The citrus collection of the Hanbury Botanical Gardens
During winter period it is possible to see the wonderful fruits of the citrus collection of the Hanbury Botanical Gardens, which is located in the lower part of the Gardens, by the sea.
Lemon - Citrus limon (L.) Burm.f. Origin: Himalaya, it was already cultivated in Italy in the 1st century. A.D. (as evidenced by a fresco from Pompeii); in 1493 it was introduced to Haiti by Christopher Columbus.
The general characteristics of the species are: purple flowers and young shoots; petiole clearly articulated with the leaf blade; more or less elongated ellipsoidal fruit, with conical mamelon, acidic, not bitter pulp.
A peculiar characteristic of the lemon is its re-flowering and the fact that both flowers and fruits are found on the plant in every season.
The geographical origin of most of the species of the genus Citrus is identifiable in three different regions of SE Asia, between the 10th and 25th parallel N, where numerous species grow spontaneously. From these primary centers of origin, spread to other continents began.
The cultivation of citrus fruits has very ancient origins: the most ancient citations of Chinese and Indian literature allow us to date its beginnings around 2400 BC. In Persia the evidence of the presence of Citrus dates back to the 6th century BC.
Diffusion in the Mediterranean would have occurred later; from here they were spread to the eastern coasts of Africa in the 10th century. by Arab navigators; in Haiti, in the Caribbean Islands and in Central America after 1492 and in Brazil around 1530 by the Portuguese; in South Africa they were introduced around 1650 by the Dutch and the English; in Australia they were introduced in 1788 from Brazil.
Lemon and bitter orange were brought to Italy by the Crusaders from Palestine, where they had been introduced by the Arabs; in fact the Arabs had introduced lemons and bitter oranges to Sicily as early as the 10th century. In Sardinia the presence of citrus fruits is documented in the 5th century. Sweet orange was popular in the 15th century. from Genoese and Portuguese; the mandarin appeared in Italy only at the beginning of the 19th century.
In the second half of the 19th century. there was a great development and spread of cultivation. Over time, numerous varieties and hybrids have been created for species of cultural interest, tolerating different climatic conditions, with different ripening periods and fruit characters.
The cultivation of citrus fruits in the Ligurian Riviera has very ancient origins: in the 16th century citrus fruits were widely cultivated by Nervi in the Nice region.
The farm purchased in 1867 by Sir Thomas Hanbury also included citrus plantations; new plants were introduced in the following years by French, Genoese and Sicilian nurseries: thus a rich collection of ancient fruit and ornamental varieties was established, one of the most complete existing at the time.
Part of the fruit was intended for family consumption; crates of lemons were shipped to England for home consumption and sale, as archival documents testify.
Currently, the citrus collection of the Hanbury Botanical Gardens includes 73 varieties of citrus, and consists of about 300 plants grown in the ground.
These plants are all grown sustainably by adopting biological pest control. Many citrus fruits produce fruits with abundant seeds and, therefore, do not have good commercial qualities, however the conservation of these varieties is very important for the maintenance of biodiversity in terms of genetic, historical and agronomic profile.