South facing wall may help a bit with winter temperatures,  but that same South facing wall may also bake the tree in the summer.
  • For more information about the lowest temperatures that you can expect in your area, check out my article “Climate Zones: What can I grow in my yard?”

Bearss lime tree soil: 

  • I plant in a large hole with a rich soil mixture of native soil and grow mulch.
  • This tree must have well draining soil and will not tolerate standing in water.
  • See my previous article on the best planting method.

Landscaping use:

  • This evergreen tree has moderately dense foliage with somewhat drooping branches.
  • With the cultivation formula that I have outlined, I have found the Bearss lime to be very fast grower.
  • It can grow up to 20 feet tall but can be easily kept to half that height with pruning.
  • The branches have a few small thorns.
  • Because of their year-around growth, lime trees demand more fertilization and irrigation than other Citrus species.  I don’t fertilize in the fall or winter because I don’t want to encourage young leaf growth when it is cold as the young leaves are the most cold sensitive.
Bearss lime thorn

Ripe Bearss lime and very small thorn (this red tipped thorn is seen adjacent to the left side of the fruit-extending from the branch located just under the leaf)

Water:

  • In the summer, I water 2-3 times a week with a drip line around the root zone.
  • Must be well draining soil but the soil also cannot be allowed to completely dry out.
  • Mulching helps retain moisture and help to stabilize the soil temperature.

Sun:

  • Full

Bearss lime tree propagation:

  • The big picture here is don’t bother growing from seed.
  • The seeds are largely monoembryonic; and seedlings are exceedingly variable. A study of the Tahiti lime showed that only 10% of seedlings produced fruit with a reasonable similarity to the parent.
  • The best bet is to by a grafted tree, or perhaps try some grafting yourself.

Pollination:

  • Mostly by honey bees

Bearss lime tree pests:

  • I have personally encountered two main pests (Citrus leaf miner and scale).
    • Leaf Miner is basically unavoidable now in California.  It can do a lot of damage, however,  I have a great formula for dealing with leaf miner and have written about it previously (see link).
    • Scale seems to be a problem on a lot of the plants around Southern California… and the rest of the world for that matter.  However, tangle foot will keep the ants out of your tree that protect and move around the scale.  Once you remove the ants from the equation with tangle foot, then your oil sprays and the natural predators will keep those sap suckers at bay.
  • Other reported pests include:
    • The citrus red mite (purple mite, red spider, spider mite), and the broad mite.
    • I have also seen reports that Red alga is a major problem, causing bark splitting and dieback of branches. It can be prevented by regular and thorough spraying with copper or other suitable fungicides.
    • The tree is also subject to several viruses including crinkly leaf, psorosis, tatterleaf , tristeza, exocortis and xyloporosis.
    • The tree is moderately susceptible to scab and greasy spot.
    • Fortunately the Bearss Lime tree is reported to be immune to withertip.

 

Bearss Lime Use:

Bearss lime food use:

  • Bearss limes can make awesome homemade limeade or lime soda; i’ll work on writing up a recipe in my next post.
  • Basically, you can use the Bearss lime for the same things that you would use a Mexican Lime/Key Lime for.
  • With normal refrigeration, fresh fruits may remain good for 6 to 8 weeks.
Bearss lime limeade

Home made organic limeade; yum!

Other Bearss lime use:

  • I have found that lime juice (and lemon juice) is effective in removing rust stains from carpets.  I would suggest that you first test an inconspicuous corner of the carpet first to make sure the lime juice wont damage the carpet.
  • Others have put the peals of limes into their garbage disposal to “freshen up” the smell.
  • Others have reported that lime juice will dissolve calcium deposits on teakettles and faucets if left to soak overnight.

Lime cautions:

  • For some people, skin exposure to the oil in the peel of limes or the sap of the tree can causes dermatitis.
  • This dermatitis can be exasperated with sun exposure resulting in discolored itchy brown or red skin that can sometimes lead to blistering.
  • However, I don’t know how common this reaction is… and it is interesting to note that the lime peel oil is commonly used in cooking.

 

Bearss Lime Miscellaneous:

Brief history of the Bearss lime:

    • The Bearss Lime was introduced as a new variety of Tahiti lime in the early golden days of California citrus growing.
    • This lime got its name because it originated in the grove of T.J. Bearss at Porterville, California, in 1895.
    • However, later comparative studies led to the decision that the ‘Bearss’ did not differ sufficiently from the typical Tahiti lime to be maintained as a distinct cultivar.
    • Interestingly, the idea didn’t seem to catch on (at least in my experience) because I see a whole of seedless limes labeled as Bearss.

AKA (Also Known As):

  • Tahiti lime, Persian lime, limoo

 

About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.

