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Rex Union orange is now in season — why it's worth a visit to the citrus farm

An annual picking picnic on the only Rex Union orange farm in SA is one way of keeping the fruit varietal going

10 June 2021 - 10:00 By hilary biller
Picking Picnic, home of the Rex Union orange on Lemoenfontein Farm in Rustenburg.
Picking Picnic, home of the Rex Union orange on Lemoenfontein Farm in Rustenburg.
Image: Hilary Biller

As one of the leading producers of citrus fruit in the world, it may come as a surprise that the Rex Union orange, a cross between a Seville orange and pomelo, a variety unique to SA, is only grown commercially on one farm in the country just outside Rustenburg.

The varietal was developed by George Wellington Rex who introduced the cultivation on the same farm, Lemoenfontein, just across the road from the famed Hunters Rest Hotel. Rex, who missed his favourite breakfast spread, marmalade, selected this natural hybrid by grafting the first plants on the very farm, the original orchard of around 250 trees still stands on the farm.

The fruit, very bitter, doesn’t make for good eating; rather the orange skin and thick pith is prized for making excellent marmalade. This past weekend marked the annual Slow Food Johannesburg member picnic and picking of the fruit on the farm. The second-generation trees were not quite as laden with fruit as they were in 2020 because of the heavy unseasonal rains the farm experienced earlier this year had destroyed many of the blossoms.

The Rex Union orange is one of five uniquely SA products classified on Slow Food International’s Biodiversity classification as an Ark of Taste Presidia Product which means that it is under risk of extinction and must be protected. 

Here's how you can make orange marmalade according to a recipe developed on the farm.

• For more information, contact Lemoenfontein farm manager JC van den Berg on 082 941 6876