The following list is reproduced, with permission, from an article in the November & December 2001 issue of 'The Fruit Gardener' published by California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc. It was written by David Karp and originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
It shows the complicated origins of today's mandarins/clementines/tangerines/satsumas. Remember this article concentrates on USA grown varieties. Names can vary in different countries, and citrus taxonomy is not universally agreed. See 'A bit of Botany'.
                     The Most Common Mandarins in 2001
Lineages are complicated, so each variety's direct parentage is included. King tangor x Willowleaf, for example, is a cross between a King tangor and a Willowleaf mandarin.  Early season generally means October to December, midseason January and February, and late season March to August. However, mandarins mature earliest in the desert,  later in the Central Valley and much later in coastal areas.

Clementine (Algerian).  A group name, embracing many varieties; parentage mostly mandarin  with some sweet orange; may have originated in North Africa in late 19th century.  Algerian variety introduced to California 1914.  Medium-small to medium; rind deep orange to red-orange, smooth, glossy, peels easily; flesh tender, flavor mild to rich, depending on variety and maturity, Algerian seedy; new varieties mostly seedless when not cross-pollinated; early to early midseason.  Most important mandarin in the Mediterranean; imports from Spain to the U.S. surged in recent years.

Dancy.  Old Florida variety, originated from a seedling planted in 1867.  Medium, oblate or necked; rind dark orange-red, smooth, thin, peels easily; pulp deep orange, with rich, spicy flavor, fruit has distinctive rind-oil aroma; seedy; early midseason, holds poorly.  The classic Christmas 'tangerine,' once widely grown in Florida, now mostly replaced by Sunburst.

Encore.  King tangor x Willowleaf, Riverside 1965.  Fairly large, oblate; rind yellow-orange, often marked with dark spots; flesh deep orange, juicy, sweet, rich and sprightly; seedy; late season.  Mottled rind has foreclosed commercial acceptance, despite superb flavor.

Fairchild.  Clementine x Orlando tangelo, Indio 1964.  Medium to medium-small, roundish; rind deep orange, smooth, often hard to peel; flesh orange, juicy, flavor good when ripe; very seedy; early season.  Grown in Coachella; 35% of California mandarin production; now meeting stiff competition from Fallglo and imported Clementines.

Fallglo.  Bower (Clementine x Orlando tangelo) x Temple tangor, Fla. 1987. Large, oblate; rind reddish-orange, thin, smooth, peels easily; seedy. Main early variety in Florida; a poster child for mediocre commercial fruit; often harvested internally immature.

Gold Nugget (Pixielike).  Wilking (Willowleaf x King tangor) x Kincy (King tangor x Dancy), Riverside 1999.  Medium, oblate to round; rind golden orange, moderately pebbly; flesh orange, rich-flavored, seedless; mid to late season, holds well on tree.  Despite Gold Nugget's fine flavor, seedlessness and lateness, growers aren't rushing to plant it because of its relatively pale, coarse rind and reputation for alternate bearing.

Honey.  Name can refer to three varieties, often confused: 1) Murcott, a seedy, very sweet late-season tangor, originated Florida 1913, commercially important there; 2) California Honey, (King tangor x  Willowleaf, described 1943, but never officially released; 3) Kinnow marketed as Honey by Sunkist), King x Willowleaf, Riverside 1935, large, oblate, rind yellow-orange, peels poorly, good flavor, seedy, midseason.

Kara. 0wari satsuma x King mandarin, Riverside 1935.  Medium-large, shape variable, rind deep orange, often bumpy, wrinkled, peels easily; pulp orange, flavor excellent, but tart until fully mature; fairly seedy; late season.  A connoisseurs' favorite, but a commercial flop.

Lee. Clementine x Orlando tangelo, Orlando, Fla. 1959.  Medium, roundish to oblate; rind yellow-orange, smooth, thin, adherent; flesh orange, tender, juicy, and sweet, seedy; early to midseason.  Good quality, but commercially minor.

Page.  Clementine x Minneola tangelo, Orlando, Fla. 1963.  Medium to small, roundish; rind deep orange; flesh tender and juicy, rich and sweet, moderately seedy; midseason.  Fruit resembles a small orange, with superb mandarin flavor.

Pixie.  Open-pollinated seedling of Kincy (King x Dancy mandarins), Riverside 1965.  Small to medium, variable in shape; rind yellow-orange, peels easily; flesh medium-orange, rich; seedless; late season. Grown in Ojai and north San Diego Co., popular at speciality and farmers markets.

Ponkan.  Class of mandarins of ancient origin (from India or China), reached Florida 1892. Large, roundish to moderately oblate, sometimes necked; rind deep orange, medium-thick, very loose; flesh deep orange, tender and melting, slightly dry, sweet and aromatic; seeds few, early midseason.  One of the most tropical mandarins, widely grown in Asia and Brazil; used for canned mandarin oranges in China; a backyard tree in Florida, rare in California.

Satsuma. Name for class of mandarins, origin traced to early 15th century Japan, probably as a seedling of a Chinese mandarin; much cultivated and appreciated in Japan; reached California late 1870s.      Medium-small to medium, roundish to oblate, sometimes necked; rind orange, often bumpy when mature, easy to peel; flesh orange, tender, moderately sweet, sprightly, virtually seedless; early but short  season; doesn't hold on tree.  Most cold-tolerant of commercial citrus.  Main varieties in California: Owari, Okitsu Wase.

Sunburst. Robinson x Osceola (both Clementine x Orlando tangelo), Orlando, Fla. 1979.  Medium, oblate; rind thin, dark orange-red; segment walls tough; flavor lacks richness, often seedy; harvested November to December in Florida, where it's the dominant early mandarin. Looks better than it tastes.

Temecula Sweet.  Satsuma x Ponkan, first fruited in C.T. Lin's Montana greenhouse in 1981. Large, round or necked; rind thick and bumpy; flesh relatively dry but very sweet, similar to Ponkan; seeds few; late season. Proprietary variety, a big hit at Asian and speciality markets in Orange and Los Angeles counties.

W.Murcott Afourer (Marketed as Delite).  Supposed seedling of Murcott tangor, Morocco 1982.  Medium to large, flattish; rind deep orange, slightly pebbly, peels easily; flesh orange, flavor good; seedless when not cross-pollinated; season late. A fine commercial fruit, likely to be popular in future.

page created 28 October 2001
recovered 15 November 2023