54 comments

  1. Love your tips! Our trees produce well also. Look forward to your knowledge.

  2. Once again I learned a lot from your website. My lime tree is so prolific that we cannot keep up with eating the green limes and so we eat them when they have turned yellow. A month ago, I noticed that they ends had browned and I assumed it was because they had been frost bitten by the cold snap we had early this year. I now know that this is “stylar end breakdown”. I shall pick and destroy all affected fruit and prune out the cold-hammered leaves and those affected by leaf miner. Thanks for the tips. Keep them coming.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Sateesh

      Yea, I had no idea what was going on when I saw the ends of the fruit rotting.
      It took some digging around and I finally got to the answer when I talked to an old citrus grower.

      As far as your leaf miner damaged leaves-I might consider leaving them on the tree. By this time of year, the damage should not get worse and there may still be some use left in those damaged leaves.

  3. Thnx for your advice on Leaf Miners Tom. I did not want to take any chances with the deformed leaves lying around so I threw them in the trash bin for garden waste. Now I noticed that the Lime trees are beginning to bear tiny buds. They must have been sparked off by the Eureka lemons, Navel and Valencia Oranges which although hit by the same Leaf Miners, are blossoming. So I expect to get a continuous supply of citrus. My wife makes us a tremendous cocktail of Oranges, Limes/Lemons, Grapefruit and adds a dash of Rum or Vodka or Amaretto de Sorono. That is a wonderful Sundowner!!

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Yea, getting rid of the leaves is probably not a bad idea Sateesh.
      However, I dont know how long those pesky larva can live on a dead leaf.

      The main season for spraying leaf miner in Southern California is June to mid-October.
      However, with this non-winter we are having, that schedule may be messed up.

      In general, I spray every 3 weeks with great success.
      However, if I miss a week and spray every 4 weeks, then I am sure to get damage on the new leaf flush was exposed in that small window of time.
      Those leaf miners are tenacious.
      Rain will also wash off the spinosad, so I reapply after a good rain regardless of the previous schedule. I then reset the 3 week spray schedule clock.

  4. Here’s my sick Meyer Lemon. Diagnosis please.
    Photos don’t load ;-(

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Sateesh

      Photos:
      Perhaps we can get the lemon photos over via LinkedIn.
      I can’t say that I will be able to diagnose your Meyer Lemon illness from a photo but I will give it my best.

      Crowd sourcing:
      On that note, I will try to create a Meyer Lemon post/article soon.
      That way, I can post your picture and other readers will also have the opportunity to share their insights regarding your tree.

      Conference:
      I’ll try to put together a quick Meyer Lemon article tomorrow.
      However, things are a bit hectic at the moment b/c I am giving 3 lectures at a national medical conference soon.
      None the less, I will try to get this together as soon as possible.

      Best,

      T

  5. Dr. Osborne,

    Thanks for writing about the contact dermatitis risk of Bearss limes. Recently I have had two bouts of the worst eczema ever, but only on my hands. I realized I had been squeezing limes on the juicer shortly before both bouts, then googled and found your blog. Thanks for helping me avoid this in future – the itching is not to be believed – scratching to the point of bleeding while asleep.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Kim
      Thank you for your comment.

      I am sorry to hear about your lime induced dermatitis.
      But it is great to hear that you are now in a position to avoid it in the future.
      I have a few additional thoughts for you: however, I suspect that you may already know much of what I am about to say.
      None the less, I figured I would jot down a few more considerations for you.. or anyone else reading this that has had similar problems.

      A few other things to consider:
      The oils in the skin/rind tend to cause the most problems for most people.
      In the world of citrus, limes seem to be a major culprit in regards to skin problems. However, lemons and grapefruit and other citrus (roughly in that order) may also cause symptoms.

      Major consideration:
      Adding sunlight to skin exposed to citrus juice can result in especially bad symptoms
      (this is known as “photocontact dermatitis” aka “photodermatitis” aka “phytophotodermatitis”).

      Citrus is not the only plant that can cause these types of UV/sunlight related problems.
      Therefore, since you have already discovered that you have skin-plant sensitivity, I would watch out for others.
      Unfortunately, the list of potential troublesome plants is rather long.
      However, some of the more common offenders are: Euphorbia, Figs, Parsnip, Agave, Celery, Parsley, Cilantro, Cow parsnip/hogweed, Giant hogwee, Rhus trees, Carrots and Beans.
      (even store bought perfumes can do this type of thing)

      Another thought:
      Sometimes, you cant get these problems even without directly touching the plant.
      For example, if you get the sap/juice/allergens on your clothes you may not even know it.
      Later your skin may come in contact with the contaminated clothes… and then you have a problem.
      Changing/washing your clothes after exposure should address this potential problem.

      Overall:
      Obviously you should avoid things that give you a rash (but you knew that already).
      If in the future your skin comes in contact with the offending citrus (or other plant); avoid the sun and wash the area thoroughly with simple soap and water as soon as you can.
      For most people this works wonders.
      Of course, everyone is different and you should seek medical attention if symptoms are concerning (pain, severe itching, redness that doesn’t go away, blistering, etc) or if the affected area involves your eyes. Eye exposure to certain plants can cause permanent disability and even blindness… this should not be take lightly. However, if you do get eye exposure, don’t drive yourself to the doctors. These symptoms can get worse quickly and you don’t want to be loosing your vision while driving off the road to get it fixed.

