Prior to my visit to Sicily in June 2009, I tried very hard to obtain a list of the citrus species and varieties growing in the Palermo garden. On the internet there are mentions of a historic citrus collection, and in particular one of the earliest European specimens of the Mandarin, Citrus deliciosa, but my e-mails direct to the garden - and several staff members of Palermo University - brought no response.
Orto botanico di Palermo
Founded in the late sixteenth century, the Palermo Botanic Garden is an oasis of calm and shade covering over 10 hectares (26 acres) quite near the city centre.
Here, for instance, is an ancient Dragon Tree, endemic to the Canary Islands, and the recently re-planted cactus garden. An English language guide book and map is available.
The historic citrus collection is in the westernmost corner of the garden, in two rows running parallel to Via Lincoln and Via Archirafi. There are also groups of citrus trees in other areas of the
These clickable label photos are of the notable citrus plants in the gardens, but by no means the whole collection - some required a little cleaning to remove bird droppings!
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for available pictures & information about that plant, species or variety
garden, notably two rows of old grapefruit trees and a small lemon grove. The guide books and maps of the garden mention the very early European example of Citrus deliciosa, but it was unclear to me exactly which tree they referred to. Strangely, I found no specimens of Citrus medica - the Citron, or Cedro in Italian - which is a Sicilian speciality. In the 'Engler System' section, there were a couple of small Poncirus trifoliata plants and several trees of the citrus relative Clausena excavata.
Propagation from these old varieties continues. I found an area where plants had been recently grafted and each labelled with a numbered tag. These could have been for the gardens own use, or for future sale.
Can anyone give more information?
some still under construction
page edited 26 July 2009
I would like to have further information about the citrus varieties in the collection, and when, and from where they were introduced.The only detailed list I have found dates back to 1899 and is a monograph in Italian from the 'Bolletino del R. Orto Botanico di Palermo' by the then head gardener Vincenzo Riccobono. A copy exists in the library at London's Natural History Museum, but I was also sent photocopies by the library at The University of Pavia near Milan. I have made them available for download here.
There is also an interesting research paper about the genetics of some of the old varieties in the garden. It can be downloaded at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/11263504.2011.557101.