Mandarin Orange and Tangerine Varieties

Tangerines in basket1

Tangerines in basketSay mandarin orange and you are describing a large and diverse group of citrus varieties and hybrids that vary from very sweet to tart and from egg-sized small to medium grapefruit-sized large.

The one thing that mandarin oranges have in common is that their peel or skin easily pulls away from their flesh and their segments are easily separated.

Mandarins—the majority of which are smaller and squatter than most oranges–have less acid than oranges, and generally contain more water and less sugar than oranges.

Mandarins vary in color from orange to deep, nearly reddish orange. Those with the deepest red-orange peels are often called tangerines.

The earliest ripening mandarin oranges and their hybrids are ready in early winter. The mandarin season extends from early winter into summer—with the harvest divided into early, midseason and late.

Here’s a roundup of the most notable mandarin orange varieties and their hybrids and when you will find them at the farm market:

Clementine or Algerian Tangerine. Juicy, sweet, mild to rich flavor, excellent taste. Medium-small to medium sized and usually seedless flesh. Rind is deep orange to orange-red, smooth and glossy. Peels easily. Ripens late fall into winter: December, January and February. Originated and grown in North Africa and grown extensively in California since 1914.

Dancy or Dancy Tangerine. Rich, spicy flavor. Dark orange-red, smooth, thin rind. Peels easily. Flesh is deep orange. Smaller than other mandarins and seedy. The traditional Christmas “tangerine.” Ripens fall into winter: December and January. Best when grown in desert regions. First planted in Florida in 1867.

Encore. Delicious sweet-tart taste. Juicy, sweet, rich and spicy flavor. Pulp is deep orange and seedy. Yellow-orange rind mottled with dark spots. Ripens spring into summer. The last mandarin to ripen: March, April and May.

Fremont. Rich, sweet fruit and seedy. Medium-size with bright orange rind. Ripens early, fall into winter.

Honey or Murcott. Wonderfully sweet tangerine flavor and juicy. Very small and seedy. Yellow-orange rind, peels poorly. Midseason maturing winter into spring.

Kara. Sweet-tart, sprightly, aromatic flavor with varying seediness. Large fruit to 2½ inches (6.5 cm) in diameter. Ripens winter into spring: March and April. Will be tart if grown near the coast.

Kinnow. Very sweet and fragrant with seedy fruit. Somewhat hard to peel. Midseason, ripens winter to early spring: January through April. Grown best in very hot regions.

Mediterranean or Willow Leaf. Sweet, flavorful, aromatic and juicy. Yellow-orange rind, smooth and glossy. A few seeds. Midseason, ripens in spring.

Pixie. Mild, sweet and seedless fruit. Medium-orange flesh with yellow-orange rind. Easy-to-peel. Ripens late. Grows well in intermediate and coastal areas.

Ponkan or Chinese Honey Mandarin. Of ancient origins in India or China. Very sweet and aromatic, somewhat dry. Flesh and rind are deep orange. Few seeds. Ripens early: December and January. Widely grown in Asia and Brazil. Ripens early.

Satsuma. Called Unshiu in Japan. Moderately sweet, sprightly flavor. Seedless with loose skin, peels easily. Medium-small to medium sized fruits. Rind and flesh are orange. Ripens very early: November and December. Ripens well in low summer heat regions. Cultivars include ‘Owari’, ‘Dobashi Beni’, ‘Okitsu Wase’, and ‘Kimbrough’.

Wilking. Rich flavor and juicy. Deep yellow-orange rind with rich yellow-orange flesh. Medium sized. Ripens in midseason: January-April. Grow well in cooler areas.

Mandarin Orange Hybrids:

There are several mandarin orange hybrids:

Tangelo. Hybrid between a mandarin and a grapefruit. There are two notable varieties: ‘Minneola’ is bright orange-red and has a distinctive neck. It has a rich, tart flavor tangerine flavor when picked late and some seeds. Early to midseason: December through February. ‘Orlando’ has small fruit with mild, sweet flavor and is seedy. Ripens early to midseason: November through January. A third tangelo, ‘Sampson’ has grapefruit like flavor. Ripens midseason to late: February through April.

Tangor. Hybrid between a mandarin and a sweet orange. Cultivars include ‘Murcott’ which is sweet and seedy and ripens in winter: January and February. This cultivar is marketed under the name “honey tangerine.” ‘Ortanique’ is sweet, juicy. Orange, slightly pebbled rind with a distinct neck. Some seeds. Ripens midseason: January to March. ‘Temple’ is rich and spicey sweet to tart. Orange to red-orange rind and seedy. Ripens midseason, winter to spring: January to April.