      See your doctor:
      Depending on the severity of the symptoms and your health/medical background, your doctor might consider prescribing something such as:
      -Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
      -Corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone.

      These meds are very effective when given in the right context.
      However, each medication has potential pluses and minuses and a detailed discussion with your doctor about what is appropriate is always recommended.

      Last thought:
      As hard as it is… try to avoid scratching because this can cause secondary infections.

      Thanks again for sharing your story,
      Best,
      Tom

  6. Bearss Seedless Lime. The leaves are falling off in large numbers. They start to fold lengthwise. Leaves don’t turn yellow, but stay green. Can’t locate any pest. Usually have gray scale, but none this time.

    Prior, in Febuary, transplanted into a 15 gallon pot. Plant took off growing. Started flowering. Then within the last 2 weeks, the leaf curl, then they fall off. Is it too much water, or not enough? Was, hopefully will become again a beautiful tree.

    Thanks

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Jeremy.
      What a bummer story.
      Without seeing the plant in person-or pictures it is tough to know exactly what is going on…
      However, I do have some thoughts on your dilemma.

      Over watering:
      Chronic over watering of plants tends to result in yellowing of leaves.
      However, short term (acute) water-logging conditions can suffocate roots and can also result in root rot.
      The soil may also smell foul in these situations.
      Growing a plant in a pot that does not drain properly can predispose to all of these problems.

      Root damage:
      If the roots are damaged in for any reason (such as water logging), then they wont be able to bring the need moisture to the leaves.
      And ironically, over watering that results in root damage, can result in leaves dying b/c the leaves then become dehydrated.
      Oftentimes (but not always) an acute case of water logging will cause leaves to look a bit grey before they fall off.
      This does not sound like the situation that you are describing.

      Not enough water:
      This seems like a more likely possibility.
      Growing in pots is a challenge because the soil can dry out so much faster and the plants roots do not have a chance to dig deep to protected areas of moisture.
      The dry hot weather we have been having will also put an extra water stress on all your plants.
      The same environmental conditions will pull water out of the potted soil that your plant is living in much faster.
      Therefore, even if you continued to water your potted plant at the same rate that worked in the past, it would not be enough in the extreme hot and dry weather conditions.
      Just one day of super dry soil can cause a tree to drop its leaves.
      A bigger pot will help with these potted moisture problems. However, Bearss limes are much easier to care for when they are planted in the ground.

      Pot Heat:
      In addition, those common black plastic pots will really heat up in the sun. Rapid changes in soil temperature can also stress out a tree.
      On extra hot days, the hot black plastic pots may also burn the roots that are touching it.
      The hot pots will also take the moisture out of the soil faster than they would otherwise.

      Overall:
      Considering our recent extreme weather, I think your plants case of leaf drop is likely a cause of not enough soil moisture… even one day of really hot dry conditions can do it.

  7. Debra Robitaille

    We planted a young Bearrs Lime in our backyard on 5/11/14. Although small, it had already produced 2 tiny limes which fell off during transport. We live in Burbank, CA and have several other citrus trees on this property, which we rent. The orange tree is tall, and produces tons of fruit. The lemon tree in the front yard, is maybe 2 years old (our landlord can’t recall when it began growing there – it’s a volunteer!) and has produced about 10 lemons since we moved here on Feb. 1st. It was struggling with what our local garden shop identified as Citrus Leaf Miner. But we bought and hung a trap, and that seemed to work. That tree’s doing great, although we did see ants and aphids in its flowers a few weeks ago, so we sprayed it with Neem oil and they’re gone now. The lime tree, meanwhile, seemed to be thriving until about 2 weeks ago. Its leaves curled up, stayed green though. We saw ants and aphids on it, so we sprayed Neem Oil on it, really soaked it. Waited 10 days or so, but since the leaves didn’t uncurl, we uncurled them, and discovered dozens of spider mite webs. (Don’t know if they curled the leaves, or just took advantage of the curled leaves as a good home). We removed every mite, and spayed more Neem oil. That was a week ago. When leaves didn’t uncurl, a few days later I uncurled them. They’ve stayed uncurled. Found a huge spider web in one leaf yesterday (real spider, not a spider mite) and the tree doesn’t seem to be coming around. Would like to post a picture of it, but don’t know how to do that. So afraid we’re going to lose it. Want to try hanging our other citrus leaf miner trap (brand new) on it, but don’t know if that’s something that might be harmful for it? It’s not the right time of year to catch the leaf miner moths, but we caught a whole bunch of other stuff in the lemon tree’s trap, so thought it might help. Decided to check with your first. LOVE your site, and all the help you offer people. Thank you!

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks for the great feedback Debra!

      It sounds like there is a lot going on. Ill do my best to give you some useful info. But I agree, a photo of your sick citrus may help a lot.

