The History of Meyer Lemons

The History of the Meyer Lemon in America

The History of the Meyer Lemon in America

Improved Meyer Lemon

Citrus x meyeri

The Meyer lemon represents a popular lemon variety in the United States and has a rich history. It is sweeter than other lemons even with an orange flavor. It is named after Frank Meyer, a plant explorer of the United States Department of Agriculture, in 1908.

Lemons from Meyer lemon trees are sweeter than other lemons, sometimes even taking on an orange-like aroma and flavor. This lemon is so named because they were identified in 1908 by Frank N. Meyer. It is thought to be a cross between a lemon, either Eureka or Lisbon, and a mandarin, that originated in China. The University of California-Riverside lists a biological and parentage in its citrus variety collection.

Meyer lemons are prized by Chefs and home cooks for certain recipes where a lesser acidic lemon is preferred. However, Martha Stewart, an American-business woman, and a TV personality popularized this variety in the United State through her dozens of recipes that contained Meyer lemon.

Meyer lemon will grow well in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11.

However, it can be grown in colder places as a container-grown plant. With more attention and proper pruning, it can be grown even in colder regions, especially when the tree is grafted on a cold-hardy rootstock.

Meyer lemons micro-budded on trifoliate rootstock made at US Citrus would make it a more appropriate for Meyer lemon enthusiasts even in colder places as in Canada as a well-protected patio-plant, kept indoor during severe winter.

A grafted Meyer lemon tree would grow with about six hours of sunlight.

Meyer lemon became popular in California by the mid-1940s. Two viruses, Citrus tristeza virus (CTV) and Citrus tatter leaf virus (CTLV) were found to be widespread in California Meyer lemon plantings. The University of California-Riverside scientists initiated a tissue culture program and the efforts of Dr. Chester N. Roistacher made a new selection of Meyer lemon free from virus infections. The new, improved selection is referred to as Improved Meyer lemon.

All the Meyer lemons from US Citrus are also the improved version via the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center budwood program, initiated by the author of the article in the early 1990s. My gratitude to Chester Roistacher and Dr. John da Graca – two scientist that were involved in the citrus improvement program in Texas.

There are millions of Meyer lemon enthusiasts in the U.S. and worldwide. But not many Meyer lemon tree owners know that Frank N. Meyer who explored the wilderness of south China regions for the USDA lost his precious life in the waters of the Yangtze River. The Plant Genetics Resources has established a Distinctive Service Medal for Plant Genetic Resources as a tribute to Frank N. Meyer who served for 13 years as Agricultural Explorer of the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction.

“It appears that Mr. Meyer while traveling down the Yangtze from Hankow to Shanghai on the S.S Feng Yang Maru of the Nisshin Kisen Kaisha was drowned near Wuhu.” - Excerpt from the American Consul in Charge, Shanghai, China, June 14, 1918.

-Mani Skaria, PhD

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