Mandarin orange

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Mandarin orange
Citrus reticulata April 2013 Nordbaden.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Citrus
C. reticulata
Binomial name
Citrus reticulata
Blanco, 1837

The mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata), also known as the mandarin or mandarine, is a small citrus tree with fruit resembling other oranges, usually eaten plain or in fruit salads. Specifically reddish-orange mandarin cultivars can be marketed as tangerines, but this is not a botanical classification.

Mandarins are smaller and oblate, rather than spherical like the common oranges (which are a mandarin hybrid). The taste is considered less sour, as well as sweeter and stronger.[1] A ripe mandarin is firm to slightly soft, heavy for its size, and pebbly-skinned. The peel is very thin, with very little bitter white mesocarp,[2] so they are usually easier to peel and to split into segments. Hybrids generally have these traits to a lesser degree.

The mandarin orange tree is more drought-tolerant than the fruit. The mandarin is tender and is damaged easily by cold. It can be grown in tropical and subtropical areas.

According to molecular studies,[3] the mandarin, the citron, the pomelo, and to a lesser extent the papedas and kumquat, were the ancestors of most other commercial citrus varieties, through breeding or natural hybridization; mandarins are therefore important as the only sweet fruit among the parental species. Though some mandarin cultivars remain pure, most have some degree of pomelo hybridization, while in some cases the amount of pomelo is substantial.

Biological description[edit]

Mandarin oranges in a mesh bag

Citrus reticulata is a moderate-sized tree[4] usually not exceeding 4 m (13 ft) in height; however, a 30-year-old tree can reach 5 metres (16 ft) (such a tree can yield some 5–7 thousand fruits).[5] The tree generally has thorns.[6]

The leaves are shiny and green,[6] rather small.[4] The petioles are short, almost wingless[4] or slightly winged.

The flowers are borne singly or in small groups in the leaf-axils.[6]

Citrus are usually self-fertile (needing only a bee to move pollen within the same flower) or parthenocarpic (not needing pollination and therefore seedless, such as the satsuma).


Mandarin orange fruits are small (4 to 8 cm). Their color is orange,[7] orange-yellow,[8] or orange-red.[9] Their shape is spherical or oblate (flattened at the poles).[7][8][10]

The skin is thin and peels off easily.[10][11] Their easiness to peel is an important advantage of mandarin oranges over other citrus fruits that all are more difficult to peel.[11][12][13]

Just like with other citrus fruits, the endocarp (inner flesh) is separated into segments, which in their turn consist of a large number of elongated cells.[14]

The fruits may be seedless or contain a small number of seeds.[7]

Mandarin orange fruits are sweet to taste. They can be eaten as whole or squeezed to make juice.[15] They can also be dried.[12]

The fruits contain a large amount of sugar (up to 10.5%), vitamins C, B1, B2, provitamin A, free organic acids, phytoncides, lectins, and mineral salts.[15]

The vitamin C in mandarin oranges is perfectly preserved in long-term storage. Since mandarin oranges ripen in November–December, they can be a source of vitamins during the winter for people living in the Northern Hemisphere.[15]


The name "mandarin orange" is a calque of Swedish mandarin apelsin (apelsin from German Apfelsine=Apfel+Sino means chinese apple), first attested in the 18th century. The form "mandarine" derives from the French name for this fruit. The reason for the epithet "mandarin" is not clear; it may relate to the yellow colour of some robes worn by mandarin dignitaries.[16][17]


Dried mandarin peel
Dried mandarin peel used as a seasoning
Chocolate-coated citrus peel.
Chocolate-coated citrus peel
Canned and peeled mandarin orange segments
Canned and peeled mandarin orange segments

Fresh mandarins[edit]

Mandarins are generally peeled and eaten fresh. The fresh fruit is also used in salads, desserts and main dishes. Fresh mandarin juice and frozen juice concentrate are commonly available in the United States. The number of seeds in each segment (carpel) varies greatly.


The peel is used fresh, whole or zested, or dried as chenpi. It can be used as a spice for cooking, baking, drinks, or candy.


Canned mandarin segments are peeled to remove the white pith prior to canning; otherwise, they turn bitter. Segments are peeled using a chemical process. First, the segments are scalded in hot water to loosen the skin; then they are bathed in a lye solution, which digests the albedo and membranes. Finally, the segments are rinsed several times in plain water. Once orange segments are properly prepared, mandarin oranges undergo heat processing to remove bacteria that can cause spoilage. The oranges are then packed in airtight sealed containers. Ascorbic acid may also be added.[18] They are often used in salads, desserts, and baking.

Traditional medicine[edit]

In traditional Chinese medicine, the dried peel of the fruit is used in the regulation of ch'i, and also used to treat abdominal distension, to enhance digestion, and to reduce phlegm.[19] Mandarins have also been used in ayurveda (traditional medicine of India).[20][verification needed][unreliable medical source?]


