The mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata; Chinese: 橘子 or 桔子; pinyin: júzi; Yue Chinese: , jyutping: gat1), 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.

Biological description

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]

The fruits are oblate. They turn orange when ripe.[6]

Citrus fruits 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).

Blossoms from the Dancy cultivar are one exception. They are self-sterile, and therefore must have a pollinator variety to supply pollen, and a high bee population to make a good crop.[citation needed]


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.[7][8]


Production of mandarin oranges*
in 2016
Country (millions of tonnes)
*includes tangerines, clementines, satsumas
Source: FAOSTAT of the United Nations[9]

Fresh mandarins

Mandarins are generally peeled and eaten fresh. The fresh fruit is also used in salads, desserts and main dishes. Fresh tangerine 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 undergo several rinses in plain water. They are often used in salads, desserts, and baking.

Traditional medicine

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.[10] Mandarins have also been used in ayurveda (traditional medicine of India).[11][verification needed][unreliable medical source?]


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).[9] Producing more than one million tonnes each in 2016 were Spain, Turkey, Morocco, and Egypt.[9]


Mandarin oranges, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 223 kJ (53 kcal)
13.34 g
Sugars 10.58 g
Dietary fiber 1.8 g
0.31 g
0.81 g
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
37 mg
0.15 mg
12 mg
0.039 mg
20 mg
166 mg
2 mg
0.07 mg
Other constituents
Water 85.2 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

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."[12]

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.[13] 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[13][14] 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.[15] U.S. imports of these Japanese oranges was suspended due to hostilities with Japan during World War II.[12] 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.[12]

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[14]—young girls dressed in traditional kimonos.[16]

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.[17]


Mandarins are one of the core ancestral citrus taxa, and are thought to have evolved in Vietnam, south China, and Japan.[18] The Tanaka classification system divided 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.[19] 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.[20]

Genetic analysis is consistent with mandarins representing a single species, with much of the variation within mandarins being due to hybridization.[21] There are only a small number of genetically-pure cultivars, including the Nanfengmiju, the Sun Chu Sha mandarin and the Tachibana, the latter of which is sufficiently divergent to be classified as a distinct subspecies.[21] The majority represent hybrids with pomelo (C. maxima). A large group of mandarin cultivars appear to have originated with a small number of initial mandarin-pomelo hybrids that were then backcrossed to produce mandarins with limited pomelo contribution.[21] Of these, an 'acidic' group including Sunki and Cleopatra mandarins, previously thought to be pure, contain a small region of introgressed pomelo DNA that results in them being too sour to be edible, but they are still widely used as rootstock and grown for juice.[19][21] 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 with sweet orange or pomelo, again followed by backcrossing in some cases.[21] The hybrid mandarins are thus on a continuum with clementines, sweet and sour oranges, and grapefruit.[18] Mandarins and their hybrids are sold under a variety of names.


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
Unripe fruit

Pure mandarins

Non-pure mandarins

(Species names are those from the Tanaka system. Recent genomic analysis would place them all in Citrus reticulata.[21])

Kinnow, a 'King' (Citrus nobilis) × 'Willow Leaf' (Citrus × deliciosa) cross, developed by Dr H.B. Frost
  • Cleopatra mandarin,[18] acidic mandarin containing very small amount of pomelo introgression[21]
  • Sunki,[18] acidic mandarin containing very small amount of pomelo introgression[21]
  • Tangerines (Citrus tangerina)[24] 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.[25][26]
  • Mediterranean/Willowleaf/Thorny (Citrus × deliciosa), a mandarin–pomelo hybrid[27]
  • Huanglingmiao (Citrus reticulata), a mandarin–pomelo hybrid[21][28]
  • Kishumikan (Citrus reticulata), or simply Kishu, close clonal relative of Huanglingmiao, the two sharing a common origin before diverging as they were propagated[21]
    • Kunenbo (Citrus nobilis) a heterogeneous group that includes at least four distinct mandarin-pomelo hybrids.[29]
      • King (in full, 'King of Siam', Citrus nobilis) a Kunenbo mandarin with high levels of pomelo admixture, sometimes classed as a tangor.[21][29]
        • 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.[21][29] 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[29]
  • The Ponkan ( Citrus reticulata), a mandarin–pomelo hybrid[18][27]
    • The Dancy tangerine (Citrus tangerina) is a hybrid, the cross of a Ponkan with another unidentified hybrid mandarin.[21] Until the 1970s, most tangerines grown and eaten in the USA were Dancys, and it was known as "Christmas tangerine"[17] and zipper-skin tangerine[30]
      • Iyokan (Citrus iyo), a cross between the Dancy tangerine and another Japanese mandarin variety, the kaikoukan.[29]
  • 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[31]