      Citrus leafminer:
      Yea, citrus leafminer is a big pain. The moth larva are the miners and they create a distinctive path just under the leaf surface. As the larva mature they do curl the leaf. This gives them added shelter and protection as they pupate into a tiny moth. Once the leaf is curled up and damaged, it wont uncurl even if the offending bug is killed.

      I have personally tried the leafminer phermone traps, and caught a bunch of moths. However, the traps did nothing to hold back the onslaught to my citrus. There are just too many of those little moths in my area. However, I have been successfully using Monterey LG6135 Garden Insect Spray Contains Spinosad, 32-Ouncespinosad (a natural insecticide) to take care of those leafminers. This is the best (some say only) non-systemic option for leafminers. I spray from mid June to mid October. All of the details you need with some pictures can be found in an article I wrote titled “Citrus Leafminer: Diagnosis and Treatment.

      Ants and aphids:
      Yea, those two partners in crime can do a lot of harm. Many species of ants basically farm aphids the way we may farm cows.
      The ants move the aphids around to the best feeding areas and protect them from predators etc.
      Therefore, if you block the ants path into your tree then the aphids will have a hard time getting there and will be left unprotected.
      Tanglefoot 300000684 Tree Tanglefoot – 15 oz TubTanglefoot is a great organic option from prevention and treatment of this type of thing. (just dont put the tanglefoot directly on the bark of you citrus trees. you will need to put the tangle foot on tape or on their Tanglefoot 300000688 Tangle Guard Paper Tree Wrap 3-Inch x 50-Footpaper tree wrap.
      When I see an aphid infection, I will will first hose off the tree and try to knock off as many bugs as possible. Then I will spray the heck out of the tree with neem oil, or horticultural oil mixed with spinosad. Then I will apply the tangle foot on tape that is wrapped around the main trunk. That organic process is very very effective.

      Bearss lime sickness:
      There are a lot of things that may be the problem.
      As you mentioned, a picture would be really helpful.
      At the moment, the options are ranging from transplantion shock (not enough root system for this hot/dry weather) to gopher damage.
      If you can post the photos online somewhere for me to see, that would be great.
      If you have any additional info, let me know and I will revise the diagnostic possibilities.

      Best,
      Tom

      • Thanks for all this terrific info, Tom! We’ll definitely use your aphid treatment, sounds great and I think that’s our main problem. But we’ve learned there’s another situation in our yard, maybe it’s common, maybe rare. It’s definitely creepy.

        We’re novices with citrus trees, moved to CA from DC in 2009 and still can’t believe we have oranges, lemons and limes growing in our yard. Also figs, olives, pomegranates, countless herbs… it’s a wonderful yard full of terrific things!

        When I discovered spiders in those curled lime tree leaves about 8 weeks ago, the first few I found were quite small and had small webs. I’d never seen them before and thought they were some sort of weird, large spider mites. I crushed those between my fingers. (makes me shudder now, knowing) But the day after I posted here, I found a few more had made homes in the tree. Didn’t want to kill any more of them, since they’re just doing what they need to do, but since they seemed to be preying on our baby lime tree, I decided to move them to another empty lot near our home. Caught a few and moved them, but while I had one in a jar, I noticed a marking on its abdomen, looked it up, and was astounded to learn the spiders infesting our tree were Brown Widows. Yikes. I still won’t kill them (especially by squishing them between my fingers! Whew!) but I do wish they would decide to live elsewhere. Our first grandchild is scheduled to arrive in February, and our kids live a few blocks away. So our grandson will hopefully be enjoying our yard with us often, and we’d like to think we wouldn’t have to worry about this. Brown Widows are more shy than Black Widows from what I’ve read, and although their venom is stronger, it evidently doesn’t spread through a victim as much as a Black Widow’s. (I’m trying to take what comfort I can in that)

        Anyway, at first we thought, like the abundant ants, these spiders were here for centuries since the citrus orchards were all over this part of Burbank before the houses were built here in the early & mid 20th century. But then we read that brown widows are relatively new to CA, having been here roughly a decade from what I read. Seems weird to see so many if they’re not long-time inhabitants.
        We’re wondering if other citrus tree growers have started noticing tons of them? We’ve since found many of them quietly nesting throughout our huge white mission fig tree and our large, stately, prolific orange tree. Their webs are almost always inside leaves that are brown and curled, but I don’t know if they move in after other pests have curled the leaves, or if the brown widows curl the leaves themselves with their often massive (very impressive and strong!) webs.

        I don’t know why our young lime allowed me to uncurl its leaves, maybe because they’d only curled up a couple of days earlier (while we were gone a few days) and its leaves were still young & malleable. I just thought it was about to die, and maybe having more green leaf open to the sunlight for the chlorophyll would be the only chance to save it. I was shocked I could uncurl them and more shocked they stayed uncurled although not smooth, and I began quickly hosing the lime tree down for a few seconds each evening (it’s very small) and the tree lost some leaves for a while, but is now doing much, MUCH better. Although I still find at least 2 or 3 brown widows in it every day.

