Kaffir (Thai/Asian/Wild/Makrut) Lime – Citrus Hystrix

August 15, 2009

A word to the prospective Kaffir Lime shopper: don’t buy yours from Logee’s Tropical Greenhouses (my fault — I didn’t read that it came in a 4-inch pot, so ended up paying close to $20 for a 2-inch tall tree that won’t fruit before my children set me out on an ice floe) or from Growquest Growers (total scam and won’t send you your plant at all). I finally got a 5-gallon tree from a seller on ebay called socalnursery760, for $50 (+ $50 shipping), but after all that disappointment, I was happy to pay $100 just to get my fleaking tree. It’s a good looking tree, about eighteen inches tall, with several fruit already set.

I’ve been wanting one of these bad boys for a couple years. My Ma planted the seed when she bought one in aught-seven. At the time I wasn’t particularly impressed, but like all good seeds, it stuck and grew. Most of its appeal is in its weirdness: the fruit is knobby and brainlike, kind of like an ugli fruit, but green of course, and about an inch to an inch and half in diameter.


citrus hystrix

So why eighty-three different names for one plant? Kaffir is a white Afrikaner pejorative for blacks meaning “infidel,” from the Arabic “kafir” that Portugese explorers brought over to describe the native Africans they encountered. Kafir was originally from the Semitic K-F-R (love that vowelessness) meaning “to cover.” It’s a derogatory term still and several alternate names like Thai, Makrut, Wild, or Asian lime are used to avoid causing offense. Malayan slaves brought to the Cape region influenced South African kitchens, and kaffir lime probably got its name from that association. As for Hystrix, it’s Latin for “porcupine,” owing to the thorniness of the tree, which it ain’t very, or not nearly as very as a Meyer lemon for example.

The other weird thing that I love about this plant is it leaves. They’re double on the stem, one on top of the other. Kinda crazy-like. Plus they’re sweet and smell great.


kaffir lime leaf

The fruit doesn’t give much in the way of juice, but the leaves are all over the place in Thai and Indian food, and the rind of the fruit can be zested and used for flavoring as well. Good for cookin’, yep.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Wan January 23, 2010 at 11:42 pm

I enjoy reading about the kaffir lime information from your site. I have 72 plants, some are 4 feet tall and some are just 12″ tall. To take care and grow healthy plants are not easy task for me in Indiana. Just this year I have learned that beside feeding the plants, I also most control the

If you have some suggestion for me please let me know.

2 steve January 24, 2010 at 12:34 am

four feet tall! I’m jealous.

I’m no expert, but have this one tip: if you’re growing the limes in pots they tend to deplete the soil rather quickish. You’ll know this by their pale leaves. To help replenish the Nitrogen and keep the leaves a nice deep green add some fish emulsion to your watering. Smells like death but works great.

3 Khin Ming Leow March 7, 2010 at 6:53 am

I have a healthy growing kaffir lime tree growing….very well. It is about my height i.e. 5 feet 8 inches…it is flowering and fruiting well at the same time. I often used the leaves and the zest in my cooking, very good for salads too, not too much though.

But, how about the fruits. There isn’t much juice…A friend once told me that it is used in natural home therapy to treat dandruff and problem skin. Could anyone out there help me with this?

4 Vivian April 8, 2010 at 6:04 am

I have been looking for kaffir lime seed/fruit but no luck, especially here in Oklahoma. Would anyone be so kind and trade me for some seeds or fruits even better. I only have dwaft pomegranite. Please let me know.

5 rosedmd July 3, 2010 at 4:05 pm

hi, i have a kaffir lime tree and i want to propagate it… would anybody will to teach me how? please

6 Be+ August 8, 2010 at 4:15 pm

You have so many. Would you be willing to sell 2 kaffir plants? I would take the 4 ft or the smaller one.

7 Carolyn September 2, 2010 at 4:59 am

I have been looking for a Kifir lime for years. Today I was at Al’s Garden Center in Woodburn Oregon (just out of Portland) and they have some beautiful specimens. I picked up a very nice tree that is 3 foot tall, not counting the height of the 3.5 gal pot. It has 4 little limes that ranging in size from 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. The price was $29.99.

The plant doesn’t have a care tag. Does anyone know how to best care for these trees?

8 steve September 2, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Nice price. Congrats on finally getting your lime Carolyn!

Here’s my care regimen: it likes full sun in moist well-drained soil so I put mine outside for the summer here in Michigan, and I’ve got it growing in a tall pot with no saucer. Makruts feed heavily – I alternate feedings of espoma’s citrus tone and fish emulsion every few months. I’ve been pruning to keep the habit upright as some branches tend to grow a little floppy.

Other than that it’s been low-maintenance, great looking, and smells awesome.

9 Robert Houston August 19, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Kafir means “unbeliever” not “infidel”

10 steve warrington September 6, 2013 at 4:55 am

And that, sir, is what we call a synonym.

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