Mandarin crosses

  • 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.[21] 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[28]
  • The common sweet orange (Citrus x sinensis), derives from a cross between non-pure mandarin and pomelo parents[28]
    • Tangors, or Temple oranges, are crosses between the mandarin orange and the common sweet orange;[28] 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.[27][32] 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.[33]
        • Fairchild is a hybrid of Clementine and Orlando, a tangelo
      • Murcott, a mandarin–sweet orange hybrid.[27][34]
        • Tango is a proprietary seedless mid-late season irradiated selection of Murcott developed by the University of California Citrus Breeding Program.[35]
    • 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.[31]
    • Palestinian sweet lime (Citrus x limettioides), a distinct (mandarin × pomelo) × citron hybrid[31]
  • Rangpur lime (Citrus x limonia), a pure mandarin-citron cross[31]
  • Rough lemon (Citrus x jambhiri), a pure mandarin-citron cross, distinct from rangpur[31]
  • Jabara (Citrus jabara), a Kunenbo mandarin-yuzu cross.[29]


See also


  1. ^ Pittman & Davis (1999-02-22). "Pittman & Davis – Premium Citrus Fruit Gifts – Why Are Tangerines So Tangy?". Pittmandavis.com. Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  2. ^ "Market Watch: The wild and elusive Dancy". David Karp, LA Times. http://www.latimes.com/food/la-fo-marketwatch-20110128-story.html
  3. ^ "International Citrus Genomics Consortium". University of California. 
  4. ^ a b c "Fruit Tree Seeds : Citrus reticulata". Retrieved 2018-03-18. 
  5. ^ Sergey Ivchenko (1965). Загадки цинхоны. Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya. pp. 127–128. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Citrus reticulata - General Information". 
  7. ^ "Chinese loanwords in the OED". The Free Library. Retrieved October 5, 2016. 
  8. ^ "mandarin Origin and meaning of mandarin by Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com. Retrieved 12 February 2018. 
  9. ^ a b c "Mandarin orange production in 2016, Crops/Regions/World list/Production Quantity (pick lists)". UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Corporate Statistical Database (FAOSTAT). 2017. Retrieved 18 March 2018. 
  10. ^ Yeung. Him-Che. Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas. 1985. Los Angeles: Institute of Chinese Medicine.
  11. ^ Chopra, R. N.; Nayar, S. L.; Chopra, I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants. 1986. New Delhi: Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
  12. ^ a b c "Information on This Week's Product: Mandarin Oranges" (PDF). BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "Personalized Christmas Stockings". centrinet.com. 
  14. ^ a b Marion, Paul (December 19, 2010). "Oranges at Christmas". richardhowe.com: Lowell Politics and Lowell History. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  15. ^ http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ch116
  16. ^ "Christmas Stockings". Christmas Traditions in France and in Canada. Ministère de la culture et de la communication de France. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Dancy Tangerine Citrus Tangerina v. Dancy, Ark of Taste Catalogue http://www.slowfoodusa.org/ark-item/dancy-tangerine
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Curk, Franck; Ancillo, Gema; Garcia-Lor, Andres; Luro, François; Perrier, Xavier; Jacquemoud-Collet, Jean-Pierre; Navarro, Luis; Ollitrault, Patrick (2014). "Next generation haplotyping to decipher nuclear genomic interspecific admixture in Citrus species: analysis of chromosome 2". BMC Genetics. 15: 152. 
