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Publication #FPS-619

Zanthoxylum fagara Wild Lime1

Edward F. Gilman2


Wild lime is a small tree native to south Florida and the Caribbean Basin (Fig. 1). It grows as an understory tree in the coastal upland plant communities on the lee side of the dunes in south Florida. Compound leaves have distinct wings along the leaf rachis and smell of lime when crushed. Most specimens in the woods have several stems emerging close to the ground. Specimens at nurseries can be grown with one or several trunks. Stems have sharp spines that can cause severe pain when they contact flesh.

Figure 1. 

Wild lime

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Zanthoxylum fagara

Pronunciation: zan-THOCK-sill-lum fuh-GAR-ruh

Common name(s): wild lime

Family: Rutaceae

Plant type: tree

USDA hardiness zones: 9B through 11 (Fig. 2)

Planting month for zone 9: year round

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round

Origin: native to Florida

Uses: reclamation plant; specimen; recommended for buffer strips around parking lots or for median strip plantings in the highway; border; attracts butterflies

Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range

Figure 2. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 15 to 25 feet
Spread: 15 to 20 feet
Plant habit: round
Plant density: moderate
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: odd-pinnately compound
Leaf margin: crenate
Leaf shape: obovate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: yellow
Flower characteristic: flowers periodically throughout the year


Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit cover: fleshy
Fruit color: black
Fruit characteristic: showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: thorns present; can be trained to grow with a short, single trunk; not particularly showy
Current year stem/twig color: brown
Current year stem/twig thickness: thin


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun
Soil tolerances: acidic; alkaline; sand; loam; clay
Drought tolerance: high
Soil salt tolerances: unknown
Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: usually not a problem
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

Although tolerance to shade allows wild lime to germinate and grow successfully as an understory tree, it adapts well to the full sun. Plants grown in the full sun are full, nearly symmetrical and make nice multi-trunked small patio trees. They can also be planted in a container or other area with limited soil space due to the small size of the mature plant.

Pests and Diseases

There are no serious pests or diseases that limit growth of this native tree.



This document is FPS-619, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.