Author Topic: some old references to Ichang lemon  (Read 415 times)


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1411
    • zone 10 and zone 8a
    • View Profile
some old references to Ichang lemon
« on: December 25, 2020, 03:14:54 PM »
Here are some old references to "Ichang lemon" I was able to find. I hope some of you find it interesting, and it may help shed a little more light on the origins of this variety.

The entries do seem to say a lot without really giving much useful information about them.

46931. CITRUS ICHANGENSIS Swingle.      Ichang lemon.
   "(No. 1288. Changyang, Hupeh, China. December 10, 1917.) Hsiang yuan. A large variety of Ichang lemon, mostly shipped to Shasi, a run of a few days down the river. The fruits sell wholesale at 1 cent (Mexican) apiece and retail at 2 to 3 cents (Mexican), according to size and supply. The Chinese, with their great dislike to sour fruits, never use these lemons in beverages, but employ them only as room perfumers or carry them about to take an occasional smell at them, especially when passing malodorous places. Locally the rind is candied in a limited way and resembles orange peel in flavor and appearance. The fruits ripen during the month of October; since they do not possess long-keeping qualities, they disappear very quickly. In fruit stores in Ichang they all have disappeared during December. The trees grow to medium large size and resemble pummelos in general appearance, though they are less massive in outline and the foliage is of a lighter hue of green. The trees are densely branched and have large spines on the main branches and small ones even on the bearing branchlets. The foliage suffers a good deal from caterpillars. the trunks are attacked by borers, and maggots are occasionally found in the fruit. Foreign residents in and around Ichang make from these lemons a very fine lemonade, which is of a more refreshing quality than the ordinary kind; they are also used in pastry, sauces, and preserves. On the whole it seems that this Ichang lemon is a very desirable home fruit for those sections of the United States that are adapted to its culture, especially the South Atlantic and Gulf States. It may also prove to be hardier than any other citrus fruit of economic importance. Around Ichang trees have withstood temperatures of 19 °F."

45936 and 45937. CITRUS ICHANGENSIS Swingle.      Ichang lemon.
45936. " (No. 1293. Ichang, China. December 20, 1917.) A coarse variety of Ichang lemon, with a thick, dark-yellow skin, and containing very many larges seeds. Possibly a hybrid with a pummelo. Obtained from the garden of the British Consulate at Ichang."
45937. "(No. 1294. Ichang, Hupeh, China. December 30, 1917.) An especially fine variety of Ichang lemon, very juicy and having a delightful fragrance. It makes a superior lemonade. The tree is a of a somewhat drooping habit, and the foliage is a very dense. Obtained from the garden of the British Consulate at Ichang."

45939 CITRUS ICHANGENSIS Swingle.     Ichang lemon.
"(No. 1296. Ichang, China. December 28, 1917.) A large variety of Ichang lemon, said to be a very heavy bearer; fruits medium large. Obtained from the garden of the Church of Scotland Mission."

Inventory of Seeds and Plants Imported, Issue No. 54, 1922
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry. William A. Taylor, Chief of Bureau. Government Printing Office.
pages 43, 44, 45

Hupeh refers to Hubei, Ichang refers to the city of Yichang, and Hsiang yuan is an old romanization for Xiang yuan, translates literally as "fragrant ball", which happens to be the same word used for Chinese citron.
In these old times, the name "Ichang lemon" was used to refer to ordinary C. ichangensis, not specifically this hybrid variety with bigger fruits. Hope that helps clarify things.

Also realize that I did go to the trouble of typing all these entries out, since it was not possible to copy and paste.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2020, 03:28:08 PM by SoCal2warm »


  • Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 167
    • United States, Alabama, 7b
    • View Profile
Re: some old references to Ichang lemon
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2020, 09:45:26 PM »
Thank you for typing these up for everyone to read. I have a handful of older fruit books. It is interesting to read these older references. Can any of the citrus experts on the forum verify whether any of the varieties mentioned still exist and, if so, provide photographs to help non-experts (like myself) identify them?


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1411
    • zone 10 and zone 8a
    • View Profile
Re: some old references to Ichang lemon
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2020, 12:09:26 AM »
Can any of the citrus experts on the forum verify whether any of the varieties mentioned still exist and, if so, provide photographs to help non-experts (like myself) identify them?
I doubt they have survived or still exist in the US. As some may already know, China was thrown into chaos during the war, and then subsequent early period of Communist reorganization of the society. (1927-1966 about) I think it's likely many cultivars were lost or fell into obscurity.

