The History of Citrus in Florida

The History of Citrus in Florida


  • The History of Citrus in Florida

Published Date

  • 1938-1939 Series



Carita Doggett Corse

Florida and oranges are as synonymous as Florida and flowers. Yet when Ponce de
Leon named this new country in 1513, there was not an orange tree on the whole great North
American continent.

Originally imported from Ceylon by way of India and Palestine, oranges were well
established in Mediterranean countries when Rome ruled the world. They reached the West
Indies as part of Columbus' cargo on his second voyage, in 1497. By 1557 Cuban groves were
flourishing, and expeditions to the Florida mainland carried oranges and lemons for the health
of the soldiers. Menendez, founder of St. Augustine, won many Indian friends by giving the
chiefs European delicacies to eat, and Spanish missionaries, taking their cue from this great
leader, planted orange groves around their missions to induce the Indians to remain near them.
In 1696 Jonathan Dickenson said of St. Augustine: "It is about three-quarters of a mile in
length, nor regularly built, the houses not very thick, they having large orchards, in which are
plenty of oranges, lemons, pome-citrons, lymes, figs, and peaches: the houses, most of them
are old buildings, and not half of them inhabited..." * General Oglethorpe, scouting in Spanish
Florida in 1735, noted the fine groves on Amelia Island where a Spanish mission had
flourished but a few years before.

William Bartram, King's botanist, in an account of his travels in Florida in 1773, often
mentions the orange groves along the St. Johns River from Cowford (Jacksonville) as far south
as DeLand. Bartram also mentions passing orange groves on his trip from the St. Johns River
to the Alachua
*God's Protecting Providence, pp. 77-8