Does a Lemon Tree Have Thorns? What About Other Citruses?

Does a Lemon Tree Have Thorns? What About Other Citruses?

When planting new trees in your garden, it’s always wise to know if they’re easy to work with and handle. The last thing you need is to end up with bleeding fingers because they’re covered in prickly thorns! 

Growing a lemon tree is a great way to make your garden look more beautiful, but have you ever wondered if this citrus tree grows thorns?

The answer might surprise you! Read our guide to find out if lemon trees have thorns, as well as if other types of citrus trees do. We’ll also look at how to prune your lemon tree so that you keep it healthy.  

Do Lemon Trees Have Thorns?

Do Lemon Trees Have Thorns?

Lemon trees have thorns, which are also present in all citrus trees. These thorns grow at the nodes on the stem and usually appear on new grafts and fruiting wood. Sometimes, citrus trees outgrow their thorns, which is why you might never have noticed thorns on lemon trees before. 

Lemon trees have thorns to protect them against predators who want to steal their fruit or eat their leaves. Since younger trees are more fragile and susceptible to attacks from predators, they will usually contain thorns. As the tree grows and matures, it becomes stronger and therefore doesn’t need to have thorns anymore. 

There are various types of predators that try to eat the lemons or leaves on lemon trees, such as jackrabbits and roof rats. 

Besides giving your lemon tree a chance to fight off predators, thorns also help the lemon tree to maintain more moisture. They can trap some moisture and drip it towards the base of the plant, although this is only achieved to a small degree. 

Different lemon tree varieties have different quantities of thorns on them. For example, true lemon trees contain sharp thorns around their twigs, while some hybrid varieties don’t have any thorns on them. An example of a lemon tree variety that’s almost completely thornless is the Dwarf Eureka Lemon tree. Since it doesn’t contain many thorns, it can be safely kept in the home and won’t pose any danger to pets and small children. 

Although the thorns on a lemon tree don’t contain anything harmful or irritating to the skin, such as sap, they can prick, and if they contain bacteria or soil on them, their scratches can cause infections, so always protect your hands and arms with gardening gloves before tending to your citrus trees.

In addition, some people scratched by a lemon tree thorn have experienced itching, which can be an allergic reaction or contact dermatitis that occurs in response to the lemon tree oil. This could provide you with a good reason why you should cut off a lemon tree’s thorns. But is this always a good idea?  

Should You Prune Citrus Tree Thorns? 

Should You Prune Citrus Tree Thorns? 

If your citrus tree is producing lots of thorns, you might wonder if you should prune them or leave them alone. The good news is that the citrus tree thorns don’t interfere with the fruit production of the tree, which means you can remove them if you like, such as if the lemon tree is planted near a walkway where its thorns could be dangerous to people passing by.

However, if you want to remove thorns from your lemon tree, make sure you don’t do this on a young tree, as it still requires its thorns to protect it from predators while it’s still in a delicate phase of growth.

But if you have a grafted lemon tree, what you think are branches with thorns could actually be suckers. These grow below the graft on the tree. You want to remove them because they can cause the fruit tree to stop producing lemons.

Suckers can be found in the lower parts of the tree. The bud union, which is the grafting stock, looks a bit like a swollen bud on the tree. To remove suckers, use sharp pruning shears and cut the sucker as close to the tree’s branch as you can. You should remove suckers as soon as you see them so that you avoid wounding the tree by removing them when they’ve matured. 

If you really want to remove thorns from your lemon tree, you should avoid removing all of them if the tree has lots of them growing on its branches. This is because you could accidentally injure the plant. Thorn removal provides no real benefit to the tree, so spending time doing so is pointless. 

You should use a sharp pruning tool to remove thorns from your lemon tree. Simply snip them off. Make sure you sanitize the tool before using it on your tree, as this will prevent you from spreading infections and diseases from other plants in your garden to your lemon tree.

On the topic of pruning your fruit tree, make sure you do other pruning to keep your lemon tree in healthy shape. This involves the following tasks: 

  • Cutting away any diseased or dead branches from the tree. 
  • Cutting back branches that are growing leggy or outwards from the tree. 
  • Thinning branches overlap each other, as this helps to improve the tree’s access to light and air. 
  • Don’t cut too much! You shouldn’t prune more than one-third of your lemon tree annually. You can, however, cut back your lemon tree drastically if the tree is struggling to grow. For example, if it’s suffered from curling leaves that have led to more serious problems with the tree. This will reset it and help it to heal. 

If you have an indoor lemon tree, you should prune it regularly to maintain its compact, beautiful shape. You can prune it by shortening any new growth to about half its length. Try to always cut above a leaf. 

What Other Citrus Trees Have Thorns?

What Other Citrus Trees Have Thorns?

It’s not just lemon trees that have thorns on them. Here’s a rundown of other types of common citrus trees and their thorns. 

Orange trees

These citrus trees do have thorns, but many modern varieties are grown to be thornless or have flexible thorns that are located around their leaves. Orange producers have specifically grown orange trees with fewer thorns for consumption and selling.

Generally, one of the most common orange tree varieties that grow thorns is the Trifoliate orange. It has large thorny branches that work well to create natural landscape barriers in your garden. However, just like with lemon trees, orange trees tend to grow thorns when they’re young and outgrow them as they mature. 

Lime trees

These trees do have small thorns on them, but not all lime trees will develop strong, prickly thorns. For example, kaffir limes have one-inch long spines that appear on the branches under clusters of their leaves, while key lime trees are smaller and, therefore, more difficult to spot – although they are sharp, so you have to be careful! 

Grapefruit trees

With short and bendable thorns, grapefruit trees don’t pose much of a nuisance with their thorns. The thorns on different grapefruit tree varieties can be around one to three inches in length.

They can also have different spacing between them, depending on the tree. The quantity of thorns that appear on seedlings is dependent on factors such as inherited genes. Some mutations won’t have any thorns. 


The pomelo tree has dark-green leaves and white flowers, but it also produces sharp, long thorns along its branches. This thorny tree boasts many fruits and branches that appear on it throughout the year. 


Even though kumquat can produce thorns like other citrus trees, generally, it doesn’t have thorns. If you’ve noticed some thorns growing on your kumquat tree, these “thorns” appearing on young trees are not real. They’re structures on the tree that serves to protect its fruit.  


If you’ve ever wondered if lemon trees have thorns, after reading this article, you now know that they do. However, not all types of lemon trees will display thorns.

Although you might be tempted to choose a lemon tree variety that doesn’t have thorns on it, trees with thorns are better protected against predators that can spoil your lemon harvest.

You can remove the thorns on your lemon tree, such as if it’s very thorny and a danger to pets or young children, but you can also leave the thorns alone. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you remove suckers on the tree that can appear to be thorns but drain the tree of its resources. 

About The Author

Gina Harper grew up dreaming about farms and growing her own food. She began an urban garden to feed herself and turned it into an incredible hobby. Gina is here to teach you everything from raised beds to container gardening, how to keep plants alive and well in a smoggy city, and the works. It’s time that we carve our own piece of green earth and reap what we sow—she’s here to help you with that.