Plant Answers  >  The Hardy Satsuma (Changsat) Story and Its China-Texas Connection

The Hardy Satsuma (Changsat) Story
and Its China-Texas Connection
Leon Macha

The long story begins in 1929 when Ying Doon Moy was born in a small village in south China. His early love of the beauty of plants led to a doctorate in genetic research with citrus and vegetables. Life during World War II and the following cultural / political unrest created an undesirable climate for his dedication to science and pushed him to leave China for the United States in 1978. The short story is that the San Antonio Botanical Gardens (SABG) became the destination where his plant breeding work would flourish.

From 1980 to 1999 Mr. Moy (the title he preferred rather than Dr. Moy) worked to leave with us the gift of many new plants, developing over 150 new species of papaya, ginger, Esperanza, rose, Hibiscus, and citrus. Now we arrive at the final setting for many plant breeders, the appreciation of their life’s work after their passing.

The results of his breeding work with citrus live on in the form of new, Satsuma x ‘Changsha’ tangerine hybrids with enhanced tolerance of freezing cold. The Moy varieties entering the market are:
  • ‘Orange Frost™’ Hardy Satsuma (Plant Patent #23496) – A selection with improved cold hardiness having survived 12 degrees F. at Overton, TX.
  • ‘Arctic Frost™’ Hardy Satsuma (Plant Patent Applied For) – The most cold hardy selection having survived 9 degrees F. at Overton, TX.
  • ‘Bumper™’ Satsuma – a selection with normal hardiness, but chosen from Moy’s work for its heavy fruit yield and his pride in this creation.
The fruit peel and flesh is brightly orange- colored, retaining that characteristic from its ‘Changsha’ tangerine parentage. The taste is sweet / tart, presenting a true citrus flavor that is missing in varieties that are sweet but bland. The peel is easily removed and the seed count is low, resulting in eating pleasure.

In 1997 Mr. Moy and Dr. Jerry Parsons, then Texas A&M Horticulture Extension Specialist, arrived at the idea to hybridize winter hardy ‘Changsha’ tangerine with various Satsuma mandarins. The goal was to produce a Satsuma hybrid with enhanced cold hardiness as well as high quality fruit with a low seed count.

Mr. Moy performed the tedious task of removing the ‘Changsha’ flower anthers, applying his collected Satsuma pollen, then extracting and nurturing the sexually produced embryo from the ‘Changsha’ seed. The successful seedlings were planted out in containers to develop and mature for 5-7 years.

In cooperation with Dr. Jerry Parsons and Paul Cox, then-Interim Director of the San Antonio Botanical Garden (SABG) a citrus variety hardiness trial was established at the San Antonio Botanical Garden (SABG) in 1988 to test the new Seto and Miho Satsuma varieties (newly arrived from Japan) compared to existing Mandarin varieties. In 2004 another citrus planting was made containing citrus plants selected from nearly 100 genetically-different seedlings which Moy produced during his breeding work. For a comparison, the hardy, seedy ‘Changsha’ tangerine (known to have survived temperatures below 10 degrees F. at the O. S. Gray Nursery at Arlington, TX) was also included.

In 2005, Dr. Parsons and Dr. Larry Stein, Extension Horticulturist at the Texas A&M Agri-Life Research and Extension Center in Uvalde, TX, asexually propagated all of the crosses by rooting cuttings from the original seedlings. By 2007, with the plants growing in 10 gallon containers, Parsons and Stein were ready to create trial plantings at Uvalde and Overton to test for cold hardiness in unprotected field settings.

In 1999 Mr. Moy retired as full time researcher at SABG, returning part-time in 2004 to evaluate his maturing citrus orchard for the San Antonio Botanical Society. In 2008 Moy left San Antonio to join family in Spring, TX, where he worked for a time at Mercer Arboretum in Humble, TX. His departure left the citrus planting behind, and Greenleaf Nursery Company acquired all rights to the collection and completed the evaluation and variety development process.

The long term goal is that the enhanced cold hardiness of these Satsuma hybrids may enable commercial production in areas where severe weather conditions have resulted in failure of sub-tropical citrus groves over the last century.

These hardy Satsumas are great for home garden plantings since they are produced from rooted cuttings. If the canopy is damaged by severe weather, all sprouts will recover to the original variety so a minimal amount of winter protection is required. In areas where winter temperatures are extreme, patio container culture (See: ) is recommended. It is important to be able to move the container to a protected area for freeze protection when temperatures in the 20 degree F. range are predicted and back to full sun when temperatures warm.

‘Orange Frost’ Hardy Satsuma (PP#23496) was recently designated a Texas Superstar for 2014. Trees are in the trial gardens of Extension Horticulturists state wide to further establish the adaptability of Mr. Moy’s favorite fruits.

With Ying Doon Moy’s passing in November, 2012 (1929-2012), we all expect the Gardens of Heaven to be in absolute perfect order when we (hopefully) arrive and he greets us with his pleasant, sincere, welcoming smile.


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