        I’m posting a link to a folder of 12 photos: 1. the initial curled lime tree leaves, 2. after I had uncurled a few, (and squished those tiny brown widows I found in those) (eesh!) 3. how the tree looks today, now that I hose it down every evening (it got its first flower 2 weeks ago!) 4. a close up of it today, 5&6. 2 views of a brown widow I removed from it recently, 7&8. more brown widows, in our young black olive tree, 9,10,11&12- pics of our lemon tree which is young but not as young as our lime tree, and has citrus leaf miner problems, but we just started hosing it down every other day this week, and it’s already looking much better.

        Cannot WAIT to try your aphid/ant treatment! Thanks again!

        Sending you all this spider/citrus info just in case you ever hear of anything similar. I do everything I can to avoid killing even a fly, but this situation is becoming a real concern. My husband said there’s a college somewhere here in SoCal that has a department that does tons of research on arachnids, and maybe they’d like to come take all the brown widows down to their research lab. 🙂 That sounds pretty doggone great to me, but I’m not betting on it. Meanwhile, I’m still laughing at your analogy of ants and aphids to farmers and cows. I guess the brown widows must be the wolves that enjoy lying in wait for either the cows or farmers. Everything is just doing what Mother Nature demands of it, but I’m sure wishing I could reroute some of these leaf curlers. If you’re familiar with this problem and have heard of any solutions, we’d love to hear them. Thanks again!

        Hope I’ve posted the folder correctly so the photos can be seen:

        https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B16VsHOzglknZlVnTVdCeXR3Rk0&usp=sharing

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Debra

          You are very welcome, thank you for the positive feedback and for sharing your story.

          Welcome to California from DC!
          I moved out here many years ago from NY, so I definitely know what you are talking about. I feel grateful every day (esp in the winter).

          Spiders:
          That is quite a spider story. It looks like you are spot on with your arachnid identification. Great job!

          Spider implications:
          As you mentioned, this Brown Widow Spider is also a new immigrant to California.
          Therefore, it is difficult to know how it will impact our environment.
          However, in general, I am pretty excited to see true spiders in my plants because I know they are insect eaters.

          Brown Widow Spiders:
          I personally havent seen any of these guys in my trees.
          However, if you have them in your trees, I am sure that others do too.
          From your pictures, they definitely seem more bold than their Black Widow cousin (Black Widows are usually hiding in dark crevices under wood piles, etc).
          I am not sure the implications of them curling the leaves of your trees. However, if it is only a few leaves, then I would think that it is not a big deal at all… esp if they are eating bad-sap-sucking insects.

          Brown Widow Spider Research:
          I think the research you mentioned might be going on at UC Riverside…
          You may have already seen this, but here is a nice article they have put together about the spider. http://cisr.ucr.edu/brown_widow_spider.html
          According to this article, the Brown Widow Spider bite is not as bad as the Black Widow Spider bite. In addition, the article also suggests that since the two spiders live in a similar ecological niche that the Brown Widows may push out the more dangerous Black Widow Spiders.

          Keep us posted on your progress/situation!

          Side thought:
          Looking at your photos: you might want to put some mulch around the root zone of your tree. It will reduce the amount of water you need to use and it will also help to keep the roots at a more even temperature.

  8. Hello Dr Osborne,

    We are just planting a very small grove. 125 bearrs. We have mostly started with 3 year old trees. I was wondering how many fruit are produced by one of these trees in their potential 4th and later years to come?

    Thank you so much for your posts we have found them to be helpful.

    Joe

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Joe
      Thanks for your positive feedback on the site.

      Your developing lime grove sounds like a fun adventure.

      How much a Bearss lime tree will produce?
      This is a great question, but there is no definite answer as to how much a Bearss lime tree will produce.
      The productivity of your trees will have a lot to do with your individual growing conditions (temp, soil, fertilizer, water, sunlight, root stock, etc).
      In fact, trees planted just 10 yards from each other may produce different amounts of fruit due to subtle micro-climate differences.

      Counting challenges:
      To further confound things, the Bearss lime trees also produce fruit through the year, and not uniformly throughout the year.
      So it can be tricky to est a years crop at any one time point of reference.
      The main season for me has been Summer to fall….this is also consistent with data from commercial growers.

      My experience:
      I can only speak with authority on my own experience:
      To that end, I just walked out to my Bearss lime tree closest to the house (which also happens to be about 3 or 4 years old).
      There are about 125 limes currently developing on that tree.
      I would expect that they should be ripe in the next month or so.
      However, there are also flowers on the tree, so there is another crop getting in line.

      Commercial numbers:
      From what I have read, commercial growers est about 60 to 90 lbs of fruit per tree each year.
      (Side: apparently, trees grafted on alemow rootstock produce more than trees grafted on rough lemon).

      Transplanting considerations:
      Another thing to consider is that it may take a few years for a tree to get established after planting.
      In this early time period, they should be spending their energy on developing a good root system and not on the costly process of making fruit.
      Therefore, some people (including me) will remove the flowers/fruit at planting, and in the first year after planting, to help the tree to get a healthy start in life.
      Although this practice is not uniformly adopted, I have found that it has been very beneficial for me.