The fruit yield is high, up to 5-6 thousand fruits per tree in a favorable year.[11]

In 2016, world production of mandarin oranges (combined with tangerines, clementines, and satsumas in reporting to FAOSTAT) was 32.8 million tonnes, led by China with 52% of the global total (table).[21] Producing more than one million tonnes each in 2016 were Spain, Turkey, Morocco, and Egypt.[21]

Mandarin orange is the most cultivated citrus fruit in China, tropical Asia, India, Korea, Japan, the Mediterranean, and in Florida in the United States. A hardy Japanese species of mandarin orange called unshiu is grown in the Caucasian country of Georgia which is a major exporter of mandarins to Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Azerbaijan,[22][23] although there is also some production in Russia on the Black Sea coast of Caucasus and in the Krasnodar Region.[11]

Production volume[edit]

Tangerines, mandarins, clementines, satsumas
Top 20 producers in 2011 (1000 tonnes)
 People's Republic of China 12,482
 Spain 2,117
 Brazil 1,005
 Japan 928
 Turkey 872
 Italy 853
 Egypt 848
 Iran 800
 Morocco 753
 South Korea 681
 United States 596
 Pakistan 515
 Mexico 406
 Argentina 401
 Thailand 360
 Peru 236
 Algeria 218
 Taiwan 197
   Nepal 179
 Maldives 152
All other 1,582
World total 26,030
UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)


Mandarin oranges, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy223 kJ (53 kcal)
13.34 g
Sugars10.58 g
Dietary fiber1.8 g
0.31 g
0.81 g
VitaminsQuantity %DV
Vitamin A equiv.
34 μg
155 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.058 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.036 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.376 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.216 mg
Vitamin B6
0.078 mg
Folate (B9)
16 μg
10.2 mg
Vitamin C
26.7 mg
Vitamin E
0.2 mg
MineralsQuantity %DV
37 mg
0.15 mg
12 mg
0.039 mg
20 mg
166 mg
2 mg
0.07 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water85.2 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

A mandarin orange contains 85% water, 13% carbohydrates, and negligible amounts of fat and protein (table). Among micronutrients, only vitamin C is in significant content (32% of the Daily Value) in a 100 gram reference serving, with all other nutrients in low amounts.

Cultural significance[edit]

Mandarin fruitlets

During Chinese New Year, mandarin oranges/tangerine/satsumas are considered traditional symbols of abundance and good fortune.[citation needed] During the two-week celebration, they are frequently displayed as decoration and presented as gifts to friends, relatives, and business associates.

Mandarin oranges, particularly from Japan, are a Christmas tradition in Canada, the United States and Russia.

In the United States, they are commonly purchased in 5- or 10-pound boxes, individually wrapped in soft green paper, and given in Christmas stockings. This custom goes back to the 1880s, when Japanese immigrants in the United States began receiving Japanese mandarin oranges from their families back home as gifts for the New Year. The tradition quickly spread among the non-Japanese population, and eastwards across the country: each November harvest, "The oranges were quickly unloaded and then shipped east by rail. 'Orange Trains' – trains with boxcars painted orange – alerted everyone along the way that the irresistible oranges from Japan were back again for the holidays. For many, the arrival of Japanese mandarin oranges signaled the real beginning of the holiday season."[25]

Mandarin oranges covered with snow

This Japanese tradition merged with European traditions related to the Christmas stocking. Saint Nicholas is said to have put gold coins into the stockings of three poor girls so that they would be able to afford to get married.[26] Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold, and oranges became a symbolic stand-in for these gold balls, and are put in Christmas stockings in Canada[26][27] along with chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil.

Satsumas were also grown in the United States from the early 1900s, but Japan remained a major supplier.[28] U.S. imports of these Japanese oranges was suspended due to hostilities with Japan during World War II.[25] While they were one of the first Japanese goods allowed for export after the end of the war, residual hostility led to the rebranding of these oranges as "mandarin" oranges.[25]

The delivery of the first batch of mandarin oranges from Japan in the port of Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada), is greeted with a festival that combines Santa Claus and Japanese dancers[27]—young girls dressed in traditional kimonos.[29]

In Russia, mandarin oranges (tangerines)[clarification needed] have traditionally been supplied from Morocco (though there exists a theory that it was only used to mask the supplies of Israeli tangerines during the period of particularly bad relations between Israel and Soviet Union[citation needed]) and are associated with that country, even though nowadays they are also supplied from other countries, e.g. Spain, Israel and Egypt.[citation needed] Another major supplier was a domestic region of Abkhazia in the Caucasus, and even after the Dissolution of the Soviet Union it continued to supply its characteristically yellow-greenish and particularly aromatic fruits to the central Russian regions. The eastern parts of the country, in turn, were generally supplied from China or Vietnam, and continue so nowadays, with the characteristic 10 and 20-pound plastic and cardboard boxes being the ubiquitous seasonal sight. Anyway, regardless of the supplier or variety, mandarin oranges were and are an iconic symbol of winter and the holiday season in Russia, in an interesting parallel with the same status it holds in Japan.

