The tangerine (citrus reticulata) is a variety of citrus fruit created from a cross between an orange and a mandarin. Smaller and sweeter than oranges, they are often referred to as mandarins, interchangeably, but a tangerine is not a mandarin as an orange is not a tangelo. Here are some citrus family facts to help you understand this juicy little fruit better.


On the citrus family tree, the tangerine is close to the mandarin. If you are looking to distinguish a tangerine from a mandarin, look for the following characteristics:

  • colour: the tangerine has a darker reddish-orange skin whilst the mandarin is a lighter orange
  • taste: the tangerine is slightly more tarte than a mandarin, which tends be sweeter
  • skin: both have thin skin but a tangerine tends to have a tougher skin compared to that of a mandarin


Mandarins, the citrus predecessor to the tangerine, are widely accepted as one of the oldest ancestors of the citrus fruit family, along with pomelos and citrons. These ancient citrus fruits are known to have originated in South and East Asia before starting their journey west. Citrus are very flexible cross pollinators, and it wasn’t long before they started becoming the numerous varieties that we know now.

To put this into perspective, for the numerous varieties of citrus that are available now: did you know that within the scope of what we call ‘oranges’ for example, there are sweet oranges, mandarin oranges and sour oranges, which also can be broken down into hundreds of different varieties?

The tangerine is a cross between an orange and a mandarin


The name ‘tangerine’ derives from the word ‘Tangier’, a seaport in Morocco, coined by the Americans indicating that this fruit that came to the West through this port.