Another thing that seems apparent, from what I've found out, the Chinese culture/language is terrible about using specific names, and often they would not differentiate between different plant varieties in the name, making it easy for varieties to become forgotten even though they were mentioned in writing. They didn't really have the habit of systemic classification in their culture like Europeans. One name was used to refer to many different varieties. The Chinese just didn't really care, and of those that would have cared, it would only have been a few people in a very specific region, culturally disconnected from the big cities.
Just to give you an example, "fragrant orange" (used to refer to the fruit the Japanese know as Yuzu), or "Yichang orange" (refering to Ichang papeda or sometimes anything resembling it) is not really the most specifically descriptive. Or that both Chinese citron and the big Ichang lemon pomelo-hybrid fruits could be referred to by the same name "fragrant ball".
Hopefully that may give some idea of the language issues at play here. The same type of pattern is found in other Chinese words. They just combine already existing characters to make new compound words, rather than inventing new words.
I suspect local peoples may have had their own names for these fruits in ancient times, but mainstream Chinese language did not assimilate these words, preferring to create simple compound words that would be easier for others to understand. China used to be a very regional place, with huge language and cultural differences.

To my knowledge, there is only one variety of "Ichang lemon" (not including Ichang papeda) that exists in the US and Europe.

It is interesting to know that there used to be more variety in old times in China.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2020, 12:41:45 AM by SoCal2warm »


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1411
    • zone 10 and zone 8a
    • View Profile
Re: some old references to Ichang lemon
« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2020, 01:42:44 AM »
Swingle alluded to there possibly being several different varieties of Ichang papeda.

Citrus ichangensis

This species is cultivated in the vicinity of Ichang (Yichang), and it bears a very large lemonlinke fruit that is of sufficiently good quality to cause it to be shipped to markets several hundred miles distant. It grows wild father to the north ... and is undoubtedly very hardy, which makes it of great promise for use in breeding cold-resistant citrous fruits.

In China this species occurs in an undoubted wild state in the hills of the Upper Yangtze Valley from Ichang west and southwest in Hupeh (Hubei), Szechwan, and Kweichow (Guizhou).

The typical Citrus ichangensis as it occurs in southwestern China is a small tree or a large shrub, usually 5 ot 15 feet high (1.5 to 5 meters), but sometimes reaching 20 feet. It also occurs wild in fruiting condition only 2 to 3 feet high on the cliffs of the Yangtze Gorges.

The spines are straight, usually 1 to 2 cm., sometimes 2 to 3 cm. long, and 2 to 3 mm. in diameter at the base... Some specimens have very small spines or none at all. ...
The leaves are long and slender and remarkable because of the size of the winged petiole, which is sometimes larger than the blade.
The fruits are subglobose, slightly longer than wide, 8 to 11 cm. (3 1/8 to 4 1/4 inches) long, 7 to 10 cm. (1 1/4 to 4 inches) in diameter, with a wrinkled and furrowed base and an inconspicuous, very low, and broad papilla at the top... The fruits look like very large, short and thick lemons.
The peel is rather rough, resembling that of a large lemon,, 6 to 10 mm. thick, usually 7 to 9 mm. There are from 8 to 11 segments. In a large 11-celled fruit the segments are 72 mm. long, 25 to 35 mm. wide, and 20 mm. thick... The seeds are very large... very numerous, from 40 to 70 in a single fruit and from 4 to 10 in a segment. Usually from 4 to 6 large seeds and soemtimes one or more small ones occur in a segment. ... They have a dark-brown cap...
The seeds of the wild form, collected in the vicinity of Ichang by Henry (No. 3423), are more angular through mutual pressure than those of the cultivated specimen and are also thicker. ... There are often two large embryos and usually several small ones in a single seed. Frequently the cotyledons are greatly deformed by mutual pressure of the several embryos.

