The mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata), also known as the mandarin or mandarine, is a small citrus tree with fruit resembling other oranges, usually eaten plain or in fruit salads. Reddish-orange mandarin cultivars can be marketed as tangerines, but this is not a botanical classification.
Mandarins are smaller and oblate, rather than spherical, like the common oranges (which are a mandarin hybrid). The taste is considered less sour, as well as sweeter and stronger. A ripe mandarin is firm to slightly soft, heavy for its size, and pebbly-skinned. The peel is thin, with little white mesocarp, so they are usually easier to peel and to split into segments. Hybrids generally have these traits to a lesser degree. The mandarin is tender and is damaged easily by cold. It can be grown in tropical and subtropical areas.
According to genetic studies, the mandarin, the citron, pomelo, papedas, and kumquat, were ancestors of citrus varieties, and through breeding or natural hybridization, were developed as a sweet fruit among the parental species. A major commercial variety, commonly classified as a tangerine, is called the Clementine which resulted as a chance hybrid attributed to Father Clement Rodier in 1902.
Citrus reticulata is from Latin, where reticulata means "netted". The name mandarin orange is a calque of Swedishmandarin apelsin (apelsin from German Apfelsine=Apfel+Sino means chinese apple), first attested in the 18th century. The form "mandarine" derives from the French name for this fruit. The reason for the epithet "mandarin" is not clear; it may relate to the yellow colour of some robes worn by mandarin dignitaries.