1902 Encyclopedia > Orange


ORANGE (Citrus Aurantium), the plant that produces the familiar fruit of commerce, is closely allied to the citron, lemon, and lime, all the cultivated forms of the genus Citrus being so nearly related that their specific demarca-tion must be regarded as somewhat doubtful and inde-finite. Bisso and Poiteau have described eighty kinds of orange (including the bergamots), chiefly differing in the external shape, size, and flavour of the fruit; but all may probably be traced to two wrell-marked varieties—the Sweet or China Orange and the Bitter Orange or Bigarade,— though several of these modifications seem to indicate crossing with the lemon or citron, if, indeed, they do not rather point to a more remote common origin from a primitive citrine type.

The bitter orange, by some made a sub-species (C. vulgaris), is a rather small tree, rarely exceeding 30 feet in height. The green shoots are furnished with sharp axillary spines, and alternate evergreen oblong leaves, pointed at the extremity, and with the margins entire or very slightly serrated; they are of a bright glossy green tint, the stalks

Orange (Citrus Aurantium), from nature, about one-third natural size, a, diagram of fruit, after Laurssen, Med.-Pharm. Botanik, 1882.
distinctly winged and, as in the other species, articulated with the leaf. The fragrant white or pale pinkish flowers, appear in the summer months, and the fruit, usually round or spheroidal, does not perfectly ripen until the following spring, so that flowers and both green and mature fruit are often found on the plant at the same time. The bitter aromatic rind of the bigarade is rough, and dotted closely over with concave oil-cells; the pulp is acid and more or less bitter in flavour. The sweet orange generally has the shoots destitute of spines, the petioles less distinctly winged, and the leaves more ovate in shape, but chiefly differs in the fruit, the pulp of which is agreeably acidu-lous and sweet, the rind comparatively smooth, and the oil-cells convex. The ordinary round shape of the sweet orange fruit is varied greatly in certain varieties, in some being greatly elongated, in others much flattened; while several kinds have a conical protuberance at the apex, others are deeply ribbed or furrowed, and a few are dis-tinctly "horned" or lobed, by the partial separation of the carpels. The two sub-species of orange are said by some authorities to reproduce themselves infallibly by seed; and, where hybridizing is prevented, the seedlings of the sweet and bitter orange appear to retain respectively the more distinctive features of the parent plant; but where grow-ing wild for successive generations they show a tendency to degenerate, the progeny of the sweet orange being apt to assume the broadly-winged petioles and spiny shoots of the bigarade.
Though now cultivated widely in most of the warmer parts of the world, and apparently in many completely naturalized, the diffusion of the orange has taken place in comparatively recent historical periods. To ancient Medi-terranean agriculture it was unknown; and, though the later Greeks and Bomans were familiar with the citron as an exotic fruit, their "Median Apple" appears to have been the only form of the citrine genus with which they were acquainted. The careful researches of Gallesio have proved that India was the country from which the orange spread to western Asia and eventually to Europe. Oranges are at present found wild in the jungles along the lower mountain slopes of Sylhet, Kumaon, Sikkim, and other parts of northern India, and, according to Royle, even in the Nilgiri Hills; the plants are generally thorny, and present the other characters of the bitter variety, but occasionally wild oranges occur with sweet fruit; it is, however, doubtful whether either sub-species is really in-digenous to Hindustan, and De Candolle is probably cor-rect in regarding the Burmese peninsula and southern China as the original home of the orange. Cultivated from a remote period in Hindustan, it was carried to south-western Asia by the Arabs, probably before the 9 th cen-tury, towards the close of which the bitter orange seems to have been well known to that people ; though, according to Mas'iidi, it was not cultivated in Arabia itself until the beginning of the 10th century, when it was first planted in 'Oman, and afterwards carried to Mesopotamia and Syria. It spread ultimately, through the agency of the same race, to Africa and Spain, and perhaps to Sicily, following everywhere the tide of Mohammedan conquest and civilization. In the 12th century the bigarade was abundantly cultivated in all the Levant countries, and the returning soldiers of the Cross brought it from Balestine to Italy and Brovence. An orange tree of this variety is said to have been planted by St Dominic in the year 1200, though the identity of the one still standing in the garden of the monastery of St Sabina at Borne, and now attributed to the energetic friar, may be somewhat doubt-ful. No allusion to the sweet orange occurs in contem-porary literature at this early date, and its introduction to Europe took place at a considerably later period, though the exact time is unknown. It was commonly cultivated in Italy early in the 16th century, and seems to have been known there previously to the expedition of Da Gama (1497), as a Florentine narrator of that voyage appears to have been familiar with the fruit. The importation of this tree into Europe, though often attributed to the Portu-guese, is with more probability referred to the enterprise of the Genoese merchants of the 15th century, who must have found it growing abundantly then in the Levant. The prevailing European name of the orange is sufficient evidence of its origin and of the line taken in its migration westward. The Sanskrit designation nagrungo, becoming narungee in Hindustani, and corrupted by the Arabs into ndranj (Spanish naranja), passed by easy transitions into the Italian arancia (Latinized aurantium), the Romance arangi, and the later Provencal orange. The true Chinese variety, however, was undoubtedly brought by the Portu-guese navigators direct from the East both to their own country and to the Azores, where now luxuriant groves of the golden-fruited tree give a modern realization to the old myth of the gardens of the Hesperides. Throughout China and in Japan the orange has been grown from very ancient times, and it was found diffused widely when the Indian Archipelago was first visited by Europeans. In more recent days its cultivation has extended over most of the warmer regions of the globe, the tree growing freely and producing fruit abundantly wherever heat is sufficient and enough moisture can be supplied to the roots; where night-frosts occur in winter or spring the culture becomes more difficult and the crop precarious.

