Citrus hystrix fruit

Source: Katja Schulz

Citrus hystrix fruit

Citrus hystrix or kaffir lime is a citrus tree whose leaves and fruits are used to flavor dishes in Asian cuisine.

Leaves are stripped of their midrib and stalk and crushed or mixed. The fruit rind is grated as zest.

The flesh itself is not used, there is very of it and it tastes slightly bitter.

In the tropics and sub-tropics, the plant can be grown in the garden throughout the year. Elsewhere, it has to be grown in pots as orangery plant: outdoors in summer and overwinter frost-free indoors.

It can be propagated easily from seed from a purchased fruit. It takes a few years before fruit is formed but in the meantime you can use the leaves for cooking.


Citrus hystrix is a tree of 3-6 m high. The branches are thorned.

Leaves are dark red when they are young. Petiole is winged. Leaf blade ovate, 5-8 cm long and 2.5-4.5 cm wide, with slightly serrated margin, narrow and blunt tip.

The inflorescence bears 3-5 flowers, the peduncle is 1-5 mm long. Flower buds are spherical. The calyx consists of 4-5 lobes, broadly triangular, 4 x 6 mm. Petals are white inside, rosy red on the outside, 7-10 mm. There are about 30 stamens, individual filaments. The flowers are fragrant.

The fruit is green, lemon yellow when ripe, ellipsoid to nearly spherical, 5-7 cm long and 3-5 cm wide, somewhat coarse or smooth. The pericarp is thick, the sarcocarp consists of 11-13 segments. The taste is very sour and somewhat bitter.

Seeds are numerous, up to 1.8 cm long and 1.2 cm wide, ribbed.

Flowering takes place from March to May, fruiting in November and December.

Citrus hystrix leaves


The leaves are used fresh, dried or frozen for flavoring food.

The fruit rind is grated for flavoring dishes.

Medicinal: the juice and zest are used in traditional medicine in some Asian countries.

The fruit juice is used as a cleaning agent for clothes and hair in Thailand and Cambodia.

Is used in Cambodia in holy water with fruit slices in religious ceremonies.


Common names:

Kaffir lime, makrut lime, Mauritius papeda


Citrus auraria, Citrus echinata, Citrus kerrii, Citrus macroptera var. kerrii, Citrus papeda, Fortunella sagittifolia, Papeda rumphii


Citrus: from the Latin citrus (citrus, citrus tree)
Hystrix: from the Greek hústrix (porcupine)

Citrus hystrix tree

Source: Tangmo

Citrus hystrix tree


China, SE Asia


Unknown, largely cultivated


USDA zone 10-12



Fertile, sandy, well-drained soils


Sun, light, partial shade


Water regularly to keep the soil moist but not wet


Universal fertilizer or specialized citrus and olive liquid fertilizer, monthly during growing period


Resists to slight periods of 0 °C but should overwinter indoors in frost regions


Prune in spring to shape the plant and limit its height

Citrus hystrix flower

Source: David Rofas

Citrus hystrix flower


Seed, cuttings, grafting and layering. Grafting ensures plants with the same characteristics as the parent plant and generally produces more fruit than plants propagated seed or cuttings.

Flowering and fruiting takes place 3-5 years after sowing or planting.

Cutting Instructions:

  • early summer
  • take a piece of stem of about 10 cm long with 2-3 leaf nodes
  • dip the cuttings in rooting hormone (optional)
  • plant in a moist substrate
  • pack in a plastic bag to prevent water evaporation
  • roots are formed after 6-8 weeks

Sowing instructions:

  • collect seeds from mature fruit
  • clean the seeds and let partly dry
  • sow in moist sowing substrate
  • 20-30 °C
  • germination time: 5-50 days