Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Citrus aurantiifolia



Citrus aurantiifolia (lime)


  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Citrus aurantiifolia
  • Preferred Common Name
  • lime
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • There are no pictures available for this datasheet

    If you can supply pictures for this datasheet please contact:

    CAB International
    OX10 8DE
  • Distribution map More information

Don't need the entire report?

Generate a print friendly version containing only the sections you need.

Generate report


Top of page
Growth habit of C. aurantifolia.
TitleGrowth habit
CaptionGrowth habit of C. aurantifolia.
Copyright©Bob Gibbons/Holt Studios International/FLPA
Growth habit of C. aurantifolia.
Growth habitGrowth habit of C. aurantifolia.©Bob Gibbons/Holt Studios International/FLPA


Top of page

Preferred Scientific Name

  • Citrus aurantiifolia (Christm.) Swingle

Preferred Common Name

  • lime

Other Scientific Names

  • Citrus acida Roxb.
  • Citrus hystrix ssp. acida (Roxb.) Engl.
  • Citrus lima Lunan
  • Citrus limetta var. aromatica Wester
  • Citrus medica var. acida (Roxb.) Hook. f.
  • Limonia acidissima Christm.

International Common Names

  • Spanish: lima
  • French: lime

Local Common Names

  • Cuba: limón criollo

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Rutales
  •                         Family: Rutaceae
  •                             Genus: Citrus
  •                                 Species: Citrus aurantiifolia

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page

The genus Citrus belongs to the subtribe Citrinae, tribe Citreae, subfamily Aurantioideae of the Rutaceae. This genus may be further divided into two subgenera (Citrus and Papeda) based on leaf, flower and fruit properties. Sweet orange and its familiar relatives are members of the subgenus Citrus. Within this taxon there is no sterility barrier, although there are various impediments to sexual hybridization including cross-compatibility, nucellar embryony and isolation by time of flowering.  

Confusion exists regarding the identities and number of species within the genus Citrus. Until the mid-1970s, citrus taxonomists based their conclusion solely on the available morphological and geographical data. This led to disagreements on the classification of species within the Citrus subgenus. In 1943, Swingle devised a system for citrus where ten species in the subgenus Citrus were recognized. However, in 1954, Tanaka defined 147 different species. The vast difference in number of species recognized in these two systems and some intermediate ones reflected opposing theories on what degree of morphological difference justified species status and whether presumed hybrids among naturally occurring forms should be given species status. In the mid-1970s, Barrett and Rhodes performed a comprehensive phylogenetic study that evaluated 146 morphological and biochemical tree, leaf, flower and fruit characteristics. Their study, and another one conducted by Scora (1975), suggested that only three citrus types, citron (Citrus medica), mandarin (Citrus reticulata) and pummelo (Citrus grandis; now Citrus maxima) constituted valid species; the remainder are presumed to be introgressions of the basic biological species. However, many researchers include lime (Citrus aurantiifolia), Citrus micrantha and Citrus halmii in the list of 'true' citrus species along with the three listed above (Janick and Paull, 2008).  

True limes form a diverse group with two natural clusters; acid or sour limes, and acidless or sweet limes. Acid limes can be either small fruited or large fruited types. The sour and sweet limes were considered by certain taxonomists to be distinct enough to merit creation of a different species.

Five main groups of cultivated limes are recognized:

1. Small fruited acid limes (C. aurantiifolia (Christ.) Swingle): 'Mexican' lime and its clonal derivatives like 'West Indian' lime, 'Kagzi' lime and 'Key' lime are the most common cultivars. Other small fruited acid limes are cultivated in certain regions only; examples are, 'Abhayapuri' lime, 'Everglade' lime, 'Egyptian' lime, and 'India' lime.

2. Large fruited acid limes (C. latifolia (Yu. Tanaka) Tanaka): 'Persian' lime and its clonal selections like 'Tahiti' lime or 'Bearss' lime are the most popular in this category.

3. Sweet limes (C. limettioides Tan.): Common cultivars are 'Palestine sweet' lime or 'Indian sweet' lime, 'Soh synteng', 'Columbia', 'Lemonade lemon hybrid' (lemon lime hybrid), and 'Mary Ellen sweet' lime.

