Comments on article: InfopediaTalk
Mandarin Orange (Citrus reticulata), tropical and sub-tropical tree belonging to the family Rutaceae whose fruit is popular. Associated with good fortune by the Chinese, it is a significant feature of local Chinese New Year celebrations. The fruit is high in Vitamin C and its juice is a popular drink.
Origin and distribution
Mandarin oranges are native to the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Asia, probably Southern China, the Philippines and the Malay Archipelago. There are many different hybrids or varieties of Mandarins. The flavour of the fruit ranges from sprightly sweet to nearly spicy. Some are seedless while others full of them. The fruits also vary in size and colour. Tangerines, for example, are the brightly-coloured version of Mandarins.
Due to the great variety, there were probably differences in the early classification of the fruits, resulting in other scientific names for Mandarin oranges like Citrus nobilis, Citrus deliciosa and Citrus chrysocarpa. The most distinctive feature of all Mandarin oranges is its peelable skin. The fruits of Citrus reticulata have a very loose skin that is so easy to peel that they are called kid-glove or loose-skin oranges.
Mandarin oranges were nearly restricted to Asia until their introduction to the West at the turn of the 19th century. In 1805, two varieties of the Mandarin oranges were brought into England from Canton. From England, it was introduced into the Mediterranean region. By 1850, the fruit was well-established in Italy. The Italian Consul at New Orleans in the United states imported Mandarin oranges from Italy between 1840 to 1850. From there the fruit spread to Florida and later to California. In 1896, a variety of the fruit from Japan, the Owari Satsuma, was introduced to USA, and between 1908 and 1911, about a million budded trees of the same variety were sent to the Gulf for planting. Another variety of the fruit, the King Mandarin, was sent from Saigon to California in 1882. In 1888, seeds of Oneco Mandarin which were widely grown in the Western Ghats of India were sent to the USA. In the early 1890s, the Ponkan variety were sent to the USA from China, and this led to the commercial propagation of Mandarins in the USA.
The fruit was probably named "Mandarin" because it was introduced to the West by China. "Mandarin" was an English reference for Chinese government officials. The fruit is also known as Mandarina among the Spanish-speaking population of the American tropics. Mandarin oranges today are commonly found in Japan, East Indies, India, Australia and almost all tropical, sub-tropical and cooler parts of the world. In Southeast Asia, the Citrus reticulata and Citrus sinensis varieties are commercially grown in the cooler Cameron Highlands of Peninsular Malaysia. Citrus suhuiensis, known as limau langkat or limau madu in Malay, is grown in the warmer Malaysian states of Terengganu, Johor and Pahang.
Mandarin trees are low woody shrubs commonly measuring between 3.6 to 4.5 m high. However, these spiny trees can sometimes grow up to 8 m tall. The bark is rather thick and brownish yellow in colour. Older twigs are dark brown while younger twigs are dark green. Younger twigs are also smooth and flattened at their ends. The leaves are lanceolate or elliptic, with a yellow-green undersurface. They measure 2.5 to 10 cm long and 1 to 3.5 cm wide. The margins of the leaves are toothed from the apex to the middle of the leaf. The leaf stalks do not normally have wings, but if present, they are narrow. Flowers are white and small (about 1.5 cm in diameter) with 5 petals. They grow singly or in a group of 2-3 flowers in a stalk at leaf corners. Mandarin fruits are globose to oblate in shape with a shiny skin that can come in a range of colours from green, greenish yellow, yellow to golden. The skin is thin, peels easily and encloses flesh that is separated in 9 to 15 segments. The segments are covered with a very thin, edible transparent skin. The flesh is pale orange in colour and juicy. Seeds, if present, are small, oblong and inedible.
Usage and potential
Food: A good source of vitamins and minerals, the fruit is often consumed fresh. It can also be canned in syrup or made into juice. The fruit and the rind are used to flavour cakes, pastries, gelatines, puddings, chewing gum, bakery products, and tea. Mandarin oil is used to flavour carbonated beverages.
Medicine: Essential oils obtained by cold compression of the peel is used in aromatherapy and traditional medicine for the treatment of insomnia, and skin and digestive problems. Different varieties of the fruit and parts of the plant, such as seeds, roots, leaves and flowers are used in Chinese, Malay and Indian traditional medicine. Petitgrain mandarin oil is obtained from distilling leaves, twigs and unripe fruits of the plant. The fruit being high in Vitamin C, is considered good for the immune system. It is supposed to help combat phlegm and keeps colds at bay. Some varieties of the fruit contain a decongestant called synephrine.
Other uses: Among the Chinese, the Mandarin oranges are associated with good luck. During the Chinese New Year celebrations, Mandarin oranges are given to family and friends to usher in prosperity. Some of the essential oils obtained from the peel is used in the manufacture of perfumes, cologne and floral compounds.
Common name: Mandarin Orange.
Scientific name: Citrus reticulata.
Malay name: Limau langkat, Limau wangkas, limau kupas.
Chinese name: Cheng zi (Mandarin).
Other names: Kid glove oranges, Loose-skin oranges, tangerine oranges, tangerines.
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
Burkill, I. H. (1993). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (pp. 568-583). Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives.
(Call no.: RSING 634.909595 BUR)
Chin, H. F., & Yong, H. S. (1982). Malaysian fruits in colour (p. 50). Kuala Lumpur: Tropical Press.
(Call no.: R 634.609595 CHI)
Jensen, M. (2001). Trees and fruits of Southeast Asia: An illustrated field guide (pp. 101-103). Bangkok: Orchid Press.
(Call no.: R 582.160959 JEN)
Klein, M., Moore, P., & Sweet, C. (1985). All about citrus & subtropical fruits (pp. 36-37). San Francisco, CA: Ortho Books.
(Call no.: R 634.33 KLE)
Kwok, P. K. P. (1986). A guide to the Singapore Science Centre Ecogarden (p. 66). Singapore: Singapore Science Centre.
(Call no.: RSING 581.95957 KWO)
Muhamad bin Zakaria, & Mustafa Ali Mohd. (1994). Traditional Malay medicinal plants (p. 142). Kuala Lumpur: Fajar Bakti.
(Call no.: R 581.634 MUH)
Nathan, A., & Wong, Y. C. (1987). A guide to fruits and seeds (p. 60). Singapore: Singapore Science Centre.
(Call no.: RSING 582 NAT)
Othman Yaacob, & Subhadrabandhu, S. (1995). The production of economic fruits in South-east Asia (pp. 156-164). New York: Oxford university press.
(Call no.: R 634.0959 OTH)
Wee, Y. C., & Hsuan, K. (1990). An illustrated dictionary of Chinese medicinal herbs (p. 58). Singapore: Times Edition.
(Call no.: RSING 581.6340951 ILL)
Morton, J. (1987). Mandarin orange: Citrus reticulata. [Electronic version]. In Morton, J. F., Fruits of warm climates (pp. 142-145). Retrieved on August 21, 2003, from www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/mandarin_orange.html
Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysia. (n.d.). Fruit Technology: Mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata). Retrieved August 21, 2003, from
The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
Chinese--Social life and customs
Chinese New Year
Science and technology>>Agriculture>>Fruit crops
People and communities>>Customs>>Festivities