      Best of luck and keep us posted.

      Best,

      Tom

  9. For 17 years I have wondered why my lemons turned brown at the ends by the time they yellowed, and why the flesh is always more limey than other lemons. Finally I know why… it’s a Bearss Lime Tree!
    Thank you for the info and images!

  10. Opps, sorry about posting about yellow limes back at the lemon page, but have you tried Australian finger limes? You can find them in stock at my local Home depot (Fall and Winter all the time). They range from green to red fleshed ones.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks Nate.
      Australian finger limes are very cool. The little round vesicles of the fruit that separate are like lime caviar.
      I have one growing here too that a generous neighbor gave to me… I just haven’t written about it yet.
      Are you growing one?

      • I already have a source of acid, my passionfruit and lemon, but do you know that they can tolerate shade? If I have a spot where nothing can grow, then I’ll go for it.

  11. About 5 years ago implanted a lemon seed and it matured into an attractive tree about 4 feet in 3 years. One day in May of last year, I noticed numerous flowers. Many developed into nice lemons. To my surprise, every lemon is seedless. I found this quite odd. Any thoughts.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Sam
      That is interesting.
      Perhaps you got yourself a new variety of lemon.
      The “Barbary Lemon”
      Might be worth looking into.
      T

      • Hi Tom

        Thanks for getting back to me. I’m stumped about the seedless lemons. I did hear that there is a variety in South Africa, buts that’s all I know. They taste and look the Sam as lemons you buy from a grocery store. Any thoughts about marketing. Sunkist wasn’t interested. Later I thought it was a mistake to contact them as I suspected to see some black helicopters above my back yard. Even worse, I thought one day one of the helicopters would lift it out of my yard. Lol

        Thanks again.

        Sam

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          That is pretty awesome.
          And lol about the black helicopters.

          The only thing I can think of is that you could possibly have something like a Bearss lime that has ripened to the yellow stage… However, the limes should still smell/taste like a lime when ripened to yellow….and it doesnt sound like that is the case for you new variety.

          Another option would be to talk to a local grower and see if they want to partner with you on this new variety… The seedless Barbary Lemon.
          Kindof has a nice ring to it.

          If you are serious about it, just make sure all the ducks are in alignment (lawyers etc).

          Please keep us posted.

          Best,
          T

          • Thanks for getting back to me Dr. It’s nice to here from someone who has the same interests in plants. I do appreciate the suggestion about partnering with someone. Unfortunately, I live in NJ. And yes, I would get lawyers etc. I do remember planting a lemon seed do I can rule out the lime.
            I have a Ponderosa Lemon tree that is bush like. It’s 40 years old and still producing 3- 3 1/2″ lemons. I got it while I was attending Rutgers University. It’s about 3′ high and ‘ wide.
            By the way, if you want to remineralize your soil try rock dust. It puts back what our plants have taken out of the soils that are now depleted. Even organic foods are can lack nutrition as they too can be grown in depleted soil. Adding organic fertilizer doesn’t remineralize. Another great soil amenity is fulvic acid. It can be applied as a foliar spray or added to the soil. I’m sure you will be pleased with the harvest results and extra nutritional value.

            Thank you again,

            Sam

  12. I have a Persian lime tree in a large pot. It is about 3ft high and 4 ft wide. It has been in the pot since April of this year and outside. I brought it when when the temp was going to be 32 degrees. While in the house it started loosing alot of leaves. The weather warmed up and I put it back outside. It has been raining quite a bit here in the Atlanta area almost daily. The pot has holes in the bottom so there was no sanding water in the pot. The tree is now blooming however the leaves are a light shade of green or yellow. No V shaped darker green at the stem. What should I do to get the leaves dark green again?
    Thanks and Happy New Year.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Patrick
      Thanks for the question.

      Dropping leaves is usually a sign of stress.
      Fro your situation, it could be the cold, dry soil or perhaps being shaken up in the move.

      Yellow leaves could mean a few different things.
      Do you have a way to share some pics of the leaves? (pinterest, twitter, flicker, etc).

      Best,
      T

    • Hi Patrick

      I had a similar situation with a lemon tree. From what I read, lemon and lime trees are big nitrogen and iron feeders and require a bunch of light. I contacted Espoma and they recommended and iron product. It did work. Growing citrus in pots is a challenge because the soil rarely gets regenerated as many nutrients get leached out. Also once or twice a year I completely flow out the pot to get rid of any possible salts. I also eliminated all synthetic fertilizers and have used fulvic acid as a fertilizer and rock dust to remineralize the soil.
      Hope this helps.

      Sam

  13. I just planted a Bearss Lime in the ground, that was in a 24 inch box, and was told that it is 5 to 6 years old. It has lots of flowers and the tiny little lime buds. I have read all the information you provided and have already purchased the Spinosad and oil to handle any would be pests. My question is regarding proper fertilization. Is liquid or granular better? And could you please let me know what brand to buy, there are so many on the market? Also, you mentioned a mix of slow released and regular…do I buy two types?

