About a year ago, my parents-in-law brought a small key lime tree back to me from their vacation to Florida.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="My Key Lime Tree (Citrus aurantifolia) covered in buds, summer 2008. Even though the buds are pink the flowers are solid white when they open."][/caption]
It bloomed all summer long and developed fruit at the end of the summer, much to my surprise and satisfaction. There were four full-sized key limes, just a little smaller than the average lime.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Small key lime buds developing over the winter."][/caption]
I was even more surprised to see that the plant continued to develop buds and bloom inside through the entire winter, sitting on the counter in my bathroom. The first several winter blooms did not develop fruit, but I was very happy to have the bright little flowers filling the bathroom and hallway with their potent fragrance. You could smell them just casually walking by the plant.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Mature key lime bud that formed this winter. Notice this bud is solid white, while the summer buds were pink."][/caption]
I think the fact that this plant bloomed at all throughout the winter was due to the copious amounts of fertilizer pellets that were worked into the soil by the grower. I just repotted this little tree yet, and there is still plenty of fertilizer left in the soil for its growing and fruiting pleasure. [Imagine what my other plants might look like if I actually fertilized! I'm going to try fertilizing some of my plants this summer. I have a couple of plants that have never bloomed for me, even though they seem to be large and healthy - a grapefruit tree, a bougainvillea, apostle plant/walking iris, a shell ginger, and a white bird of paradise.]
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Winter key lime open blooms. These are the most fragrant blooms I have ever smelled."][/caption]
The last of the winter blooms started to dry out the first week of Spring - around March 23rd. I casually glanced at one of the blooms, brown petals falling to the floor and Hark! What the heck is that!?! There was a lime developing at the base of the center stamen!
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Key lime fruit beginning to develop at base of stamen. (mid to late March 2009)"][/caption]
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Lime developing at base of a different stamen after petals have fallen away. I have about 10 pictures, trying to get one in focus. Alas, this is the best it got."][/caption]
How could this be? There weren't any pollinators around, except for the occasional moth that flew into the house on nice days when we left the door open. I'm kind of doubting that one of those moths managed to pollinate my lime tree before I hunted it down and escorted it back outside (preferably alive, sometimes dead). I am suspecting that this is one of those self-pollinating varieties that I have seen available for other fruiting plants. [I am planning on growing some kiwi from a self-pollinating vine.]
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Key lime fruit starting to develop "][/caption]
No doubt about it, there was definitely a little key lime beginning to form. I'm really happy that I happened to notice it at this stage. The first fruits that formed last summer caught me completely off guard and I don't think I got any pictures of them until they were full grown and cut into slices! But not this time around.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Key lime fruit starting to develop - different angle"][/caption]
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Something starting to resemble a small lime (last week of April 2009)"][/caption]
When I started writing this post, I expected I would be picking my lime and slicing it over some chicken sometime in mid-May. In actuality, it is now late July and I haven't yet picked it. But I think it is about ready to be picked now. Maybe Monday night we'll have some lime seared chicken for dinner!
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="460" caption="A full sized key lime, ready for the plucking (late July 2009)"][/caption]
FYI: I found another blog where the inflorescence -> infructescence process was photo-documented.
Do you have any citrus trees that have produced fruit?