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ShrubbySpecies Plant

Triphasia trifolia

Triphasia trifolia

The lime berry or sweet lime, limoncitong kastila (Triphasia trifolia (Burm.f.) P.Wilson, 1909) is a shrub species belonging to the Rutaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Rosidae,
Sapindales Order,
Rutaceae family,
Subfamily Aurantioideae,
Genus Triphasia,
Species T. trifolia.
The term is basionym:
– Limonia trifolia Burm.fil.;
The terms are synonymous:
– Limonia diacantha DC.;
– Limonia retusa D.Don;
– Limonia trifoliata L.;
– Triphasia aurantiola Lour.;
– Triphasia diacantha M.Roem.;
– Triphasia javanica M.Roem.;
– Triphasia trifoliata (L.) DC..

Etymology –
The term Triphasia comes from the Greek τριφάσιος, triphásios, i.e. threefold, in reference to the floral parts of the plant.
The specific epithet trifolia comes from the two Latin terms tres, i.e. three and folium, ii, i.e. leaf, in reference to the leaves which are composed of three leaflets.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Triphasia trifolia is a plant native to tropical southeast Asia especially the Indonesian islands and the Philippines and perhaps elsewhere, where the plant has been cultivated for a long time, it is not known in a truly natural situation.
Its habitat is that of arid lands, in woods at low altitudes and along the exposed cliffs of the island of Guam.

Description –
Triphasia trifolia is a plant that grows in the form of an evergreen, thorny shrub and rarely as a small tree, erect, much branched, and which grows in height up to about 3 m and, occasionally, up to 7 meters.
The branches are equipped with pairs of thin, straight thorns, 3-16 mm long, in the axils of the leaves.
The leaves are composed of three leaflets, therefore they are trifoliate, of a shiny dark green colour; each leaflet is 2–4 cm long and 1.5–2 cm wide.
The flowers have three petals; they are carried on a 3-5 mm long peduncle, solitary or in groups of 2-3, hermaphrodites, green calyx, about 2 mm long, with 3 triangular lobes, corolla with 3 oblong free petals with rounded retroflexed apex, white, 1-1.3 cm long and 0.4-0.5 cm wide, 6 stamens, three-lobed ovary, with one ovule per locule, and style with three-lobed stigma; these give off a scent similar to that of orange blossoms.
The fruit is a hesperidium, ovoid in shape, initially green in colour, then from orange-red to dark red when ripe, edible, 10-15 mm in diameter, similar to a small citrus fruit; It has a fleshy pulp, with a flavor reminiscent of lime and slightly sweet. The peel (epicarp) is thin and dotted with tiny oil glands.

Cultivation –
Triphasia trifolia is a plant that is cultivated for its edible fruit and has been widely introduced into other subtropical and tropical regions of the world; it has naturalized on numerous islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean. It has also been noted as potentially invasive in several Indian Ocean archipelagos and along the U.S. Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas, as well as in the Caribbean.
This plant has gained some popularity as a bonsai plant. In fact, due to its rather slow growth, it is well suited to cultivation in pots or for bonsai.
This rutaceae is more tropical than some citrus fruits so it must be kept in a greenhouse even in many places where other citrus fruits thrive, such as lemon and orange). In tropical locations it may have some potential for commercial fruit production.
This plant has been cultivated since ancient times, especially in the tropics and subtropical areas.
It is a fairly hardy plant, capable of surviving light, short-term frost, but must be protected from longer frosts or hard frosts.
Cultivation can be attempted in milder temperate-warm regions, where it can withstand temperatures just below 0 °C for a short period, but with not excessively humid winters. In some areas, as mentioned, however, it has escaped cultivation, becoming naturalized and in some cases becoming highly invasive, thanks to its versatility, forming impenetrable patches that suffocate pre-existing vegetation.
It grows in sunny or partially shaded areas.
From a pedological point of view, it prefers a medium-textured substrate rich in organic substance; it also prefers dry soil.
It grows in calcareous soils but it is preferable that the pH is between 5 and 6; furthermore it is intolerant to water stagnation, strongly detesting winter humidity. However, it is a plant with notable adaptability to different types of soil, from acidic to alkaline, from semi-arid to humid, as long as it is perfectly draining, not tolerating water stagnation, and exposure, being able to live indifferently both in rocky areas in full sun and in the undergrowth of humid forests.
The plant produces suckers and tends to dilate.
In some areas it has escaped cultivation and has naturalized on many Pacific islands, where it can form dense, almost impenetrable forests in the undergrowth.
The plant can flower and produce fruit throughout much of the year.
Reproduction can take place by seed which must be planted as quickly as possible, as it does not have a long duration of germination, in a perfectly draining and aerated sandy substrate, kept humid at a temperature of 24-26 °C. In these conditions germination times are 3-4 weeks.
It can also be propagated by cuttings and layering.