Ambersweet. Cross between a ‘Clementine’ mandarin and an ‘Orlando’ tangelo and a sweet orange. Juicy and seedy. Slightly pear shaped and pebbly. Easy to peel. Ripens fall into winter: October through December.

Fairchild. Cross between ‘Clementine’ mandarin and ‘Orlando’ tangelo. Rich flavored, juicy and sweet especially when very ripe. Orange flesh. Medium to medium-small and round. Red-orange rind that is somewhat difficult to peel. Ripens in winter.

Fallglo. Cross between a mandarin and the ‘Temple’ tangor. Juicy, tart and very seedy. Reddish-orange, thin, smooth rind which peels easily. Ripens early: October and November.

Gold Nugget. Cross between ‘Wilking’ and tangor. Rich flavor. Medium oblong to round shape with golden orange pebbly rind. Flesh is orange and seedless. Ripens mid to late season. Introduced in 1999.

Lee. Cross between a ‘Clementine’ and Orlando tangelo. Tender, juicy and sweet. Medium-size, round to oblong with yellow-orange rind that is smooth and thin. Seedy. Best flavor in hot regions. Ripens fall to winter: October through December.

Nova. Cross between ‘Clementine’ and ‘Orlando’. Juicy and very sweet. Medium-sized, orange, pebbly rind. Pulp is deep orange. Ripens fall into winter: November and December.

Page. Cross between ‘Clementine’ and ‘Minneola’ tangelo. Small, sweet and juicy with few seeds. Orange rind that can be tough to peel. Ripens fall into winter: November through January.

Robinson. Hybrid between ‘Clementine’ and ‘Orlando’. Mile to very sweet flavor and seedy. Yellow to yellow-orange skin that is smooth and glossy. Ripens in fall: October through December.

Sunburst. Cross between ‘Robinson’ and ‘Osceola’. Sweet complex flavor with an undertone of grapefruit. Large, sweet, red-orange fruit with smooth skin. Easy to peel. Some seeds. Ripens late fall: November and December.

Wekiwa. Also called ‘Lavender Gem’ or pink tangelo. Cross between a tangelo and a grapefruit. The size of a small grapefruit. Juicy, mild, sweet; the flesh can be purplish rose in hot climates. Ripens late fall into winter: December through February.

Sour-Acid Mandarin Hybrids:

Calamondin. Cross between mandarin and a kumquat. Very small, orange edible rind. Flesh is juicy and zesty tart with some seeds.

Rangpur. Also called Rangpur lime (but it’s not a lime). Less acid than a lemon. Used as a base for punches and mixed drinks. Peels like a mandarin.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.


Comments are closed.
  1. I live in Northern California and have not seen Florida honey tangerines in the markets anywhere. I heard growers will not pay the added expense of certifying them fly-free. Where can I purchase honey tangerines? The Mexican honey tangerine (seedless) does not compare in taste with the Florida honey’s (seeds). I think California honey’s season is in the spring. I literally consume hundreds of honey tangerines.

    • Honey Tangerine is the market name used by Florida growers for the Murcott tangerine. You can buy Murcott trees in California and you should find Murcotts at farmers’ markets in season. Check at your nearby farmers’ market or farm stand for Murcott tangerines.

    • The Florida Honey Tangerine along with most of the Florida citrus crop has been decimated by “HLB or greening disease.
      The tangerine varieties have been the hardest hit. Only 20 percent of the Honey Tangerines remain from just a few years ago.
      However, you will find Honey Tangerines of the same exact variety that grow in Florida being imported in the summer into California markets. You will see them from mid August to Mid November.

  2. We had let our youngest have a mandarin, and after peeling it we found large spots of red inside the flesh of the fruit. We threw it out not knowing what it was, and gave him a different one. Which was normal looking. Can you tell me what the red spots are, and how they got there?

    • Was the mandarin from your garden? It is possible that the fruit is a hybrid the result of cross-pollination between a neighboring orange (for example a blood orange) and the mandarin in your garden. If this is not the case, you might want to take a similar fruit to the plant experts at your nearby cooperative extension or a nearby college. The botanists will likely want to know what other citrus trees grow near your mandarin.

        • Cross-pollination between two different varieties can affect the color of fruit and its flesh. The flesh can be lighter or darker in color reflecting the flesh color of the parent plants.

  3. I just purchased some mandarin oranges at the store. They were marketed as “red skin mandarin oranges”. They did not have any seeds, were very sweet, and peeled very easily. They had almost a blood orange color on the inside. They are also large in size. I don’t see any of the descriptions that you list below as matches. What do you think these might be?