    Thank you!
    Jim

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Jim
      Great questions

      Newly planted:
      I don’t fertilize newly planted trees.
      (Except for the natural-organic fertilizer that’s in the soil that you plant the tree in: see my general planting guide for reference).

      When to start fertilization:
      I tend to wait at least a few months before I start fertilizing a newly planted tree. If that time frame after planting falls in the winter… then I wait till spring. I dont like to encourage new growth in the winter with fertilizer bc the young leaves are easily damaged by severe weather.

      Type of fertilizer:
      As you noted, there are a lot of fertilizer options on the market. To some degree the choice depends on personal preference. For example, if you want to go full organic and willing to pay a bit more, then there is one set of options. If you just want to provide the nutrient requirements at an an economical price-point then there is another bucket of options. My way is definitely not the only “right” way to do things. However, some general important things to keep in mind. Citrus are heavy feeders… Meaning they need more fertilizer than most plants. They also need micro-nutrients that are not normally present in typical fertilizers.

      N-P-K:
      You might have seen fertilizer labeled with as a set of three numbers on the package such as 15-15-15 (this annotation should always be present on a package). These numbers represent the amounts of specific chemicals and they are presented in the order of N-P-K, which stands for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K).

      The numbers represent the concentrations so if you get a fertilizer that says 5-5-5, then you would need twice as much of that fertilizer volume to do the same thing compared to a 10-10-10 fertilizer. Regardless, the specific fertilizer package should outline the amount needed for a particular tree.

      These key chemicals are critical to any plants health and they each do a lot of things. However, they are particularly good at the following:
      Nitrogen: fosters new leaf growth and is a key component of chlorophyll (green).
      Phosphorous: helps roots and flowers grow and develop. Also plays a key role in photosynthesis, production of chemicals such as oils and sugars, and helps the plant deal with stress.
      Potassium: Also a key chemical for photosynthesis, helps build proteins, helps to fight disease and supports the overall health of your plant.

      Other chemicals:
      Other important chemicals for citrus include Calcium, Magnesium and Sulfur. Although not technically micro-nutrients, these are typically added to Citrus specific fertilizers that have micro-nutrients.

      Micro-nutrients:
      Micro-nutrients are required in only small amounts but are still vital to development, disease prevention, and overall well being. These chemicals are also difficult to come by in our Southern California soil. Some common micro-nutrients listed typically include Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, zinc.

      Liquid vs granular:
      Liquid tends to reach the plant immediately and in full concentration. This can be great to get the chemicals in there but it is also easy to be over aggressive. Following the label should keep you safe though.
      Granular fertilizers tend to be slower release because the chemicals are locked up in a solid form. Even if the granular fertilizer is not listed as slow release, it will be slower release than liquid forms. A pitfall with using granular fertilizer is how it is applied.

      Example, if you just throw the fertilizer around the root zone of the tree and it is a dry spring season then the tree will never see the fertilizer… because it is still sitting on top of the soil or mulch in that granular form. A lot of people do this and if you have a drip line only a very small fraction of the total dose will find its way into the soil. However, when we get our heavy rains in the late fall and winter, then all that dry granular fertilizer is dissolved and finds its way to the roots. However the winter is the exact wrong time you want to fertilize your plants with a big dose. To avoid this problem, you need to “water in” the dry granular fertilizer with a hose and/or apply before spring heavy rains.

      Do what do I use?
      After much experience, I use a variety of fertilizers because I have found that citrus like the variety. However, I always hit them with one dose of micro-nutrients in the spring. Compost (which you can get for free) and worm castings is a great part of the mix you provide and can be applied at anytime.

      If you want to go full-on hard-core organic, this product is really excellent… but it is very expensive for the dose you need to provide.

      A more economical option that is still organic is something like this product, or this product, and these are the options I personally prefer because I have a lot of trees and the liquid option is just too expensive if you have any number of trees to cover.

      Best,
      Tom

      • Tom, thank you so much for all the information! If I can digest and employ the information you provide in this blog, I am confident my Bearss Lime will thrive!

        After some searching I found a granular fertilizer that is 8-3-9 and contains Magnesium, Manganese, Iron, Zinc, Copper and Sulfur. I think this is ‘just what the doctor ordered’!

        Since I just put the tree in the ground last week, I will wait until June to fertilize for the first time, and then every 6 weeks thereafter. I will make sure that I thoroughly water in each time.

        Thanks again,
        Jim

  14. Hello Tom…another question/concern regarding my lime tree.

    I am noticing some small bumps on quite a few leaves, the bumps are on the top side of the leaf and there is an equal size indentation on the bottom side of the leaf opposite the bump. Does that make sense? The bumps are green (no discoloration) on the leaf surface.

    The leaves are not curled at all, but it does appear that they might be pulled into the brach somewhat, as opposed to being laid out like the lower leaves on the tree. Any idea of what is going on?

    I can send a picture if that would help. I certainly appreciate your help!

