Species list


Citrus aurantium

Bitter orange

Bitter orange, Seville orange (Eng); naranjo amargo, naranjo agrio, naranjero (Spa); taronger agre (Cat); laranja mingots arbola (Baq); alfarobeira, laranjeira-da-china (Por).


DID YOU KNOW...? Bitter orange marmalade on toast, along with a good cup of tea, is a traditional breakfast in Britain.


Small evergreen tree, 4-6 m tall, with a flattened form, a rounded crown and sometimes thorny branches. Its leaves are simple, alternating, widely elliptical or lanceolate, 7-10 cm long, and very aromatic when crushed. They have a leathery texture and an entire margin. The leaf stalk usually has two wings, wider at the top and narrower at the base, that are sometimes heart-shaped. The flowers are white, hermaphroditic, and have 5 fleshy petals that open in a star shape. They are solitary or borne in small groups during the spring. They give off a very characteristic intense and pleasant aroma (orange blossom). The fruits are rounded and 7-10 cm in diameter. They have a thick peel and are rough and orange when ripe (oranges). The fleshy pulp is divided into a variable number of segments (7-12) that are covered by a membranous tissue and hold one or more yellowish-white seeds. It is differentiated from the fruit of the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) by its bitter, and even sour-tasting pulp, its hollow central axis, and the fact that it can be peeled easily.


In general, solitary specimens of this tree are found on the midslopes, particularly in open areas. In the Canary Islands, as in other part of the world, other species of citrus have been cultivated more profusely than the bitter orange, but it is the only one that has become established in the wild. This process is usually linked to the gradual abandonment of terraces and cultivated land.


The original range of this tree is unknown, although it is likely that it is a native of Southeast Asia. The Arabic people spread their culture all along the Mediterranean coast from the 10th century onwards, when this tree first arrived on the Iberian peninsula. In the Canaries it can be found in parks, family orchards, and as a commercial crop on almost all the islands. Even so, the only known wild specimens are on La Palma and Tenerife.