The orange flourishes in any moderately fertile soil, if it is well drained and sufficiently moist; but a rather stiff loam or calcareous marl, intermingled with some vegetable humus, is most favourable to its growth. Grafting or budding on stocks raised from the seed of some vigorous variety is the plan usually adopted by the cultivator. The-seeds, carefully selected, are sown in well-prepared ground, and the seedlings removed to a nursery-bed in the fourth or fifth year, and, sometimes after a second transplantation, grafted in the seventh or eighth year with the desired variety. When the grafts have acquired sufficient vigour, the trees are placed in rows in the permanent orangery. Propagation by layers is occasionally adopted; cuttings do not readily root, and multiplication directly by seed is always doubtful in result, though recommended by some; authorities. The distance left between the trees in the permanent plantation or grove varies according to the size-of the plants and subsequent culture adopted. In France, when the trunks are from 5 to 6| feet in height, a space of from 16 to 26 feet is left between; but the dwarfer trees admit of much closer planting. In the West Indies and Azores an interval of 24 or even of 30 feet is often allowed. The ground is kept well stirred between the trunks, and the roots manured with well-rotted dung, guano, or other highly nitrogenous matter; shallow pits are sometimes formed above the roots for the reception of liquid or other manures; in dry climates water must be abundantly and frequently supplied. The trees require regular and careful pruning, the heads being trained as nearly as possible to a spherical form. Between the rows-melons, pumpkins, and other annual vegetables are fre-quently raised. In garden culture the orange is often trained as an espalier, and with careful attention yields fruit in great profusion when thus grown. In favourable seasons the oranges are produced in great abundance, from 400 to 1000 being commonly borne on a single plant in full bearing, while on large trees the latter number is often vastly exceeded. The trees will con-tinue to bear abundantly from fifty to eighty years, or even more ; and some old orange trees, whose age must be reckoned by centuries, still produce their golden crop; these very ancient trees are, however, generally of the bitter variety. Oranges intended for export to colder climates are gathered long before the deep tint that indicates ma-turity is attained, the fruit ripening rapidly after picking; but the delicious taste of the mature China orange is never thus acquired, and those who have not eaten the fruit in a perfectly ripe state have little idea of its flavour when in that condition. Carefully gathered, the oranges are packed in boxes, each orange being wrapped in paper, or with dry maize husks or leaves placed between them. The immense quantities of this valuable fruit imported into Britain are derived from various sources, but those kinds in most esteem are the produce of the Azores, whence, in 1878, 410,101 boxes, each holding 400 "St Michael's" oranges, are said to have been sent to Great Britain alone. Large numbers are also exported to England from Sicily, Bortugal, and Spain, and a considerable amount from other Mediter-ranean countries. North America is largely supplied from Jamaica and the Bahamas; but the extensive and rapidly increasing cultivation of the tree in Florida will probably in a few years supersede the foreign importation. In that State the bitter orange has grown, from an unknown period, in a wild condition, and some of the earlier botanical ex-plorers regarded it as an indigenous tree; but it was undoubtedly brought by the Spanish colonists to the West India Islands, and was probably soon afterwards trans-planted to Florida by them or their buccaneering enemies. The climate of Florida seems remarkably adapted for orange culture, and orangeries are becoming yearly more numerous and extensive,—the wild stocks, or those raised from wild seed, being generally employed by the grafter. In the other Gulf States this branch of agricultural industry is pursued to some extent; and in California the orange groves are productive and increasing.

Orange cultivation lias been attempted with success in several parts of Australia, especially in New South Wales, where the orange groves near Paramatta yield an abundant colonial supply. The orangeries of Queensland and South Australia are likewise producing well, though, as yet, Australian fruit is chiefly consumed at home. In many of the Pacific Islands the plant has been long established : Tahiti exports oranges largely to San Francisco, and in Fiji the culture promises to become of considerable importance.

