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Jun 12, 2010 05:46 PM

Schizophrenic lime tree: graft gone wrong?

I bought two kaffir lime trees last year and have enjoyed using their leaves in the past year. They are in large pots on my deck along with a Meyer lemon tree and a Bearss lime tree. As the weather has finally become warmer here in Northern California, all of the trees have produced many new leaves and blossoms. However, one of my kaffir lime trees seems to have a split personality. Two new branches have grown, with leaves that are definitely not kaffir lime leaves (not hourglass-shaped, much bigger, don't smell like kaffir lime). The leaves look like those on the Meyer lemon tree, but the branches have large thorns. Could it be that the kaffir lime was grafted onto lemon rootstock but part of the tree is reverting to its rootstock? It's a Four Winds nursery tree, in case that matters. Is there another explanation? Should I cut off the lemon-looking branches if I want the tree to continue growing kaffir lime leaves, or can I now grow lemons and limes from the same tree? Photo attached. Thanks in advance!

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  1. In answer to you questions. Yes that sounds like the rootstock developing shoots (to confirm this look an see where the new branches are coming from above or below the graft scar (you can usally see where a grafted tree has been grafted) this is actually really really common, all thats needed is for the rootstock to still have some incipient lateral shoots still on it (in a tree the lateral shoots are often under the bark so as long as thier dormant, you may not see them.)
    As for whethere you now have the potential to get lemons and limes from the same tree, the answer is yes, PROVIDED the rootstock is actually a lemon like you think. If not, you'll get Kaffir limes and whatever it is the rootstock is. I'd contact Four winds and ask them what rootstock they use for the Kaffirs, if only becuse one of the commonest grafting stocks for citrus is trifoliate orangne, (due to the fact of how cold tolerant it is), whose fruit isn't edible. But four winds may use something else, like key lime or Ichang lemon. I'd just ask them.

    1. Generally speaking, you should remove the growth from below the graft, because it's going to sap lot of energy from the kaffir lime part of the tree. I'd be tempted to grow out a lemon branch, too, but not at the expense of the part I paid to get the foliage or fruit from.

      Jumpingmonk's right, you should try to find out from Four Winds what kind of rootstock they used and proceed from there. And if you're feeling brave, you can try to root out a cutting of the rootstock part of the tree and see what grows out.

      1. Thanks for the confirmation! I did see that the new shoots were coming out right under the graft line. Since I already have other lime and Meyer lemon trees, I decided to cut off the new branches since it's really the kaffir lime leaves I want from this tree. I might call Four Winds just out of curiosity though.

        1 Reply
        1. re: 2m8ohed

          Update: I e-mailed Four Winds Customer Service and they replied very quickly! Here's what they said: "Hi, It is on Cuban Shaddock, which is a vigorous relative of grapefruit. Fruit is inedible. Be sure to remove suckers as soon as they appear, since they rob energy from the fruiting wood."