Do Lemon Trees Have Thorns?

If you are used to having trees and plants that lack thorns, you would be surprised to hear that lemon trees do have thorns. It is actually a typical character of lemon trees. 

Almost all lemon trees have thorns on their branches. But, genetically enhanced lemon trees have fewer thorns with some even lacking thorns altogether!

Find out what influences the presence or absence of thorns on lemon trees and the thorn frequency on various lemon trees. 

Do All Lemon Trees Have Thorns?

Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, not all lemon trees have thorns! There are different lemon tree variants and some have undergone genetic modification.

How have they been modified? To exclude thorns of course! Yes, this is possible. 

In fact, the popular Eureka lemon tree variant is one that almost lacks thorns due to genetic modifications. The reason for this is many gardeners would rather have a thorn-free lemon tree than risk injury.

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Why Do Lemon Trees Have Thorns? 

Many people who didn’t know that lemon trees have thorns may also ask why they have these structures.

These trees have thorns for the same reason why porcupines have their quills. They are solely for protection to ward off predators.

What predators does a lemon tree have?

Actually, there are a few animals and birds that would like to attack your lemon tree and its fruits. Possums, bush rats, jackrabbits, roof rats, and snails are a few pests you have to be wary of when growing lemon trees. 

But, luckily lemon trees do mount a defense. Thorns can inhibit these larger animal pests to some extent.

It is believed thorns are an evolutionary measure used by the lemons to survive among animals that eat its leaves. 

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Factors Contributing to Presence of Thorns on Lemon Trees 

All true lemon trees have thorns. But, the presence or absence of thorns, as well as the frequency of thorns, is greatly influenced by a few factors.

Lemon Tree Type 

The type of lemon tree you plan on planting will play a role in deciding if the lemon tree develops thorns or not. Some but not all lemon trees have thorns on their branches. 

Thorns are a natural adaptation to deter animals from eating the leaves, fruits, and damaging the lemon tree.

Nowadays, most but not all lemon trees have thorns since they don’t really need them. Through cross-breeding, thorns can undergo great reduction.

This is understandable for lemon trees that grow in the wild or anywhere where pests may find them. However, thorns are not something that gardeners will be excited about. 

Apart from posing a risk to people who prune or harvest lemons, they may also damage the fruit by pricking them accidentally! In turn, this may also introduce opportunities for fungi and bacteria to infect the fruit. 

For this reason, genetically enhanced lemon trees lacking thorns have been cross-bred. These cultivars might not have all the desirable characteristics you are looking for.

These modified variants may come with a compromise in terms of flavor and fruit output.

Lemon Tree Variants

These are a few true and crossed lemon tree types that you can grow. We’ve mentioned if they have thorns and the number of thorns they have on their branches. 

  • Cocktail Lemon Tree

Cocktail lemon trees are a combination between a lemon tree and a lime tree. They taste like what a Meyer lemon and a key lime would taste like when mixed. 

Given the fact that lime trees also have thorns, this tree does have a few thorns. But given the tree’s pint-like size, dodging the obstacles will be possible! 

  • Dwarf Eureka Lemon Tree

As the name suggests, this lemon tree is a dwarf variant and one that is low maintenance with a height of around 6 feet.

This makes it a popular lemon tree that people plant in pots. That said, you can just bring it indoors during winter instead of winter-proofing it. 

The best feature of Eureka lemon trees is that they are modern cultivars that have near to no thorns! This makes it safe enough for even inexperienced gardeners to grow. 

  • Bearss Lemon Tree 

Bearss lemons are known to stand out from the rest with their tangy (more acidic than most) lemons which are very juicy. Because of this, they are used to make beverages and used in baking as well. 

If you dread thorns, the Bearss lemon tree may just be for you. It grows very few thorns and you can easily maneuver between them without chances or thorn pricks.  

  • Ponderosa Lemon Tree

Ponderosa lemon trees are another public favorite with their small size and larger than regular lemon fruits. They are particularly popular for their rough bumpy skin and odd shape. These lemons may be yellow or slightly green in color.

Since it is a cultivar, it doesn’t have as many thorns as a true lemon. But, it still does have a few of the pesky structures on its branches!

Not too many to dissuade you from planting this tree though so don’t worry. Ponderosa lemons are very acidic and may need steaming to convert some of the acids to sugars. 

  • Meyer Lemon Tree

The Meyer lemon tree is actually a cross between a citron and a mandarin or pomelo. This leads to a yellow lemon fruit that is oddly ‘rounder’ than a lemon should be. The fruits are also less acidic and slightly sweeter than others. 

Meyer lemon trees do have many thorns on branches while young. However, these may further develop into secondary branches as the tree matures. 

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Rootstock is the very end portion of a tree/plant to which a root system is already present. The technique of grafting is widespread in lemon tree growth and lemon production. 

In this technique, a scion (upper stem) is grafted onto a rootstock (lower stem with established roots).

The reason for using this method is that it helps a plant with desirable qualities grow faster. This is because the root system is resistant to pests, frost, and drought.

Rootstock stems do have a lot of thorns and quite big thorns! Fortunately, the scion has fewer thorns and smaller thorns as well. Lemon trees grown from a thorny rootstock may inhibit this characteristic while growing. 

But, there is space for this to vary! Clipping off the thorns from the rootstock during the grafting process.

Doing this will not damage the chances of successful grafting while it may help in limiting the number of long thorns.     

Canopy Sprouts

Technically canopy sprouts are not thorns but these structures may become sharp and thorn-like. These structures actually occur as a result of stress, over-pruning, drought, disease, etc. 

Removal of canopy sprouts is very important for a range of reasons. Here’s why you should get rid of canopy sprouts:

  • These canopy sprouts could use up too much of the lemon tree’s energy and food resources.
  • Potentially harmful when they become sharp and high in number. 
  • Canopy sprouts are long and thin, thus providing an easy entrance to pests and disease. 
  • Resources could cease reaching more important parts due to the presence of the canopy sprouts.  

Are Lemon Tree Thorns Poisonous? 

No, lemon tree thorns are not poisonous at all. Their pricks are not lethal in any way. But, that does not mean it is harmless either! 

The thorn prick can still be infected with microorganisms, resulting in an infection. 

However, swift action and proper attention can help if a thorn has found its way into your finger.

What to do if you get Pricked by a Lemon Tree Thorn?

If you accidentally get pricked by a lemon tree thorn you should address and cover the prick wound immediately.

This involves washing the pricked area with soap and water to disinfect it. Then, dry the area and place a band-aid over it to avoid contact with harmful pathogens. 

Keep an eye on the prick for the next day or two till it has healed completely. 


Lemon trees do have thorns! But if you look around, you will find a few lemon tree variants that hardly have any thorns. These variants are easier to take care of without the fear of getting a thorn prick.

While common lemon trees have thorns, the dwarf Eureka lemon tree is one that has considerably fewer or even no thorns on its branches! This is because genetic modification eliminates or suppresses genes.  

Notice a color change in your lemon tree leaves? Read all the reasons and solutions to lemon tree leaves turning brown. 


Do all lemon trees have thorns?

Almost all true lemon trees have thorns. This mostly includes those that are not cross-bred with genetically enhanced lemon cultivars. An example of a near-thornless lemon tree cultivar is the Dwarf Eureka lemon tree. 

Do Meyer lemon trees have thorns?

Yes, Meyer lemon trees do have thorns. But, the good news is that later on with time, these thorns may eventually become secondary branches. Thereby reducing the number of thorns on the tree’s branches.