    • Ruby Tango is a new type of hybrid mandarin with red flesh similar to a blood orange. Ruby Tango is large and mostly orange on the outside, peels fairly easily and is sweet, juicy, and seedless.

  4. All very nice but considering all the wonderful information I have yet to find a varied list of information on the very best way ripen mandarins and maintain the best flavor and juice.
    Bought in the stores, generally, they are bloody hard and barely pealable

    • Citrus fruits do not ripen like other tree fruits. Citrus fruits, according to researchers at the University of Texas, pass from immature to mature and finally to an over mature condition while remaining on the tree; these changes are slow and spread over several months. Tasting picked fruit is the only way to truly know how sweet or bitter it is. Fruit color is a poor indication of ripeness, because many fruits have fully colored rinds long before they can be eaten and some fruit are green when the sugars are high enough to make a delicious tasting citrus. Citrus fruits do not increase in sweetness or ripen more fully once they have been picked–the only change you can expect is for the fruit to decay or to slowly dry out.

      • Hi, citrus fruits are what is called non-climacteric fruit. They need t be picked and eaten when they are ripe. Once picked they begin to deteriorate because they don’t ripen after being picked. Climacteric fruit do continue to ripen after being picked, like bananas and avocados. If you search on those terms you will be rewarded with useful information. I had a terrible time with pineapples because I didn’t know about climacteric and non climacteric fruit and seldom found a good pineapple. Now I know why.

    • Yes, Satsuma tangerine is a good grower in Florida. Also good choices are Sunburst and Murcott also called Honey Tangerine. Tangelos good to grow in Florida include Orlando and Mineola.

  5. I gave several semi dwarf mandarin trees- pixie, clementine, Owari satsuma, Tahoe gold and gold nugget. Will they all cross pollinate and have flavor changes?

    • If the trees are close together and easy for pollinators to visit sequentially, then yes cross-pollination will occur. You are not likely to experience flavor changes in the short run–that might take several years. However, soon after cross-pollination fruits will become increasingly seedy.

  6. The best tangerines I’ve ever had came from my in-laws’ tree in their yard. I want one just like it, but they don’t know what kind it is and are worried that the tree is too old to give a cutting that would take well. With so many possibilities, I don’t know that I can confidently identify it based on these descriptions; what’s a good way to get an ID based on a picture of the tree or its fruit?

    • Take the fruit and a leaf or two to the nearby cooperative extension or university agriculture department; there should be an expert on staff that can help. If you have a mature fruit, you can harvest and plant the seed. Start the seed indoors and grow it on to size, a foot or so before transplanting to the outdoors next spring. The seed may (or may not) grow true to the parent plant.

    • I am not familiar with a mandarin variety called poma. If you have purchased a mandarin labeled poma then you might want to speak more with the seller or grower to determine its origin. The word poma is the plural form of the Latin word pomum which means “fruit.” If you saw the words poma and mandarin together it would simply mean “mandarin fruits.” If a friend told you they were growing poma mandarins my guess would be that they are using a local term for a mandarin that they may not know the actual origin–or variety.

  7. The Ruby Tango Mandarin Orange is a blood orange x Tango Mandarin so the fruit are easy peal blood tangerines.
    available in February in certain organic markets. They are completely seedless but I plan on trying to find a seed again this year. These trees are available in Europe under the name Mandared from Tintori and Lubera. The unavailability of a tree for sale in California puts our entire Citrus Industry at risk as people will smuggle diseased budwood into the country to fill the demand. Obviously someone is growing these commercially in California like the “SUMO” you cannot buy a tree.

  8. What is the best variety to go on the NorthCoast of California? Fortuna Ca. specifically. I really like satsumas but I also need it to be a dwarf tree as the yard is small. Thanks for your help.

    • Mandarins that will grow well in cooler regions include the Satsuma and Clementine. Grow your mandarin in a spot that gets 8 to 10 hours of sun each day. A south or west facing spot is best; a location near a building or fence will help the plant stay warm at night; solar heat collected by the fence or building will radiate out to the tree at night. Mandarins grow well in cooler regions of Northern California; you may be interested in this link to the mandarin growers in the Sierra foothills:

  9. I live in the Los Angeles area and have a tangerine tree that is being cut down as I type this comment. I speculate that the tree was planted in the front landscape around the time the house was built around 1937-38. The tree stopped fruiting from its upper branches 4 years ago. Those tangerines looked and smelled like tangerines, but was somewhat difficult to peel and was sometimes seedy. It was juicy, tasting between a tangerine and an orange…….A sucker sprouted up from the base of the tree and sprouted lemon-like sour fruit. They look and taste entirely different from my tangerines (pebbly bumpy surface, large, yellow-orangish color). About 12 feet away, I planted a semi dwarf lemon tree. An arborist told me that the tangerine tree was old and needed to be cut down. I resisted because the tree was with us all that time and I’m sentimental. So I’m pretty sad to see it go……. I was wondering, from my description of the tangerine tree, can you tell me what type it was? I want to replace it with the same type, if possible.