The dwarfed wild form of the species, found near the eastern end of the Windbox Gorge just below Kweichow (Wilson No. 3307), grows only 2 to 3 feet high and bears diminutive leaves scarcely over one-third the size of the cultivated form, the petioles being 16 to 23 by 7 to 8 mm. and the blades 7 to 15 by 4 to 7mm. in size. In striking contrast to the diminutive leaves are the very numerous long spines which are unusual in showing a slight upward curvature. Doubtless the habitat of this form on semiarid cliffs will serve to explain its small size.
Fruits collected by Augustine Henry near Ichang, likewise from a wild form, are remarkable for the fact the numerous short, thick, and very large seeds occupy all the space in the segments, leaving room for scarcely any juice. The seeds are rather narrower in the cultivated form, but possibly this is in part due to their having an abundance of space in which to develop.
Still, in all essential characters the cultivated and wild forms agree, and doubtless the larger, juicier fruit of the cultivated form is due in part to the better nourishment the tree receives and also in part to the selection practiced by the Chinese gardeners, who would naturally have chosen the most promising of the wild forms to propagate. Unlike many other cultivated fruits citrous fruits, this species shows no evidence of having been hybridized it is rather a selected form of the wild species.
Both the wild and cultivated forms of Citrus ichangensis will be secured as soon as possible for trial in this country. Careful exploration at higher altitudes near the northern limit of the species in China should bring to light exceptionally hardy forms that would be invaluable to breeders of hardy citrous fruits.

Mr. E. H. Wilson informs the writer that the form of this species cultivated in the Ichang region yields an excellent fruit known to foreign residents of the Yangtze Valley as the "Ichang lemon." These fruits are shipped down the river to Hankow and west well into Szechwan, and are so much esteemed as to command good prices.

In 1911 H. Léveillé published a "Citrus Cavaleriei" in an article by Julien Cavalerie without a recognizable description. A specimen collected by Père Julien Cavalerie in the Province of Kweichow, China, preserved in the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle at Paris, is almost certainly Citrus ichangensis. In his account of the Aurantiiaceæ of Kweichow, he says of this species:
I found in the forest, remote from any habitation in the vicinity of Ma-Jo and of Kai-Tchéou [K'ai Chow] at about 1,700 meters [5.577 feet] altitude, a kind of spiny orange tree, in the undergrowth of the forested slopes. The tree is arched and completely covered with moss. One tree had fruits of the size of an apricot and flowers at the same time. The fruit is hard and rounded in shape; the winged petiole is so much developed that it constitutes half of the leaf. I did not see this tree cultivated anywhere. It is the only wild species [of Citrus] in the high regions.

Journal of Agricultural Research, Department of Agriculture, Volume 1, Washington D.C., October 10, 1913
Citrus ichangensis, A promising, hardy, new species from Southwestern China and Assam, article by Walter T. Swingle

Again, just so you realize, I had to type all of this out, it was not possible to copy and paste.
I had to skip over many pieces of the article, and this is only pieces of it.
I did insert some parentheses in just the first and second paragraphs for clarification of place names.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2020, 02:04:24 AM by SoCal2warm »


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1411
    • zone 10 and zone 8a
    • View Profile
Re: some old references to Ichang lemon
« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2020, 01:57:55 PM »
This is a translation from a Chinese site.

Chongqing found that the "ancestor" of the citrus world, Yichang orange was first planted 4000 years ago

The picture is from On the 21st, the Nanchuan District Government first publicly disclosed the discovery of the national second-level wild protected plant-Yichang Orange. It is reported that Chinese plant experts have discovered two to three hundred national second-level wild protected plants-Yichang orange in the deep mountains of Jinfo Mountain at an altitude of about 1200 meters. Currently, there are only a few hundred plants in the country.

According to reports, although Yichang oranges have strong adaptability for survival in the wild, their self-breeding ability is low. At present, experts have begun to conduct protective investigation and registration of Yichang orange in Jinfo Mountain, so that it can provide a basis for future hybrid varieties and modern citrus genetic improvement.

Yesterday, a reporter from Slow News-Chongqing Evening News followed a team of experts to the field to investigate and register the batch of Yichang oranges. Yichang oranges are the same size as ordinary citrus, with a rough skin and multiple thumb-sized cores inside. The cores are covered with a layer of white fruit, but there is no pulp or juice.

Director Zhang of the Chinese Medicine Resources Research Office of Chongqing Pharmaceutical Planting Research Institute is one of the discoverers of Yichang Orange in Jinfo Mountain. He said that everyone was very excited when they discovered Yichang Orange. There are more than 20 people in their team. Among them, the oldest researcher Liu Zhengyu is 65 years old. Although he is older, everyone can't catch up with him when he climbs up the undeveloped rugged mountain road; the youngest is only 24 years old and just graduated from Southwest University. graduation. Director Zhang said that it took about 5 years for everyone to discover pure wild Yichang oranges in Delong and the west slope of Jinfo Mountain. He believes that in the future, when cultivating citrus varieties, if they encounter unsolvable diseases, they can use the excellent genes of Yichang oranges to find solutions.

