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What is Fortunella?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 16, 2024

Fortunella is a genus in the citrus tribe of flowering trees with several individual species, all known as kumquats. Some botanists prefer not to place kumquats into their own genus, instead classifying them as Citrus japonica and placing them in the citrus genus, with individual cultivars being considered subspecies. Disputes of this nature are not uncommon in the taxonomy community, and are the result of a variety of factors from competing names established by people vying for the right to name something to new discoveries made possible through genetic research.

Members of the Fortunella genus are native to Asia. These citrus trees can grow to a maximum of around 15 feet (four and a half meters) and produce aromatic evergreen foliage. Some species have thorns. Small white flowers develop into tiny orange fruits. The fruit of the tree can be eaten out of hand, and kumquats can also be used to make a variety of foods, from jams and jellies to flavored liquors. The fruits have a distinctive sweet and tart flavor and are typically eaten whole, as the pith common in other citrus fruits is not inedible in the case of the kumquat.

These trees like well-drained soil that has been amply worked with soil amendments. Neutral pH is recommended and kumquats often have difficulty growing in alkaline soils in particular. They require ample watering, and are frost-hardy to around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12.2 degrees Celsius), growing in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones eight through 10 without difficulty. In cooler climates, planting Fortunella species in a sheltered or protected area is recommended in case there is a sudden cold snap.

Kumquats also grow well in greenhouses, aviaries, and conservatories. They take very well to container gardening and some people outside the hardiness zone for Fortunella may keep plants indoors in the winter and move them outdoors during the summer. These slow-growing plants are sometimes used in bonsai and they will produce tiny fruits if they are provided with the necessary levels of nutrition and care. For bonsai, wiring and pruning are recommended to achieve a desired shape.

Like other citrus trees, Fortunella is vulnerable to pests that prey on citrus, including a variety of insects and fungi. Trees should be inspected for signs of disease and the problem should be addressed before it has an opportunity to spread. A variety of products are available to deal with citrus pests, including organic pest control for people who prefer to use organic methods.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By golf07 — On Mar 19, 2012

I enjoy the taste of kumquats, but also love to use it as a decoration. The fruit is a bright orange color and I like to pick it with the leaves still on.

During Thanksgiving, these make a wonderful addition to the centerpiece on my table. I also use the fruit to make a delicious kumquat cranberry sauce.

This is a versatile fruit and I never get tired of the taste of it. Our family has always made our own kumquat marmalade and salsa.

By honeybees — On Mar 19, 2012

@julies - You are fortunate you live where you can get fresh kumquats during the year. I live in a part of the country where we get cold winters.

I have tried to grow a Fortunella japonica tree, but it has never produced any fruit. I have this planted in a container and make sure and bring it in every winter, but I am still waiting.

I had never heard of this fruit until I visited my sister and loved the taste of it. I have never seen this in any of the grocery stores in my part of the country.

By julies — On Mar 18, 2012

I live in Florida, so I am very familiar with the Nagami kumquat tree. I like to eat these whole just like I would eat a grape. They have a citrus flavor that is both tart and tangy.

My family also looks forward to my kumquat pie. This is easy to make and includes cool whip, kumquats, lemon juice and condensed milk. It has a texture similar to key lime pie, but with the flavor of the kumquats.

Our season is during the winter from November through April. Many of my family members that live in other parts of the country look forward to receiving their Christmas box from me. I always include some fresh kumquats for them.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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