Unlike the Citrus limon "Eureka" lemon tree, the Meyer lemon tree is not a true lemon. Instead, the Meyer lemon is an ornamental pot-plant, likely a hybrid between a mandarin orange tree and a true lemon, native to China. The Eureka, on the other hand, developed from an Italian true lemon seed and is extremely prolific, producing acidic, tart fruits and can even grow in variegated pink lemon plant. While the Meyer and the Eureka have mostly noticeable differences, some differences lie deeper in the plants' genetic make-up.
The Eureka lemon tree will grow 15 to 20 feet tall at maturity. The dwarf Eureka tree reaches 8 to 12 feet in a pot. The Meyer lemon tree is also large, reaching 12 feet tall at full maturity, but just 2 to 4 feet in dwarf form.
The Eureka tree produces elliptical-shaped fruits with a small, protruding nipple on each end. Eureka lemons are the ones shoppers most likely see in a traditional grocery store. The lemons are porous, due to oil glands in the rind. The pulp, or inside of the Eureka lemon is a yellow-orange. The Meyer lemon has a rounder base and a shorter nipple. It also has more of a porous rind, due to its numerous tiny oil glands. The pulp is also yellow-orange.
The Meyer lemon tree is prolific, like the Eureka but lives much longer. The Meyer lemon tree can live more than 30 years and produces fruit nearly all year long. The Meyer is most vigorous in producing fruit from fall to winter. The Eureka tree has a short lifespan. It also produces fruit year round but mainly spring into early summer.
The Eureka tree produces fruits which are much more tart and acidic than the Meyer lemon. For eating, Eureka lemons are ideal for flavouring teas, using the rinds to garnish a dessert and juicing, with sugar added to lessen the acidity. Meyer lemons, because they are not true lemons, are ideal for sweeter recipes and flavourings, such as soufflés, lemon tarts and pies. For lemonade, the juice of the Meyer requires less sugar.