Characteristics of Kumquat Tree (Citrus japonica) in the Wild

Citrus japonica
Kumquat (Citrus japonica) is a small tree from the family Rutaceae. The fruit is edible and is very similar to an orange (Citrus sinensis) but much smaller.

The kumquat originated in China, the earliest recorded history of the kumquat appearing in Imperial literature from the 12th century. The tree has long been cultivated in Asia, especially Japan, Taiwan, India, and the Philippines.

The kumquat was introduced to Europe in 1846 by Robert Fortune, a collector for the London Horticultural Society, and was soon brought to North America.

There are several types of trees called kumquats, including:

  • Round kumquat (Citrus japonica)
  • This type has small fruit and is usually round but can be oval. The peel has a sweet taste, but the fruit has a characteristic sour taste. This type is often used in bonsai cultivation.

    In China, Citrus japonica symbolizing good luck is often kept as an ornamental tree and given as a gift during Chinese New Year. Round kumquats are more commonly cultivated in subtropical climates because of their high cold tolerance.

  • Oval kumquat (Citrus margarita)
  • This type has an egg-shaped fruit and is usually eaten whole, with the skin. The inside is quite sour, but the skin has a very sweet taste, so when eaten it produces a refreshing sweet and sour taste.

    Citrus margaritas ripen in mid to late winter and are always fruitful, creating a spectacular display among the dark green foliage. The trees tend to be much smaller and stunted, making them ideal for potted plants and bonsai.

  • Meiwa kumquat (Citrus crassifolia)
  • The Meiwa kumquat originated in China and was brought to Japan in the late 19th century. This type has oval fruit that looks shabby and has thick leaves.

  • Hong Kong kumquat (Citrus hindsii)
  • Citrus hindsii only produces fruit the size of a pea and has a bitter and sour taste with little pulp and large seeds. The tree is mainly grown as an ornamental, although it is also found in southern China growing in the wild.

  • Jiangsu kumquat (Citrus obovata)
  • Jiangsu kumquat or Fukushu kumquat produces fruit that can be eaten fresh or made into jellies and jams. The fruit is round or bell-shaped and bright orange when ripe.

    This tree can be distinguished from other kumquats by its rounded leaves. Jiangsu kumquat is usually grown for its fruit and as an ornamental tree.

  • Malayan kumquat (Citrus swinglei)
  • This species originates from the Malay Peninsula where it is known as “hedge lime” (limau pagar). Malayan kumquat has a thin fruit skin compared to other kumquats.


Characteristics of Kumquat Leaf

Citrus japonica Leaf

The leaves vary in size, dark green and glossy.


Characteristics of Kumquat Flower

Citrus japonica Flower

The flowers are white, similar to other citrus flowers, and may appear singly or in clusters in the leaf axils.


Characteristics of Kumquat Fruit

Citrus japonica Fruit

The fruit is shaped like an orange, but much smaller. It is green when young and bright orange when fully ripe.

An old kumquat tree can produce hundreds or even thousands of fruit each year.


Characteristics of Kumquat Tree

Citrus japonica Tree

The kumquat is a slow-growing shrub or small tree, usually only 2-4 meters tall, with dense branches, and sometimes small thorns.



Kumquats do not grow well from seed so are propagated vegetatively using rootstocks from other citrus fruits, water layering, or cuttings.


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