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The Marsh Grapefruit Tree

‘Sweet’ is not a term you would usually associate with grapefruits, because of the tartness we know in this fruit. The Marsh Grapefruit will change all of that. This attractive, golden, sweet-tasting, seedless grapefruit is the most popular variety throughout the world.

Cluster of yellow grapefruits on a tree.

Describing the Marsh Grapefruit

A Marsh Grapefruit has yellow skin and yellow flesh, although there may be a slight pinkish tinge to the flesh. There are also distinctly pink varieties of the Marsh Grapefruit that have been cultivated.

The fruits are mostly nearly round, but can be slightly oval. The skin is very smooth. The pith is quite thick, which means that it can be peeled quite easily. It is also a very juicy grapefruit.

It has a very sweet taste for grapefruit, which means that there is some tartness to the sweetness, but this grapefruit is definitely not bitter and can be eaten easily without any added sugar.

The Marsh is generally seedless, or has very few seeds and continues to be a really special seedless grapefruit.

Closeup of cut grapefruit halves next to whole grapefruit -- Marsh grapefruit have yellow flesh, little to no seeds, and are sweet enough to eat fresh without added sugar.

Why a Marsh Grapefruit Is Special

The Marsh Grapefruit has a sweeter taste than most grapefruit varieties. Consumers tend to prefer seedless grapefruit, so the Marsh wins in this regard. It is also a relatively small grapefruit, which means it is easier to eat whole, rather than struggling through a large fruit, or leaving half in the refrigerator to come back to.

If the fruits of a Marsh Grapefruit tree are left on the tree over winter, then they continue to sweeten. This is one grapefruit that can last for a long time on the trees, so you won’t have to pick all your grapefruits at once, but can keep the crop fresh on the tree until you want to eat one.

Like all fruit, grapefruits are picked in great numbers and shipped far and wide from the orchards. The Marsh lasts longer than most other grapefruit, which makes it a popular commercial product. It also means you can keep the fruits for a relatively long period in your home before they have to be eaten.

History of the Marsh Grapefruit

The Marsh Grapefruit has a history almost as long as the grapefruit itself, which was the result of a mix of the pomelo with a sweet orange. It was the first commercially available seedless grapefruit.

The Marsh takes its name from a nursery owner from Lakeland, named CM Marsh. He introduced this variety of grapefruit in 1895. However, the Marsh was first singled out in 1886 by EH Tison, who came from the same area as did Marsh.

From 1933, the Marsh Grapefruit grew in popularity and became one of the most dominant varieties of grapefruit in grapefruit areas in the United States and grapefruit growing areas around the world. Since then, it has become the most popular variety of grapefruit sold in the world.

Propagating a March Grapefruit Tree

Closeup of cluster of white grapefruit blossoms.

If you really enjoy a grapefruit, then it is possible to grow one from a seed. With a seedless variety like the Marsh, though, this is not quite that simple. If you want to grow a Marsh Grapefruit tree, you can buy a tree from your local nursery or garden center, or you could try your hand at grafting a new cutting onto an existing rootstock.

Grafting a Marsh Grapefruit Tree

On a simple level, grafting a plant means taking a cutting from one tree and attaching it to the base of an existing tree and then encouraging them both to grow. The fruit that is produced will be a hybrid of the two types of fruit.

If you want to graft a Marsh Grapefruit, it is most probably best to take a cutting from one tree and combine it with the base of another tree of the same type. You could also try to ‘play’ with trees of different varieties and see what happens!

The Scion

A Scion is a twig, or short, thin branch taken from a growing tree, usually during the plant’s dormant season. Grapefruit trees, however, do not go dormant, so the best time to graft is either in spring, after the fruit season, or in fall, when growth really begins.

The scion must be taken from a growing part of the tree. To prepare it for grafting, use a sharp knife to strip four one-inch (2,5 cms) strips through the bark to expose the raw wood underneath.

The Root Stock

The Root Stock of a plant is literally the roots, stem and lower part of a tree. When you graft, one of these stems becomes the base onto which the scion is attached.

To prepare the base rootstock, cut the stem square off. Take a sharp knife and make four vertical cuts through the stem. Peel the bark between each incision and peel it back from the inside wood. Use pruning shears to cut off the exposed part of the stem.

Making the Graft

Take the Scion and put the base of it onto the top of the exposed root stem you have just cut off. Make sure that the four stripped areas on the Scion match the four bark flaps on the rootstock.

Fold the bark flaps up and wind tape around the whole graft. Make sure you cover from just below the graft to above it.

Growth

Keep a close eye on the grafted tree. Make sure you water the tree regularly. It must neither dry out, nor become too wet. In the former case, the roots will dry out and the tree will die. In the latter case, the roots can become water-logged and may develop root rot.

After about two weeks, you see some buds forming just above the graft, which will mean that the graft has taken. Keep on looking after the tree and your own Marsh Grapefruit tree will begin to grow stronger.

Growing and Caring for Your Marsh Grapefruit Tree

Yellow grapefruits growing on a tree in full sun -- be sure that your Marsh Grapefruit tree will receive at least 8 hours of sun each day.

Selecting an area in your garden that receives 8 or more hours of sunlight a day is the first step in giving your Marsh Grapefruit the care it needs. Making sure the soil drains well and contains lots of minerals is also necessary for a healthy, thriving tree. Watering your grapefruit tree one to three times a week for its first year will help the tree establish itself — after the first year, watering can be done weekly during normal weather conditions with added watering during dry spells.

Knowing how and when to properly prune your tree will help it produce a crop of fruit once it has reached its third year.

Keeping your grapefruit tree healthy is the best defense against citrus pests and diseases. Being vigilant for signs of infection or infestation and knowing how to handle common disease and pest problems will ensure that you get to enjoy a harvest of juicy, ripe fruit.

For more information about growing and caring for a grapefruit tree, read our guide here.

Harvesting Marsh Grapefruit

Man's hand picking a grapefruit from a tree.

The fruit on a Marsh Grapefruit tree matures from December through May. As mentioned before, fruit left on the tree over the winter will become sweeter, but you should be aware that doing this will affect the next season’s yield.

Fruit can be harvested from a Marsh Grapefruit tree by either twisting the fruit to remove it from the stem, or by using pruning shears to cut the stem. Picked fruit does need to be handled carefully to avoid bruising since bruised fruit will spoil faster.

Uses for Marsh Grapefruit

Grapefruit salad serving.
Grapefruit Salad (click for the recipe).

Marsh grapefruit can be eaten in a variety of ways. It can be enjoyed fresh by itself or in salads. It can be made into juice that you can drink or the juice can be added to make other beverages, like this Agua Fresca.

But there are probably some ways you can eat grapefruit that you weren’t aware of. For instance, you can broil grapefruit for a different breakfast experience or you can use grapefruit to make lunch and dinner entrees as well as desserts. For inspiration about ways to include grapefruit in your meals, visit this link to read up on different recipes.

Conclusion

Whole yellow grapefruits and a cut half grapefruit.

The Marsh Grapefruit is perhaps the most popular variety of grapefruit throughout the grapefruit-producing and consuming world. With its manageable size, yellowy-gold color and lack of seeds, it is an attractive fruit. Its juiciness and sweet taste make it a perennial favorite.

Have you tried a Marsh grapefruit? If so, what’s your favorite way to enjoy it? Let us know in the comments section below!

Want to know more about other grapefruit varieties? Click this link to read our other grapefruit-related blog articles.