Certain varieties of orange deserve mention, from the peculiar character of their fruit. The Mandarin orange of China, sometimes made a distinct species, 0. nobilis, is remarkable for its very flat sphenoidal fruit, the rind of which readily separates with the slightest pressure ; the pulp has a peculiarly luscious flavour when ripe. The small Tangerine oranges, valued for their fine fragrance, are derived from the Mandarin. "Maltese" or "Blood" oranges, much grown in southern Italy, are distinguished by the deep-red tint of the pulp. The Bergamot has been already described (see vol. iii. p. 587). Orange plantations in Europe suffer much at times from a disease called by the French charbon, caused by a fungus (Demathium monqphyllum), which rapidly spreads over stems, leaves, and green fruit. Several insect enemies attack the plant, of which the scale-like Coccus citri is the most injurious in Europe; in the Azores C. Hcsperidis takes its place. Cold weather in winter has sometimes proved destructive in Provence, and many planta-tions were destroyed by the hard frosts of 1789 and 1820.

Besides the widespread use of the fruit as an agreeable and wholesome article of diet, that of the sweet orange, abounding in citric acid, possesses in a high degree the antiscorbutic properties that render the lemon and lime so valuable in medicine ; and the free consumption of this fruit in the large towns of England during the winter months has doubtless a very beneficial effect on the health of the people. The juice is sometimes employed as a cooling drink in fevers, as well as for making a pleasant beverage in hot weather; it is likewise an essential ingredient in "orange wine."

The bitter orange is chiefly cultivated for the aromatic and tonic qualities of the rind, which render it a valuable stomachic. Planted long ago in Andalusia by the Moorish conquerors, it is still ex-tensively grown in southern Spain,—deriving its common English name of '' Seville " orange from the abundant groves that still exist around that city, though the plant is now largely cultivated else-where. The fruit is imported into Great Britain and the United States in considerable quantities for the manufacture of the favourite confection known as orange marmalade, which is prepared from the pulp and rind, usually more or less mingled with the pulp of the China orange. In medicine the dried peel is largely employed as an aromatic tonic, and often, in tincture and infusion, as a mere vehicle to disguise the flavour of more nauseous remedies. The essential oil of the rind is collected for the use of the perfumer, being obtained either by the pressure of the fresh peel against a piece of sponge, or by the process known as Icuelle, in which the skin of the ripe fruit is scraped against a series of points or ridges arranged upon the surface of a peculiarly-shaped dish or broad funnel, when the oil flows freely from the broken cells. Another fragrant oil, called in France essence de petit grain, is procured by the distillation of the leaves, from which also an aromatic water is prepared. The flowers of both sweet and bitter orange yield, when distilled with water, the " oil of Neroli" of the druggist and per-fumer, and likewise the fragrant liquid known as " orange - flower water." The candied peel is much in request by cook and con-fectioner; the favourite liqueur sold as "curacoa" derives its aromatic flavour from the rind of the bigarade. The minute imma-ture oranges that drop from the trees are manufactured into "issue-peas " ; from those of the sweet orange in a fresh state a sweetmeat is sometimes prepared in France. Orange trees occasionally acquire a considerable diameter; the trunk of one near Nice, still standing in 1789, was so large that two men could scarcely embrace it; the tree was killed by the intense cold of the winter of that year. The wood of the orange is of a fine yellow tint, and, being hard and close-grained, is valued by the turner and cabinetmaker for the manufacture of small articles; it takes a good polish.

Although the bitter '' Poma de Orenge " were brought in small quantities from Spain to England as early as the year 1290, no attempt appears to have been made to cultivate the tree in Britain until about 1595, when some plants were introduced by the Carews of Beddington in Surrey, and placed in their garden, where, trained against a wall, and sheltered in winter, they remained until de-stroyed by the great frost of 1739-40. In the last century the tree became a favourite object of conservatory growth ; in the open air, planted against a wall, and covered with mats in winter, it has often stood the cold of many seasons in the southern coun-ties, in such situations the trees occasionally bearing abundant fruit; but in Great Britain the orange can only be regarded as an object of ornamental culture. The trees are usually imported from Italy, where, especially near Nervi, such plants are raised in great numbers for exportation ; they are generally budded on the stocks of some free-growing variety, often on the lemon or citron.

For details of orange varieties, cultivation, &c., see Risso and Poiteau, Histoire et culture des Orangers (edited by A. Du Breuil, Paris, 1872); for early history and diffusion, G. Gallesio, Traite du Citrus, Paris, 1811. (C. P. J.)


The modern Arabic name, Bortukan (that is, Portuguese), shows that the China apple reached the Levant from the West

The above article was written by: C. P. Johnson.

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