long been a pivotal part of our state's history. The first orange tree was planted in the mid
in St.Augustine, possibly by the Spanish explorer Ponce de Le
ón. Presently, over 70% of oranges
grown in the United States come from Floridian groves, and Florida is second only to Brazil in
the latter growing a third of all the oranges in the world.
Orange trees dot the Floridian countryside, an
d their fragrant white flowers became the state
symbol in 1909. A little over a decade ago, the orange was officially designated as the state fruit.
Although many have come to associate the tangy, sweet fruit with Florida, the humble orange
es its origins all the way to Southeast Asia, where it was first engineered by farmers
thousands of years ago. The oldest known reference to citrus fruits can be found in Chinese
documents that were written around 2200 BCE.
The word "citrus" refers to an
y flowering tree or shrub that belongs to the genus
fruits produced by these plants typically all have a tough, waxy rind and are filled with juicy,
edible flesh, which can range from tasting sweet to tangy. The sweet varieties of citrus includ
mandarins, tangerines, sweet oranges, and grapefruit. The tangy varieties include kumquats,
lemons, limes, and bitter oranges.
Genome analyses have shown that a single common ancestor of citrus fruits first appeared
around 7 million years ago. The same
study also found that citrus fruits are highly prone to
genetic mutation and that they have a propensity to hybridize.
These two traits have allowed for farmers and scientists to create a wide variety of citrus hybrids.
In fact, some of the most well
wn species are hybrids:
Grapefruit: cross between sweet orange and pomelo
Lemon: cross between bitter orange and citron
Lime: cross between citron, mandarin, and pomelo
Orange: cross between pomelo and mandarin