  19. ^ a b "New universal mitochondrial PCR markers reveal new information on maternal citrus phylogeny". Tree Genetics. 7: 49–61. doi:10.1007/s11295-010-0314-x. 
  20. ^ Goldenberg, Livnat; Yaniv, Yossi; Porat, Ron; Carmi, Nir (2018). "Mandarin fruit quality: a review". Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 98: 18–26. doi:10.1002/jsfa.8495. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Wu, Guohong Albert; Terol, Javier; Ibanez, Victoria; López-García, Antonio; Pérez-Román, Estela; Borredá, Carles; Domingo, Concha; Tadeo, Francisco R; Carbonell-Caballero, Jose; Alonso, Roberto; Curk, Franck; Du, Dongliang; Ollitrault, Patrick; Roose, Mikeal L. Roose; Dopazo, Joaquin; Gmitter Jr, Frederick G.; Rokhsar, Daniel; Talon, Manuel (2018). "Genomics of the origin and evolution of Citrus". Nature. 554: 311–316. doi:10.1038/nature25447.  and Supplement
  22. ^ "Subacute toxicity assessment of carotenoids extracted from citrus peel (Nanfengmiju, Citrus reticulata Blanco) in rats". Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. 62: 16–22. doi:10.1016/j.yrtph.2011.12.003. 
  23. ^ "The Seedless Kishu, a small but mighty mandarin". latimes. 
  24. ^ "Synonymy of C. tangerina at The Plant List". 
  25. ^ Larry K. Jackson and Stephen H. Futch. "Robinson Tangerine". ufl.edu. 
  26. ^ Commernet, 2011. "20-13.0061. Sunburst Tangerines; Classification and Standards, 20-13. Market Classification, Maturity Standards And Processing Or Packing Restrictions For Hybrids, D20. Departmental, 20. Department of Citrus, Florida Administrative Code". State of Florida. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  27. ^ a b c d Velasco, R; Licciardello, C. "A genealogy of the citrus family". Nature Biotechnology. 32: 640–642. doi:10.1038/nbt.2954. PMID 25004231. 
  28. ^ a b c d e G Albert Wu; et al. "Sequencing of diverse mandarin, pomelo and orange genomes reveals complex history of admixture during citrus domestication". Nature. 32: 656–662. doi:10.1038/nbt.2906. PMC 4113729Freely accessible. PMID 24908277. 
  29. ^ a b c d e f Shimizu, Tokurou; Kitajima, Akira; Nonaka, Keisuke; Yoshioka, Terutaka; Ohta, Satoshi; Goto, Shingo; Toyoda, Atsushi; Fujiyama, Asao; Mochizuki, Takako; Nagasaki, Hideki; Kaminuma, Eli; Nakamura, Yasukazu. "Hybrid Origins of Citrus Varieties Inferred from DNA Marker Analysis of Nuclear and Organelle Genomes". PLoS One. 11: e0166969. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0166969. 
  30. ^ Larry K. Jackson and Stephen H. Futch. "HS169/CH074: Dancy Tangerine". ufl.edu. 
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i Curk, Franck; Ollitrault, Frédérique; Garcia-Lor, Andres; Luro, François; Navarro, Luis; Ollitrault, Patrick (2016). "Phylogenetic origin of limes and lemons revealed by cytoplasmic and nuclear markers". Annals of Botany. 11: 565–583. doi:10.1093/aob/mcw005. 
  32. ^ Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World's Food Plants. National Geographic. 2008. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-4262-0372-5. 
  33. ^ Toni Siebert (30 July 2009). "Nules". Citrus Variety Database. University Of California. Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  34. ^ Stephen H. Futch and Larry K. Jackson. "HS174/CH078: Murcott (Honey Tangerine)". ufl.edu. 
  35. ^ http://plantbiology.ucr.edu/faculty/Tango%20Information%20Sheet-4-12-2009.pdf

External links