According to the literature, citrus cultivation has a history of more than 4,000 years in China. It can be traced back to a wild citrus tree. It is one of the oldest citrus species known in the world. It was first discovered in Yichang, Hubei, hence the name Yichang Orange. This species mainly grows in deep mountains and old forests and cliffs. It is the most cold-tolerant and barren-tolerant citrus variety. It can still grow normally under minus 11.5. Many types of sweet oranges at home and abroad are all cultivated by Yichang orange grafting. Yichang orange is a living fossil that witnessed the evolution of ancient wild citrus plants into human garden fruit trees.

-11.5 °C is equivalent to 11.3 °F, if anyone was wondering about the conversion.
It seems that in this article they were documenting a primitive native wild type of Ichang papeda, with very much inferior fruit quality to the cultivated type we are familiar with.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2020, 01:59:39 PM by SoCal2warm »


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1411
    • zone 10 and zone 8a
    • View Profile
Re: some old references to Ichang lemon
« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2020, 02:15:41 PM »
also translated from Chinese, only some portions of the article:

Yichang Orange

Distributed in China's Shaanxi, southern Gansu provinces, western Hubei, western and northwestern Hunan, northwest Guangxi, Guizhou, Sichuan, and Yunnan. The highest limit of natural distribution is about 2500 meters in the mountains. There are also cultivated ones. Born in high mountain cliffs, rocks, ridges or slopes along river valleys.
The fruit is oblate, round or pear-shaped, light yellow, rough, oily cells are large, obviously convex, the flesh is pale yellow and white, very sour, with both bitter and tingling taste.
Flowering from May to June, fruiting from October to November.

This species is distributed along the banks of the rivers north of central Guizhou. It has the shortest leaves and small flowers; distributed in the northwest of Guangxi, its leaves are the largest, with wings of 10-15 cm long and large fruit, about 6 cm in diameter. The shape of its young fruit is similar to that of young Limeng or Citron, broad oval, slightly narrow and pointed at both ends, and smooth skin; distributed in Yangbi and Baoshan in western Yunnan, its wings and leaves are usually slightly longer than the leaves. And wide, the leaf texture is thin, the leaf edge has more obvious fine crack teeth, and the peel is also very thin.

From the morphological diversity of each organ of Yichang orange and its variation range, that is, the shape and size of leaves, flowers and fruits, the color of flowers, single embryo and single-multi-embryo mixed type.

Yichang orange has a wide natural distribution area and strong adaptability, so there are different types. Field and cultivation observations show that there are at least two types of purple flower type and white flower type.
The petals of the white flower type are white, but the part near the calyx is lavender red. It blooms first and then taps. The wings and leaves are small. The seeds are mixed with multiple single embryos.
The petals of the purple flower type are bright lavender red, wider, and taper when blooming, and the wings and leaves are longer than the leaves. The fruit is nearly oblate, and its calyx is enlarged and thickened; the calyx of the pear-shaped fruit is usually flat, but also thickened and raised, and its leaf body and leaves are very large. These types of fruits usually do not fall through the winter, so fruits of different ages exist on the same tree at the same time, commonly known as Gongsun Tang.

Yichang orange is one of the excellent rootstocks for grafting citrus plants, and can dwarf the plant.

Yichang orange is used as a citrus rootstock, which is resistant to cold and barren. According to reports, using Yichang orange as the rootstock of Pioneer Orange has a dwarfed crown and good fruit quality, but the root system is poor.

Since 1982, our institute has carried out a comparative experiment of different interstocks for Wenzhou mandarin oranges. ...the length of the interstock is 20 cm...

After more than 10 years of observation and records, it is found that Yichang orange is ideal as an interstock. Its main performance: strong rootstock affinity, growth is strong but not vigorous.

Yichang Orange is widely distributed from the north of Wuling to about 34°N latitude.

Wuling would be the Nanling Mountains.
"barren" probably refers to leaf drop.

Also keep in mind that China experiences colder winter temperatures at the same latitudes than the US does.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2020, 02:46:33 PM by SoCal2warm »