How Did Florida Navel Oranges Get Their ‘Bellybutton’?

How Florida navel oranges got their name is no mystery. The protuberance at the blossom end of this distinctive-looking orange looks like a human bellybutton, hence the “navel” in its name. But what put the navel in Florida navel oranges? The secret to the mystery is revealed when you peel and pull apart these juicy eating oranges.

Inside each Florida navel orange, you will see what looks like another very tiny orange at the blossom, or navel, end of the fruit. In fact, this small growth, which scientists call a conjoined twin, is actually a second, fully formed but miniature orange. This unusual orange within an orange is the result of a genetic mutation that prevents the interior orange from growing to maturity.

The origin of the mutation that created America’s favorite eating orange has been traced back to a happy accident that occurred in the citrus grove of a Brazilian monastery in the mid-1800s. As recounted on a 2009 NPR broadcast, a Presbyterian missionary discovered oranges with an unusual bellybutton protuberance growing on a single branch of an orange tree. Intrigued, he opened the orange and discovered a small orange inside that was deliciously sweet and seedless.

Aware of the promise of his discovery, the missionary took cuttings and began to propagate orange trees that bore this delicious new type of orange fruit. Cuttings from the original plant shared with friends and the U.S. Department of Agriculture brought navel oranges to the United States where Florida’s climate proved to be an ideal growing environment.

Because seedless navel oranges are unable to reproduce naturally, Florida orange growers achieve propagation by grafting sprouted buds onto the trunks and roots of other citrus trees. The sweet, juicy Florida navel oranges you order from today are all genetic clones of the original navel orange! When you bite into a succulent navel orange from, you are biting into a piece of history!

This entry was posted in Agricultral Tourism, Florida Agriculture, Florida Oranges, Navel Oranges, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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