    • Determining the variety of a citrus tree–or a fruit tree–planted 80 years or so ago may be difficult. Plant breeders are constantly trying to improve citrus and fruit trees. New cultivars (cultivated varieties) are introduced often and older varieties simply fade away. To determine which varieties of citrus were growing in your area years ago, get in touch with a heritage fruit growers association or club or contact the nearby cooperative extension and ask to speak to a citrus expert. Here is a link to the California Rare Fruit Growers; they should have a chapter in your area. crfg

  10. I have a tangerine tree that has faithfully given me sweet, juicy tangerines. That is up until last year and this year.
    The fruit appears slightly earlier and is hard, round and bitter. What happened? What do I need to do?
    I’m in the Southern California region.

    • When tangerines turn orange, wait for another four to five weeks before you taste them or start the harvest. The longer tangerines remain on the tree, the sweeter they become. Tangerines can stay on the tree for several months without losing fruit quality. During the growing season be sure to water once or twice a week; regular watering will increase the quality and sweetness of the fruit. Be sure the tree is getting 8 or more hours of sunlight each day; if larger trees nearby make sure they are not throwing shadows on the tangerine. Twice a year spread a 2-inch thick layer of aged compost, aged manure, or commercial organic planting mix to the dripline of the tree; this will feed the soil and feed the tree.

    • The Fremont is a mandarin. It is the result of a cross between Clementine and Ponkan mandarins. Just to be clear, Clementines are also mandarins. The Clementine is not one variety but a group of mandarin varieties including the following varieties: Fina, Marisol, Arrufatina, Esbal, Oroval, and Clemenules (all are Clementine mandarins). Most of these are popular in Europe where Clementines have been cross-bred for many years.

  11. I live in thePhoenix area and I have three Kinnow Tangerine trees. This year my trees are full, and delicious ! If you don’t want to deal withseeds you won’t like them. i will say that the fruit is worth the tuggle with the seeds !

  12. I planted a dwarf minneola tangelo tree and the leaves are light green with some yellow. I have given it nitrogen and mulch around the outside perimeter. Why do the leaves not get darker green?

    • Your citrus is likely suffering from iron deficiency. In the winter, poor iron uptake can be due to low soil temperatures and low root activity. In the summer, it can be caused by high soil pH (alkaline soil) and poor drainage. Iron can be added to the soil by adding iron sulphate or iron chelate. Get the soil tested; the long term solution may be to lower the soil pH.

  13. I once rented a house in Sierra Madre, CA that had huge and old Tangerine tree. It was EXCEPTIONAL! Lots and lots of what I call classic tangerines – in other words TART. I don’t want a sweet tangerine, I want a tart tangeriney tangerine. I live in Carmel Valley now, so should be able to grow one well – any ideas on a tart tangerine?

    • Hmmmm…you might try a larger tangerine such as Golden Nugget which is considered a breakfast tangerine. You also might contact a tangerine grower for suggestions on a tangerine variety that tends to tart. Here is a link that might help: tropical fruittrees

  14. Hello, has anyone heard of a variety of tangerine sold in nurseries in Northern California with a name in Spanish that ends in “de oro ” or “del oro.” I don’t know what the first word or words of the name are, only that it ends in “de oro” or “del oro.” I’ve googled it several times and can’t find it. Thank you all very much for your time and consideration in helping me figure out the name.

  15. Hi! I think I have a tangerine tree that produces fruit that looks and tastes like a tangerine, and is varied in the amount of seeds. But some of these fruits also have a very odd trait: they sometimes exhibit a navel-like part on it. I have peeled them carefully and found a small fruit on the end like a navel orange has! The tree started putting forth ripe fruit in mid-March. Can you help me identify the fruit tree? Or if it’s a mutation I would like some advice

  16. Take a sample of the fruit and a photo of the tree and leaves to the nearby Cooperative Extension Service. A specialist there can identify the tree or send it on to agronomists at a nearby agriculture university.

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