The History of Citrus in Florida

The History of Citrus in Florida


  • The History of Citrus in Florida

Published Date

  • 1938-1939 Series


[page 4]
growing on his property. Part of the old sour grove still remains. This is the parent stock of the
famous Indian River orange.

About 1870 citrus growing was begun on a commercial scale. The only citrus fruit
planted during 1870 to 1880 was oranges and plantings were made mainly in the territory that
is now composed of Duval, St. Johns, Volusia, Putnam, Alachua, and Marion counties. In fact,
up to 1894 the territory along the St. Johns River and Orange Lake is said to have been the
chief center of orange growing. This section not only produced a large amount of the fruit but
it also supplied a good portion of the planting stock and buds for the areas farther south. These
plantings were confined to localities close to rivers and lakes, joined by canals as there were
few, if any, other means of transportation. By 1894 production had increased to approximately
600,000 boxes per year.

The major disasters in the citrus industry were caused by freezing. The effects of low
temperature on the flora of early days are indicated by the writings of John Bartram, the
botanist, "The night of January 2, 1766 was the fatal night that destroyed the lime, citron and
banana trees in St. Augustine, many curious evergreens up the river (meaning, probably, the
Matanzas River) that were nearly 20 years old and in a flourishing state: the young green
shoots of the maple, elm, and pavia with many flowering plants and shrubs never before hurt."
Bernard Romans, in his Natural History of Florida, 1775, says: "On January 5, 1766, a frost
destroyed all the tropical productions in the country except oranges. In 1774 there was a snow
storm which extended over most of Florida (meaning what is now north Florida). The
inhabitants long afterwards spoke of it as 'an extraordinary rain.'"

A very severe freeze occurred in 1835. At this time it was cold enough in St. Augustine
to kill mature seedling trees to the ground. John Lee