    Thank you!
    Jim

  15. Thanks for all the info, very helpful.
    I haven’t seen anything on pruning a Bearss lime tree.
    Any pointers would be appreciated,
    Madge

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Madge

      There is a lot of different opinions and even some fierce debate about if/how to prune citrus.
      My stance on pruning Bearss limes, and most of my citrus, is pretty simple.
      * I cut out dead/diseased branches.
      * I remove branches that drag on the ground and get damaged by wind or provide a path for bad bugs to climb up.
      * I cut back branches that are in the way of walkways etc.
      Thats it.

      Best,
      Tom

  16. We love our Bearss lime tree (it lives in a pot alternatively in our house or outdoors in summer). The leaves have a wonderful fragrance and I am wondering if they are safe to use in cooking? I don’t know if the lovely smell will translate at all when cooked but I would love to try if safe.

  17. How many years can I expect the tree to be when it will produce large amounts of limes. It’s a little over a year old and I’ve never had a fully developed lime from it. There are 3 on the tree right now which should reach maturity. At times after flowering I’ve had 30 or so buds but they fall off shortly there after

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey James.
      Good question.
      It will depend on a few factors.

      How you count the age:
      Some people will say a tree is 2 years old if it was planted in their yard two years ago. But clearly, the tree is older than that. It is often difficult to know a trees real age that you buy at a store unless of course you cut it down and count the rings; but no one wants to do that.

      So lets take a common situation.
      Someone buys a tree at a store and it is about waist high.
      You carefully plant it in your yard, treat it well etc.
      The tree will need some time to overcome translation, get into it new environment, establish its root system etc.
      Depending on the trees health, climate, fertilization, watering, etc, it often takes a few years after planting to get some fruit.
      Then… around year 2 or 3 after planting you could get a very modest amount of fruit.
      However, I often remove the fruit and flowers early on so the tree can put its energy into other things (like roots and leaves)
      After that, if all is going well, you will have more limes then you know what to do with.

      Good luck,
      Tom

      • Thanks Tom! I read you are a radiologist specializing in neuroradiology. Very cool. I work with people like you on a regular basis. I am an MRI technologist turned clinical marketing/sales specialist for a large MRI vendor. Cheers to imaging!

  18. I am in North Orange County and I have a young Bearss lime tree that I bought as a 5 gallon tree from a nursery. It has been in the ground 1 year and seems to be growing very well. I am using your recommendations for leaf miner, which seems to work very well.

    I have been fertilizing with liquid fish fertilizer (5-1-1), 2 ounces per gallon of water about once per month. Does this fertilizer seem OK or is there another product you would recommend.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Dave
      Great to hear that things are going well for your Bearss lime tree.

      Liquid Fish fertilizer is great.
      However, it is lacking in power.

      Ill explain:
      The numbers on the fertilizer indicate the amount of specific components by weight.
      The components in order are: (N-P-K) or (Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium).

      In general, citrus are hungry plants and need a lot of all these elements (but esp nitrogen).
      That doesnt mean you cant hit the requirements with the fishy stuff… just that you will need a lot more of it.
      Since fish fertilizer is more dilute, it tends to be more forgiving to the potential of over doing it when plants are potted. But when in the ground, I tend to go with stronger stuff.

      If you notice your leaves are getting yellow, it usually means they are missing something. Nitrogen tends to be the most common but there are other elements that can cause chlorophyll production problems that can translate to different types of yellowing. On that note, in addition to more of the basic stuff (N-P-K), citrus also need more micro-nutrients than most other plants (magnesium, Sulfur, Manganese, Zinc, etc).

      There are specially formulated citrus fertilizers to cover these needs. There are a lot to choose from, but this organic formulated citrus fertilizer on amazon is a pretty good price.

      Personally, I tend to give my citrus a solid foundation of citrus specific fertilizer and then add in a variety of different fertilizers. They seem to appreciate it.

      Best,
      Tom

      • Thank you very much for the reply and info. My Page Mandarin is getting some yellowing on its leaves, but my Rio Red Grapefruit and Bearss Lime leaves are deep green and healthy. I will get that fertilizer on Amazon and use it. I saw a nice Meyer Lemon today at Home Depot so I will get it to round out my Citrus collection. Thanks again! Your website is very educational and helpful!

  19. Hi Tom,

    Speaking of yellowing leaves…my Bearss Lime, which I planted last March out of a 24″ box, recently has been getting yellowing leaves in the lower middle/interior of the tree. Some are falling on the ground. Could this be due to too much water and/or not enough fertilizer? I have been using Citrus Gain 8-3-9, but I only have used it twice in the last 8 months.

    As always, thanks for your help and advice!

    Jim

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Jim
      As it turns out, different patterns of leaf yellowing can mean different things.
      But yes, too much water and/or not enough fertilizer could be the cause (they can look very similar)
      However, specific nutrient deficiencies can have a specific look.
      Do you happen to have the ability to post some pics on social media that I can look at (twitter, pinterest, etc)?

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