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What is a Kumquat Tree?

kumquat tree grove with robust mature kumquat trees growing ripe fruits during harvest season

Citrus Japonica/ Fortunella Japonica

I’ll never forget the first time that I saw a kumquat tree in person. Walking down a quiet neighborhood in New Orleans, and spotting these gorgeous little fruit trees that seemed to be very popular choices for the locals’ front gardens and reaching over a short white picket fence to pluck a small orange fruit, only to find that it was a kumquat!

Biting into the fruit was a revelation of flavor. I had never before tasted a fruit where the rind was sweeter than the flesh, and it created an incredible symphony of flavor. It seemed like such a wonderful gift to have these incredible fruit trees right outside your front door.

Kumquat trees are part of the Rutaceae family, and they produce edible fruits that are somewhat similar to that of the orange (citrus Sinensis) though much smaller and let’s face it, slightly more interestingly flavored.

The word kumquat is derived from the Cantonese word kamkwat, which loosely translates to “golden mandarin orange”. Though part of the citrus family, they are far more cold-hardy than almost any other citrus fruit.

There isn’t much that you wouldn’t want to do with a kumquat. One could make candied kumquats, kumquat juice, kumquat marmalade, kumquat pie, simply sliced kumquats as a beautiful salad garnish, or you could just pluck it and eat it fresh as I did in New Orleans.

Once you’ve finished learning about citrus japonica, head on over to 101 Types of Trees. This is a wonderful article that we’ve compiled to inspire curiosity about trees. We guarantee you’ll learn something new, and you’ll be loaded with cool tree facts that you can unload whenever you’re faced with an awkward silence in conversation.

Related: Indoor Fruit Trees | Types of Limes | Types of Citrus Fruits | Different Fruit Tree Flowers

What do Kumquat Trees Look Like?

Root System

Kumquat trees prefer to grow in areas that are very saturated by humidity in the air and moisture in the soil, and so they come equipped with a root system that represents that type of growing condition.

Trees that grow in moist situations have the luxury of keeping their roots closer to the top soil, because roots don’t need to go searching deeper and deeper in the earth for moisture reserves.

This also means that some trees who have shallow root systems can interfere with infrastructure or other plant life, but in the case of the kumquat tree, their roots are very noninvasive and rarely cause these types of issues.


This plant can be considered as either a small tree or a large shrub. They will usually only grow to be between 2 and 5 meters in height, with a thin (but capable) trunk diameter.

young kumquat tree with oval fruits growing in a beautiful garden next to a villa on a sunny day

Growth Pattern

Kumquat trees have very densely growing branches that create a very rounded crown shape – kind of like a little pom pom! Branches are covered with small thorns, which is one of the easier ways to identify the tree, if the tree isn’t in fruiting season.


Kumquat tree bark is either a light brown/gray color or light brown/red color. The bark is covered with very small and discreet vertical ridges and fissures, but overall, has a rather smooth appearance.


The kumquat is an evergreen tree, meaning that foliage will remain green and persist all year long, regardless of the season or climate.

Leaves are a very dark green, glossy color. A leaf is between 1 and 3 inches long, and is a simple oval shape with pointed tips at either end. Leaves are alternately arranged on a twig in a spiral pattern.

dark green glossy leaves growing next to oval kumquats in a large garden

How do Kumquat Trees Reproduce?


Kumquat trees have “perfect” flowers, meaning that a single flower will possess both male sexual characteristics and female sexual characteristics. This means that trees are self pollinating, and that you do not need more than one tree in order for a flower to become fertilized.

Flowers are borne in clusters, very similar to other citrus flowers. Flowers are very small and white, with 5 thin petals and several yellow stamens. They emerge in the late spring.

close up of lovely white kumquat tree flower growing alone on a twig with blurry green background

Sexual Maturity

Kumquat trees have an average life expectancy of only about 50 years. Young trees will start to produce fruit within the first 2-5 years of their life, and will continue to have productive fruit crops every year for their entire lives.