4. Australian lime group consisting of finger limes belonging to the genus Microcitrus and the 'Australian desert' lime, Eremocitrus. According to Mabberley, the Australian limes are grouped under the genus Citrus (Mabberley, 1997, 1998). The Australian limes are not considered to be ancestors or derivatives of the three lime groups described above.

5. Lime hybrids: Many lime hybrids are cultivated. 'Perrine lemonime' is a popular hybrid of lemon x lime (C. limon x C. aurantiifolia). Limequats are a result of the cross between lime and kumquat. Examples are, 'Eustis', 'Lakeland' (both C. aurantiifoliaFortunella japonica) and 'Tavares' (C. aurantiifolia x Fortunella margarita), Certain lime hybrids are grown exclusively in some regions. 'Addanimma' hybrid is only grown in India (Mumtaz-Khan et al. (2017)). 


Top of page

Small, densely and irregularly branched, evergreen tree, about 5 m tall; twigs armed with short, stiff, sharp spines. Leaves alternate, elliptic to oblong-ovate, 4-8 x 2-5 cm, margin crenulate; petioles narrowly winged. Inflorescences short axillary racemes, 1-7(-10)-flowered; flowers small, white in bud; calyx cup-shaped, 4- to 6-lobed; petals 4-6, 8-12 mm long; stamens 20-25(-34), ovary 9-12(-15)-celled, style abruptly distinct. Fruit a globose to ovoid berry, 3-6 cm in diameter, sometimes with apical papillae, greenish-yellow; peel very thin, very densely glandular; segments with yellow-green pulp-vesicles, very acid, juicy and fragrant. Seeds small, plump, ovoid, pale, smooth with white embryos (polyembryonic).


Top of page

Lime is believed to have originated in northern India and adjoining parts of Myanmar, or in northern Malaysia. The lime is now cultivated throughout the tropics and in warm subtropical areas.

The sour limes were probably one of the first citrus fruits to be carried from the east by the crusaders. Arabs carried the sour lime to North Africa and surrounding regions. It was then transported from Palestine to Mediterranean Europe. By the mid-13th century the small-fruited acid lime was well known in Italy and France. Spanish and Portuguese explorers probably transported this cultivar to the Americas during the 16th century.  It was naturalized throughout the Caribbean, Eastern Mexico, tropical South America, Central America and the Florida keys (Mumtaz-Khan et al. (2017)).

Distribution Table

Top of page

The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 19 Mar 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


AlgeriaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 55,000 MT (F)
Burkina FasoPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 298 MT (Im)
Central African RepublicPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 2,670 MT (Im)
Congo, Republic of thePresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 5,463 MT (Im)
DjiboutiPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,529 MT (Im)
EgyptPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 296,773 MT
EswatiniPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,144 MT (Im)
EthiopiaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 6,578 MT (Im)
GhanaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 45,000 MT (F)
Guinea-BissauPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 3,942 MT (Im)
KenyaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 11,571 MT
LibyaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 17,562 MT (Im)
MadagascarPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 4,476 MT (Im)
MaliPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 17,215 MT (Im)
MoroccoPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 24,000 MT (F)
MozambiquePresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 2,704 MT (Im)
RéunionPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 258 MT (Im)
RwandaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 11,044 MT (Im)
SeychellesPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 45 MT (F)
SomaliaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 7,098 MT (Im)
South AfricaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 260,002 MT
TunisiaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 47,500 MT
ZimbabwePresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 14,057 MT (Im)


AzerbaijanPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 3,479 MT
BahrainPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,054 MT (Im)
BangladeshPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 54,613 MT
BruneiPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 61 MT (Im)
CambodiaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,642 MT (Im)
ChinaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,313,390 MT (*)
IndiaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 2,108,000 MT
IraqPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 5,969 MT
IsraelPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 60,721 MT
JapanPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 4,578 MT (Im)
JordanPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 26,351 MT
KuwaitPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 95 MT (Im)
KyrgyzstanPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1 MT (*)
LebanonPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 80,000 MT (F)
MalaysiaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 4,636 MT
MaldivesPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 28 MT (Im)
NepalPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 29,003 MT
OmanPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 6,503 MT
PakistanPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 79,288 MT
PhilippinesPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,216 MT
Sri LankaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 5,540 MT
SyriaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 161,594 MT
TajikistanPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 2,000 MT (*)
ThailandPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 120,441 MT
TurkeyPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 790,211 MT
United Arab EmiratesPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 4,616 MT (Im)
UzbekistanPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 800 MT (*)
YemenPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 24,293 MT (Im)


AlbaniaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 2,000 MT (F)
CroatiaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 208 MT
CyprusPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 14,035 MT
FrancePresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 650 MT (F)
GreecePresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 70,314 MT (Im)
ItalyPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 483,088 MT
MaltaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 551 MT
PortugalPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 13,132 MT
SpainPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 700,000 MT (F)

North America

Antigua and BarbudaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 404 MT (Im)
BahamasPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 12,436 MT (Im)
Costa RicaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 28,037 MT (Im)
CubaPresentIntroducedInvasiveOviedo Prieto et al. (2012); FAO (2013)
DominicaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,368 MT (Im)
Dominican RepublicPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 12,327 MT
El SalvadorPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 9,209 MT
GrenadaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 292 MT (Im)
GuadeloupePresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,532 MT (Im)
GuatemalaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 109,090 MT
HaitiPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 36,527 MT (Im)
HondurasPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 10,873 MT (Im)
JamaicaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 25,868 MT (Im)
MartiniquePresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 373 MT (Im)
MexicoPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 2,147,740 MT
MontserratPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 99 MT (Im)
Puerto RicoPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 331 MT (Im)
Saint LuciaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 275 MT (Im)
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,337 MT (Im)
Trinidad and TobagoPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 2,286 MT (Im)
United StatesPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 834,610 MT


AustraliaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 30,238 MT
Cook IslandsPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 11 MT (F)
New CaledoniaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 178 MT (Im)
New ZealandPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 4,538 MT (Im)
NiuePresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 89 MT (Im)
TongaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,811 MT (Im)

South America

ArgentinaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,228,660 MT (Im)
BrazilPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,126,740 MT
ChilePresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 171,049 MT (Im)
ColombiaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 92,697 MT
EcuadorPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 5,620 MT (Im)
French GuianaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,388 MT (Im)
GuyanaPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 1,439 MT (Im)
ParaguayPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 9,057 MT
PeruPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 224,719 MT
SurinamePresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 316 MT
UruguayPresentFAO (2013)Lemons and limes production (2011) 38,215 MT

Biology and Ecology

Top of page

Seedlings are largely true to type because of polyembryony. The juvenile phase lasts about 5 years. Root suckers and suckers on older branches, characterized by stout sharp spines, are common. Lime is an ever-bearing tree. Flowers are either perfect or male and borne in inflorescences of up to 10 flowers in the leaf axils of mature shoots, but are often single in the axils of a shoot which has just flushed. The stigma is receptive as the flower opens and remains so for a few days. Pollen is not released until the flower has opened. Copious secretion of nectar by a floral disk attracts insects, especially honeybees, which pollinate the flowers. Self-pollination occurs, but self-incompatibility limits fruit set. Fruit requires 5.5-6 months from flowering to harvest. 


The lime is at home in the lowland tropics, although it grows up to 1000 m altitude or more. The tree is sensitive to cold and defined by temperatures above -2°C, but it is quite drought-resistant. High incidence of bacterial canker is a limiting factor in the wet tropics; under dry conditions irrigation is necessary to obtain good quality fruits. Limes can grow on poor soils and tolerate heavier soils than oranges, provided that good drainage prevents waterlogging.


Top of page

The fruit is used in nearly every home in the tropics, mainly to flavour food, but also to prepare drinks and for a variety of medicinal applications. The rich flavour and acid taste make lime a favourite for hot and spicy dishes, either fresh or in the form of pickles and sauces. Its refreshing qualities come to the fore in lime juice, lime tea and in use on other fruits such as pawpaw. The leaves and fruits have many medicinal uses, some of which are linked with the belief that limes drive way evil spirits.

Limes are also grown commercially for juice production, and essential oils from the skin find use in the food and cosmetics industries.