Customs and Traditions –
Triphasia trifolia is a plant known by various common names, such as: limeberry, myrtle lime, orange berry, trifoliate lime berry (English); orangine, petite citronelle (French); kalamansito, sua-sua (Philippines); chini naranghi (India); jeruk kingkip (Indonesia); limau kiah (Malaysia); baya lima, lemoncito, limoncito, limón de china, (Spanish); manao-thet (Thailand); kim quít (Vietnam).
This plant, widely cultivated since ancient times and naturalized in several tropical and subtropical countries, has various local uses, providing food, medicines and various materials. It is widely cultivated in tropical areas especially as an ornamental and hedge plant, but also for its edible fruits.
Furthermore, the leaves of the plant are known to have antimicrobial properties contained within the chemical component of the flowers. Therefore, there have been cases in the North Pacific Islands where the plant has been consumed to treat lung cancer and pneumonia. However, further studies are needed to make a definitive claim regarding its medicinal uses.
However, this tree is considered invasive in other places where it has been introduced.
In fact, both for its shiny compact foliage, the fragrant flowering, which is almost continuous, and the red edible fruits, it has been introduced in various tropical and subtropical countries, where it is mainly used for borders, both formal and informal, and hedges, including defensive ones for presence of thorns.
The fruit can be eaten raw, candied, pickled or used to prepare drinks, jellies, and jams. Leaves and fruits are used in the traditional medicine of several Southeast Asian countries; Laboratory studies have highlighted a high antioxidant power in the essential oils extracted from the aerial parts of the plant.
Among other uses, it is reported that the plant is used as a rootstock for various Citrus species.
The red fruit is used as a nail colorant.
The leaves are used as an aromatic bath or as cosmetics; they are also used to prepare aromatic bath salts.
A good glue can be made from young fruits.
Rubber can exude from the trunk, but its use is not mentioned.
The wood is extremely hard and is often used to make coconut husking poles in Guam.
It is also an excellent fuel from which good coal is also obtained.
In agroforestry use the plant has thorny stems and is sometimes grown as a hedge, especially in the tropics. It makes an excellent, impenetrable hedge, but should be placed where it is relatively easy to deal with any unwanted shoots.

Preparation Method –
Triphasia trifolia is a plant of which all parts are aromatic. The white flowers exude an orange blossom scent.
The leaves are covered in pellucid spots and release a resinous scent when crushed.
The fruits smell of lemon.
Among the edible uses, both raw and cooked fruits are consumed.
The fruits, when fully ripe, have a sweet and pleasant flavour; however, they are pleasant if consumed in small quantities, but become mucilaginous and astringent on the palate in larger quantities.
They are aromatic, juicy and somewhat mucilaginous; however the fruits can also be marinated or transformed into jams, marmalades, etc.
In the medicinal field, the leaves are used and applied to the body in the treatment of diarrhea, colic and skin diseases.
Freshly crushed leaves are applied to the scalp to cure dandruff.
The fruit is cooked with sugar in water as a remedy for coughs and to dissolve phlegm.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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