Once a flower is fertilized, it will produce a citrus fruit in the form of a kumquat. Depending on the type of kumquat fruit, it will vary in shape, size, and overall flavor. We will expand upon the different types of kumquat citrus varieties directly below.

handful of ripe and picked kumquat fruits with one cut in half to reveal inner flesh and seeds

What are the Types of Kumquats?

Round Kumquat (Citrus Marumi/ Cirtus Morgani)

This is a close look at a healthy fruit-bearing round Kumquat tree.

Round kumquats are a golden yellow color and are a very spherical shape. Their peel is very sweet, and their flesh is a much more sour flavor. The round kumquat is used to make marmalades, spreads, and jellies mostly.

The tree itself is a very popular bonsai cultivar, and is a common houseplant. These trees are a symbol of good luck in China, and are often given as gifts during the Lunar New Year.

Oval Kumquat (Citrus Margarita/ Fortunella Margarita)

This is a close look at the ripe fruits of an oval kumquat tree.

Oval kumquats are a much more ovular shape than most, as indicated by its name. These trees are a dwarf citrus tree by nature, and make an ideal bonsai tree. The tree crops very heavily.

The fruit itself has a very sweet skin and a very sour flesh, and these oval kumquats will most commonly be eaten as fresh fruit and whole. The skin itself is slightly different by having distinct green and yellow stripes.

Meiwa Kumquat (Citrus Crassifolia/ Fortunella Crassifolia)

This is a close look at the ripe fruits of a Meiwa Kumquat ready to be harvested.

The Meiwa kumquat is one of the lesser edible kumquat varities. The fruit is filled with seeds, it has a very thick skin and much less flesh than other types of kumquats.

Hong Kong Kumquat (Citrus Hindsii/ Fortunella Hindsii)

This is a close look at the foliage and fruits of a Hong Kong Kumquat tree.

The Hong Kong kumquat is also not the best choice for eating. These fruits are very small and very acidic with large seeds, little flesh, and thick skin.

These trees are mostly grown as ornamental plants, otherwise they are found growing in the wild. They are one of the more primitive types of kumquat trees.

Nagami Kumquat (Citrus Obovata/ Fortunella Obovata)

This is a close look at the ripe fruits of a Nagami Kumquat tree ready to be harvested.

The Nagami kumquat tree is a delectable kumquat variety. This tree bears fruits that are either rounded or bell shaped, with a very bright orange skin.

The fruit itself is very sweet, and is commonly made its jellies and marmalades, or simply eaten raw. This tree is a common ornamental tree, and it has an exceptional tolerance for cold!

Malayan Kumquat (Citrus Polyandra/ Fortunella Polyandra)

This is a close look at a bunch of harvested Malayan Kumquat fruits.

The Malayan kumquat is a kumquat hybrid. This is a key lime hybridized with a kumquat, creating a “limequat”. These fruits are more of a green/ yellow color, and have larger fruits with thinner peels.

Where do Kumquat Trees Grow?

The kumquat tree is native to China. The earliest historical reference of the cultivation of these tree actually dates back to the 12th century! This tree has been cultivated all over Asia for centuries, in places likes Japan, Taiwan, India, and the Philippines.

very cute panda munching on bamboo leaves with a wild kumquat tree growing in the background

These trees were introduced to Europe in the mid 1800’s, and shortly thereafter, seedlings were brought to North America. Kumquat trees can grow is USDA growing zone 9 and 10, and are the most cold hardy of all the citrus trees out there!

What are the Growing Conditions of Kumquat Trees?


Kumquat trees prefer to grow in soil that is moist and well drained. They can grow in moist soil types, with an pH level, as long as that soil is never soggy or waterlogged.

Sun Exposure

These trees prefer full sun exposure, and are not shade tolerant, though they can handle partial shade at certain times of year. Keep this in mind if planting a tree in your yard.

Water Level

Like most other citrus trees, kumquat trees prefer tropical climates that have plenty of humidity in the air, and plenty of annual precipitation as well.


Kumquat trees are the most cold hardy of the citrus fruit trees. They can survive an unexpected frost, and can survive winter temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. That being said, they do prefer to exist in temperatures averaging between 77 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

canopy of a kumquat tree with dark green glossy leaves and rounded fruits