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Finger lime

Finger lime

Story and photos by Russ Grayson

Finger lime is a tasty and citrusy small tree for the home and community garden as well as for the commercial orchard.

Common name: Finger lime

Botanic name: Citrus australasica (previously Microcitrus australasica)

Family: Rutaceae

Growth form:

  • medium to large shrub or small tree of four to five metres in height and three to four metres spread
  • green fruit 30–120mm long filled with tiny pink or cream beads of juice
  • white flowers 10 to 14mm diameter
  • perennial
  • small, thick leaves
  • spines along branches.

Centre of diversity: Australia.

Natural habitat: subtropical lowland rainforest understorey of SE Queensland and Northern NSW growing in a variety of soils.

Useful part: the green-yellow fruit.


  • food, edible raw — fresh, juicy vesicles give the sensation of a burst of tangy flavour when chewed
  • make into garnish, jams
  • grown commercially following emergence of gourmet bushfood market.

Ethnobotanical uses:

  • used by Aboriginal people
  • named ‘Gulalung’ in the Bundjalung language of Northern NSW, its centre of diversity.


  • from seed or cutting
  • seedlings are reported to take a minimum of five years to reach maturity
  • commercially available grafted onto citrus rootstock and cross-bred with other citrus species
  • hybrid cultivars produce fruit in a variety of colors
  • does not appear to attract fruit fly
  • may require pest management measures in cultivation.


  • grows from tropical to temperate climates
  • prefer soil around pH6
  • slow growing
  • grows in full sun or dappled shade
  • well-drained soils
  • reported to tolerate light frost but young plants require frost protection
  • susceptible to the usual range of citrus pests and diseases including citrus gall wasp (Bruchophagus fellis) that can reduce yield and vigour.

Uses in landscaping:

  • growth form makes finger lime suitable for planting in home gardens and in smaller community gardens
  • plant as a food source
  • plant as a component of mixed orchard
  • understory to taller trees in multi-level orchard or food forest
  • plant as component of Australian bushfood botanical collection
  • in cooler climates, plant on northward-facing (sunward) site.

Notes: The finger limes in the photo are growing near Bellingen in subtropical northern NSW.

PHOTO: Russ Grayson (

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