Citrus australasica (RUTACEAE); Finger lime

(Prev. known as Microcitrus australasica; two varieties are often recognized - C. australasica var. australasica, with green to yellowish or black fruit [and green pulp], and C. australasica var. sanguinea, with blood-red fruit and pinkish pulp, found at Mt. Tamborine and Beechmont.)

Medium to large shrub to 8m, in dry and subtropical rainforest (and common in regrowth) north from Ballina, NSW to Mt Tamborine in SE Qld.

Branchlets dark green and hairless, with numerous stiff thorns to 2cm in length.

Leaves simple, alternate, to 4cm by 1.5cm, ovate, obovate or lanceolate, the tip blunt and often notched; juvenile leaves oblong to obovate. Blade dark green and glossy above, paler below. Numerous oil dots present; leaves aromatic.

Flowers white or pinkish, about 1.2cm across, fragrant; solitary or in small groups in leaf axils. Appear Feb to May.

Fruit an oblong or almost cylindrical berry to 10cm in length and 1cm in diameter; berry green to greenish-yellow or black in var. australasica (with greenish pulp) and blood red to reddish-purple in var. sanguinea (with pink to reddish pulp). Ripe May to Sept.

Edible; the pleasantly acid pulp may be eaten raw, made into marmalade, or used to flavour drinks.

Mature plants become very dense and bushy, although they can be somewhat leggy when young.

Propagation from fresh seed or cuttings, which are slow to develop roots. Could also be budded onto exotic citrus rootstock.

Very slow-growing, appreciating some protection when young. Requires good drainage. Benefits from mulching and watering during dry periods, and from organically rich soil. Moderately frost tolerant.