A clementine (Citrus ×clementina) is a hybrid between a mandarin orange and a sweet orange, so named in 1902. The exterior is a deep orange colour with a smooth, glossy appearance. Clementines can be separated into 7 to 14 segments. Similarly to tangerines, they tend to be easy to peel. They are almost always seedless when grown commercially (without cross-pollination), and therefore are always known as seedless tangerines. The clementine is also occasionally referred to as the Moroccan clementine. They are typically juicy and sweet, with less acid than oranges. Their oils, like other citrus fruits, contain mostly limonene as well as myrcene, linalool, α-pinene and many complex aromatics.
Most sources say that the clementine came to exist because of accidental hybridization, with the first fruits discovered by Brother Clément Rodier (after whom the fruit was named in French and then English) in the garden of his orphanage in Misserghin, Algeria. However, there are claims it originated in China much earlier; one source describes it as nearly identical to the Canton mandarin widely grown in the Guangxi and Guangdong provinces in China.
The clementine is not always easy to distinguish from varieties of mandarin oranges. As such, it should not be confused with similar fruit such as the satsuma or honey sweet orange, or other popular varieties.
This variety was introduced into California commercial agriculture in 1914, though it was grown at the Citrus Research Center (now part of the University of California, Riverside) as early as 1909. Clementines lose their desirable seedless characteristic when they are cross-pollinated with other fruit. To prevent this, in 2006 growers such as Paramount Citrus in California threatened to sue local beekeepers to keep bees away from their crops.
- Clemenules or Nules - A high-quality popular, seedless, easy to peel clementine with a very pleasing sweet flavor. A mutation of the Spanish Fina variety, Clemenules is the most widely planted clementine in Spain, where it is widely planted and matures from mid-November to mid to late-January. Also widely planted in California, where it matures from October to December.
- Nadorcott - A patented, late-season variety that is seedless when grown in isolation from all other citrus. Compared to the Clemenules or Nules variety, the Nadorcott is distinguished by its more red-orange color, thinner peel, and flavour that is decidedly less sweet and more tart and bitter than the Clemenules. The patent was filed in January 1997.