Historically, the Christmas fruit imported to North America was mostly Dancys, but now it is more often a hybrid.[30]

Genetics and origin[edit]

Mandarins are one of the core ancestral citrus taxa, and are thought to have evolved in Vietnam, south China, and Japan.[31] Mandarins appear to have been domesticated at least twice, in the north and south Nanling Mountains. Wild mandarins are still found there, including Daoxian mandarines (sometimes given the species name Citrus daoxianensis) as well as some members of the group traditionally called 'Mangshan wild mandarins', a generic grouping for the wild mandarin-like fruit of the Mangshan area that includes both true mandarins and the genetically-distinct and only distantly-related Mangshanyegan. The wild mandarins were found to be free of the introgressed pomelo (C. maxima) DNA found in domestic mandarins but they did appear to have small amounts (~1.8%) of introgression from the ichang papeda, which grows wild in the same region.[32]

The Nanling Mountains are also home to northern and southern genetic clusters of domestic mandarins that have similar levels of sugars in the fruit compared to their wild relatives, but appreciably (in some almost 90-fold) lower levels of citric acid. The clusters display different patterns of pomelo introgression, have different deduced historical population histories, and are most closely related to distinct wild mandarins, suggesting two independent domestications in the north and south.[32] All tested domesticated cultivars were found to belong to one of these two genetic clusters, with varieties such as Nanfengmiju, Kishu and Satsuma deriving from the northern domestication event producing larger, redder fruit, while Willowleaf, Dancy, Sunki, Cleopatra, King, Ponkan and others derived from the smaller, yellower-fruited southern cluster.[32]

The Tanaka classification system divided domestic mandarins and similar fruit into numerous species, giving distinct names to cultivars such as willowleaf mandarins (C. deliciosa), satsumas (C. unshiu), tangerines (C. tangerina). Under the Swingle system, all these are considered to be varieties of a single species, Citrus reticulata.[33] Hodgson represented them as several subgroups: common (C. reticulata), Satsuma, King (C. nobilis), Mediterranean (willowleaf), small-fruited (C. indica, C. tachibana and C. reshni), and mandarin hybrids.[34]

Genetic analysis is consistent with mandarins representing a single species, with much of the variation within mandarins being due to hybridization.[35] There are only a small number of genetically-pure cultivars, including the Tachibana orange, which Talon determined to be sufficiently divergent to be classified as a distinct subspecies,Citrus reticulata tachibana[35] and found by Wang to have branched from the wild mandarin lineage prior to the split that gave rise to the two domesticated clusters. Others, such as Sun Chu Sha mandarin[31][35] and Nanfengmiju,[36] were found to be pure in initial genomic characterization, but Wang detected in them not only an apparent Ichang papeda introgression found in all examined mandarins but also the distinct pomelo DNA of the domesticated mandarins.[32] Following initial hybridization, cultivars were produced by backcrossing the initial mandarin-pomelo hybrids to produce mandarins with limited pomelo contribution,[35] that differed between the northern and southern domesticates.[32] An 'acidic' group of cultivars including Sunki and Cleopatra mandarins that likewise previously were thought to be pure but since found to contain small regions of introgressed pomelo DNA are too sour to be edible, but are widely used as rootstock and grown for juice.[33][35] Another group of mandarins, including some tangerines, Satsuma and King mandarins, show a greater pomelo contribution and derive from the limited-pomelo hybrids being crossed again, with sweet orange or pomelo, and likewise backcrossing in some cases, producing cultivars with moderate to high levels of pomelo introgression.[35] Hybrid mandarins thus fall on a continuum of increasing pomelo contribution with clementines, sweet and sour oranges, and grapefruit.[31] Mandarins and their hybrids are sold under a variety of names.


