Dancy TangerineCitrus reticulata ‘Dancy’
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Citrus reticulata ‘Dancy’
Outdoor Growing zone
The Dancy Tangerine is a classic heirloom variety, and probably the original tangierine. It is only available to home growers because the delicate skin is too fragile for shipping, so it is no longer grown commercially. The juicy segments just fall out of the zipper skin, and the flavor and sweetness are classic holiday treats. It ripens in December and January and stores well after picking. If you live in an area too cold for growing in the garden, plant it in a large pot and bring it inside during the coldest months.
Grow your Dancy Tangerine in full sun and in any well-drained soil. For potted trees blend one part houseplant soil with three parts of cactus soil, or used a blended soil for citrus trees. Avoid frequent pruning or trimming of outdoor trees, which can reduce flowering. For details on growing in pots, see this blog.
There was a time when almost every tangerine sold was a Dancy tangerine. Over the last 50 years orchard production went down, and the last commercial crop in America went to market in 2012. Why was that? It certainly wasn’t because this isn’t a great tangerine – everyone agrees that it is. The problem was the same as what happened with many of our best heirloom fruits. The thin skin made it hard to handle and store without damage and some years the yields are lower than in other years. Luckily this great variety is still available to home growers like you and we tracked down some great young trees of this classic tangerine. The skin is so free of white flesh many people like to eat it raw, and so easy to remove that it is often called the ‘zipper-skin’ tangerine. The flavor is intense and the juice is delicious – what more could we ask for? Tangerine trees are significantly more cold-resistant than most oranges, and they can be grown in warmer parts of zone 8 – lucky you! For purists this is also a pure, original ‘mandarin’, not a hybrid variety like many more modern ones – it’s the real deal.
The Dancy Tangerine is an evergreen tree growing around 15 feet tall and 8 feet wide when grown in the ground. In a pot it will be much smaller, perhaps around 6 feet tall. The stems have no more than the very occasional thorn, making it a very safe citrus tree to grow around children. It is vigorous, and develops an attractive crown of foliage. The leaves are about 5 inches long and 2 inches wide, glossy, smooth and oval. They are a rich green all year round. In spring this tree will flower, producing clusters of flower buds shortly after the new leaves develop. The flowers are white, with thick petals, and beautifully perfumed, with a very similar scent to orange blossom. Following flowering small green fruits develop, increasing in size slowly over the summer. By December the first fruit will have turned orange, and the main harvest is in December and January – perfectly timed for the traditional tangerine season over the holiday period. Once ripe it is best to pick the fruit and store it a cool place, as it does tend to drop from the tree, so it could be damaged.
The fruit is round, slightly flattened on the top and bottom, with a prominent ‘belly-button’ on the bottom. It varies in size between 2 and 2½ inches in diameter. The skin is very thin, with almost no white pith inside it, so it’s perfect for eating fresh or for slicing for baking. The segments separate easily and they are sweet, juicy and delicious, with that pronounced ‘tangerine’ flavor. There may be a few seeds in the fruits.
You can grow the Dancy Tangerine on the lawn as a specimen tree, or in corners of your property, or around your home. In cooler areas it can be grown in a pot and used outdoors to decorate your patio, terrace or balcony. A beautiful traditional Italian terracotta pot is perfect, or something striking, modern and Spanish perhaps. Grow it outdoors for most of the year, bringing it inside to a bright, cool place only when temperatures are below 40 degrees. A cool place that is frost-free is much better than a hot living room for your tree and to keep it’s growing cycle.
Tangerines are hardier than oranges, and the Dancy Tangerine is hardy in warm parts of zone 8 – and of course in zones 9, 10 and 11.
All citrus trees should be grown in full sun, including trees brought outdoors in summer. It will grow in almost any well-drained soil – planting on a mound is good if your soil tends to be wet and boggy. When growing in a pot, first make sure it has drainage holes. Use a potting soil blended for citrus trees, or if that is not available, mix 1 part regular houseplant soil with 3 parts of soil for cactus and succulents. If your tree flowers when it is growing indoors you should use hand-pollination to be sure of a good crop.
The Dancy Tangerine is vigorous and usually grows well with very little attention. If you do see pests, we suggest using a safe natural soap spray, or better, our Neem Oil Spray. Very little if any pruning is needed, and avoid heavy trimming or pruning, as this can disrupt the growth cycle and stop flowering. Removing a few branches in the center of the tree, to keep it open and let in the sun, is usually all that might be needed. This variety has a tendency to produce a heavy crop of small fruit one year, and a lighter crop of bigger fruit the next. You can reduce this by thinning out heavy crops to just 2 or 3 fruits per cluster.
The Dancy Tangerine is part of the mandarin section of citrus fruits, Citrus reticulata. The original trees came from China (and so we have ‘mandarin’) but the Dancy Tangerine probably came originally directly from Tangiers, a city in Morocco. And called a ‘tangierine’. A certain Major Atway owned a property in Palatka, a community west of St. Augustine in Florida. It was bought by N.H. Moragne, who brought those trees from Morocco. He was on that property from 1843, but we don’t know when he brought the tangierine over. Known as the Moragne tangerine, the tree was distributed, and grown by Colonel D.L. Dancy in the nearby community of Orange Mills. In 1867 the Colonel found a seedling growing in his grove of Moragne tangerines, and when this was introduced it was named ‘Dancy’.
Tangerine, mandarin, clementine or satsuma – all these fruits are very similar and closely related. So you only need one type of these trees, and if you make that tree the Dancy Tangerine, then you can enjoy your fruit over the holiday season. All the family will love it, but order soon, as our supply is limited and every tree will be gone very soon.