Among Citrus oils, lime oil is undoubtedly one of the most traded oils all over the world in the flavour industry. In many industrial set-ups, the extraction of lime peel oil is frequently an essential step after juice production. The essential oil of lime is extracted by cold compression of fresh lime peels, by steam distillation or hydrodistillation. The lime oil so obtained is either mixed into the juice for taste improvement, or used in other well-known beverages. This valuable oil is widely used in sorbets, pickles, squash, jams, marmalades, beverages, sauces, desserts, cosmetics and numerous other industrial products.

The seeds of Citrus aurantifolia fruits, the waste of the fruit processing industry, are used to produce seed oil by the cold physical expression of these seeds. Lime seed oil is not an essential oil but a fixed triglyceride oil. The crude oil has a remarkable citrus odour, pale green colour and needs additional processing for cosmetic and nutritional use suitability.

In traditional medicines, lime (C. aurantiifolia) is utilized as an astringent, antiseptic, anthelmintic, mosquito repellent, digestive and appetite stimulant, for stomach diseases, as an antiscorbutic, tonic, diuretic, and for headache, arthritis, sore throats, coughs and colds. Lime also relieves stress-related disorders such as digestive disorders of nervous origin or insomnia. It also possesses anti-inflammatory potential for the digestive system. The peel essential oil has shown anthelmintic, antimicrobial, anti-cholinesterase, radical scavenging, antispasmodic, anticoagulant and anticancer activities.

Lime seedlings are frequently used as a rootstock for other citrus cultivars.

Lime trees are used in landscaping and for ornamental uses in dooryards and backyards. Their flowers and leaves have a specific scent; and the small plants, lush green foliage and small, yellow fruits look very attractive. Lime trees carry flower blossoms, and young to fully ripened fruits at the same time which further augments their aesthetic look. The Citrus Research and Education Centre in Florida released transgenic 'Mexican' lime plants exhibiting a unique pigmented leaf, flower, and fruit pulp. These pigmented transgenic materials carry great value to ornamental horticulture and for human health (Mumtaz-Khan et al. (2017)).

Uses List

Top of page

Human food and beverage

  • Beverage base
  • Fruits
  • Spices and culinary herbs


  • Essential oils

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore


Top of page FAO, 1991. Citrus juices: trends and prospects in world production and international trade. FAO Economic and Social Development Paper, No. 78: 54 pp.

Moncur MW, 1988. Floral development of tropical and subtropical fruit and nut species. Melbourne, Australia: CSIRO, 154-157.

Motlagh FH, Quantick PC, 1988. Effect of permeable coatings on the storage life of fruits. I. Pro-long treatment of limes (Citrus aurantifolia cv. Persian). International Journal of Food Science and Technology, 23(1):99-105.

Reuther W, Calavan EC, Carman GE eds., 1989. The citrus industry. Volume 5. California, USA: Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, 374 pp.

Sharma SR, 1989. Evaluation of clones of acid lime (Citrus aurantifolia) for resistance to citrus tristeza virus. Indian Journal of Plant Protection, 17(2): 213-218.

Singh HP, Chadha KL, 1988. Regulation of flushing and flowering in acid lime (Citrus aurantifolia Swing.) through stress management. Progressive Horticulture, 20(1-2):1-6.

Whiteside JO, Garnsey SM, Timmer LW eds., 1988. Compendium of citrus diseases. St. Paul, Minnesota, USA: American Phytopathological Society, 80 pp.


Top of page

FAO, 2013. FAOSTAT database. Rome, Italy: FAO. [2011 data taken in 2013.]

Janick, J.; Paull, R. E., 2008. The encyclopedia of fruit & nuts., The encyclopedia of fruit & nuts:xviii + 954 pp.

Khan, I. A., 2007. Citrus genetics, breeding and biotechnology., Citrus genetics, breeding and biotechnology:x + 369 pp.

Litz, R. E., 2005. Biotechnology of fruit and nut crops., Biotechnology of fruit and nut crops:xxiv + 723 pp.

Mumtaz-Khan, M.; Al-Yahyai, R.; Al-Said, F., 2017. The Lime: Botany, Production and Uses:368 pp

Oviedo Prieto R; Herrera Oliver P; Caluff MG, et al. , 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, 6(Special Issue 1):22-96.

Terry, L. A., 2011. Health-promoting properties of fruit and vegetables., Health-promoting properties of fruit and vegetables:x + 417 pp.

Distribution Maps

Top of page
You can pan and zoom the map
Save map