Unripe fruit

Stem mandarins (Citrus reticulata)[edit]

  • Mangshan wild mandarins (only some, others being the genetically-distinct mangshanyegan)[32]
  • Daoxian mandarines[32]
  • Tachibana[35][32]
  • Suanpangan[32]

Domesticated mandarins and hybrids[edit]

(Species names are those from the Tanaka system. Recent genomic analysis would place them all in Citrus reticulata.[35])

Kinnow, a 'King' (Citrus nobilis) × 'Willow Leaf' (Citrus × deliciosa) cross, developed by Dr H.B. Frost
  • Sun Chu Sha[31][35]
  • Nanfengmiju - one of the most widely cultivated varieties in China.[37]
  • Cleopatra mandarin,[31] acidic mandarin containing very small amount of pomelo introgression[35]
  • Sunki,[31] acidic mandarin containing very small amount of pomelo introgression[35]
  • Tangerines (Citrus tangerina)[38] is a grouping used for several distinct mandarin hybrids. Those sold in the US as tangerines have usually been Dancy, Sunburst or Murcott (Honey) cultivars. Some tangerine-grapefruit hybrids are legally sold as tangerines in the USA.[39][40]
  • Mediterranean/Willowleaf/Thorny (Citrus × deliciosa), a mandarin with small amounts of pomelo[41]
  • Huanglingmiao (Citrus reticulata), a mandarin–pomelo hybrid[35][42]
  • Kishumikan (Citrus reticulata), or simply Kishu, close clonal relative of Huanglingmiao, the two sharing a common origin before diverging as they were propagated[35]
    • Kunenbo (Citrus nobilis) a heterogeneous group that includes at least four distinct mandarin-pomelo hybrids.[43]
      • King (in full, 'King of Siam', Citrus nobilis) a Kunenbo mandarin with high levels of pomelo admixture, sometimes classed as a tangor.[35][43]
        • Kinnow (see image), a King-Willowleaf hybrid.
      • Satsuma (Citrus unshiu), a mandarin-pomelo hybrid with more pomelo than seen in most mandarins, derived from a Huanglingmiao/Kishu backcross of a (non-King) Kunenbo that was a Huanglingmiao/Kishu-pomelo mix.[35][43] It is a seedless variety, of which there are over 200 cultivars, including Wenzhou migana, Owari, and mikan; the source of most canned mandarins, and popular as a fresh fruit due to its ease of consumption
        • Owari, a well-known Satsuma cultivar that ripens during the late autumn
    • Komikan, a variety of Kishumikan[43]
  • The Ponkan ( Citrus reticulata), a mandarin–pomelo hybrid[31][41]
    • The Dancy tangerine (Citrus tangerina) is a hybrid, the cross of a Ponkan with another unidentified hybrid mandarin.[35] Until the 1970s, most tangerines grown and eaten in the USA were Dancys, and it was known as "Christmas tangerine"[30] and zipper-skin tangerine[44]
      • Iyokan (Citrus iyo), a cross between the Dancy tangerine and another Japanese mandarin variety, the kaikoukan.[43]
  • Bang Mot tangerine, a mandarin variety popular in Thailand.
  • Shekwasha (Citrus depressa), a very sour mandarin grown for its acidic juice, has admixture from both pomelo and citron[45]

Mandarin crosses[edit]

  • Tangelos, a generic term for modern mandarin (tangerine)-pomelo and mandarin-grapefruit crosses
    • The Mandelo or 'cocktail grapefruit', a cross between a Dancy/King mixed mandarin and a pomelo.[35] The term is also sometimes used generically, like tangelo, for recent mandarin-pomelo hybrids.
  • The sour orange (Citrus x aurantium) derives from a direct cross between a pure mandarin and a pomelo[42]
  • The common sweet orange (Citrus x sinensis), derives from a cross between non-pure mandarin and pomelo parents[42]
    • Tangors, or Temple oranges, are crosses between the mandarin orange and the common sweet orange;[42] their thick rind is easy to peel and its bright orange pulp is sour-sweet and full-flavored. Some such hybrids are commonly called mandarins or tangerines.
      • Clementine (Citrus × clementina), a spontaneous hybrid between a Willowleaf mandarin orange and a sweet orange.[41][46] sometimes known as a "Thanksgiving Orange" or "Christmas orange", as its peak season is winter; an important commercial mandarin orange form, having displaced mikans in many markets
        • Clemenules or Nules, a variety of Clementine named for the Valencian town where it was first bred in 1953; it is the most popular variety of Clementine grown in Spain.[47]
        • Fairchild is a hybrid of Clementine and Orlando, a tangelo
      • Murcott, a mandarin–sweet orange hybrid,[41][48] one parent being the King.[49]
        • Tango is a proprietary seedless mid-late season irradiated selection of Murcott developed by the University of California Citrus Breeding Program.[50]
    • Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi), the result of backcrossing the sweet orange with pomelo
    • Meyer lemon (Citrus x meyer), a cross between a mandarin × pomelo hybrid and a citron.[45]
    • Palestinian sweet lime (Citrus x limettioides), a distinct (mandarin × pomelo) × citron hybrid[45]
  • Rangpur lime (Citrus x limonia), a pure mandarin-citron cross[45]
  • Rough lemon (Citrus x jambhiri), a pure mandarin-citron cross, distinct from rangpur[45]
  • Jabara (Citrus jabara), a Kunenbo mandarin-yuzu cross.[43]


See also[edit]


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External links[edit]