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C. limon is thought to have arisen as a hybrid between other Citrus species; some studies suggest lineage including lime (C. aurantifolia or C. latifolia), pomelo (C. maxima), and citron (C. medica), while other studies suggest that is a hybrid between sour orange (C. aurantium) and citron. It has a long history of cultivation in southeast Asia and China, but arrived the Mediterranean during Roman times, and was brought to the New World in the 16th century. In commercial cultivation, C. limon is often grafted onto rootstock of the hardy rough lemon, C. jambhiri.
The lemon tree grows to 6 m (20 ft) tall, and has stout spines. The leaves are dark green, leathery, and evergreen, oblong, elliptical, or oval and up to 14 cm (4 in) long; in contrast to several other citrus species, the petioles (leaf stems) are not winged or only narrowly winged. Flower buds are purplish but flowers open to have 5 white petals, up to 5 cm across. Fruits are globose to oblong, 7.5 to 12.5 cm long, and ripen to yellow, with smooth to bumpy rinds dotted with oil glands.
Lemon fruits can be highly acidic (although non-acid varieties are also cultivated), and are high in citric acid and vitamin C. Their tart flavor is popular in beverages (lemonades and iced teas as well as many cocktails), ice creams and desserts, salad dressings, and many meat and vegetable dishes. Lemons have antioxidant properties, so lemon juice is often added to fresh fruit to prevent oxidation and browning. Lemon peel or zest (the outer peel) is used as a flavoring or candied. Lemon oil, obtained from the peel, is used as a wood cleaner and polish, and as a non-toxic pesticide. Traditional medicinal uses for the fruit, peels, oil, and oil obtained from the seeds include treating fever and colic, and as an astringent and diuretic.
In 2010, commercial production of lemons (together with limes) was 14.2 million metric tons harvested from 1.0 million hectares. The leading producers are India, Mexico, Argentina, China, and Brazil.
(Bailey et al. 1976, FAOSTAT 2012, Flora of Pakistan 2012, van Wyk 2005.)