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Facts About the Orange Tree: Description, Type, and Uses

A botany graduate, Nithya Venkat enjoys writing about plants that help sustain life on planet Earth.

Orange Tree

Orange Tree

Oranges are citrus fruits that belong to the family Rutaceae. The cultivation of oranges started in 2500 years BC. Oranges were introduced to Europe in the 15th century and shipped to South America in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

The word orange was introduced to English through the Spanish word "Naranja," which in turn came from the Sanskrit word "naranga," meaning "orange tree." In the early 16th century, the word "orange" gradually started referring to the fruit and the color that we now know as orange.

History of Oranges

The orange tree originated in southern China, northeastern India, and southeastern Asia. It was carried to the Mediterranean by the Italian traders after 1450 and Portuguese navigators around 1500. Up to that era, citrus fruits were mainly used for medicinal purposes, but soon oranges were adopted by wealthy people who grew them in conservatories called orangeries. By 1946 oranges became well-known around the world.

Spaniards introduced the sweet orange into South America and Mexico in the mid-1500s, and the French took it to Louisiana. The orange seeds were obtained from New Orleans and distributed in Florida about 1872, and many orange groves were established by grafting the sweet orange onto sour orange rootstocks.

Arizona received the orange tree with the founding missions between 1707 and 1710. The orange was brought to San Deigo, California, by those who built the first mission in 1769. An orchard was planted at the San Gabriel Mission around 1804, and a commercial orchard was established in 1841 on a site that is a part of Los Angeles now.

The orange tree has become the most commonly grown fruit tree in the world. It is an essential crop in the Far East, South Africa, Australia, the Mediterranean, and the subtropical areas of South America and the Caribbean.

The United States is the largest oranges producer, with Florida having an annual yield of more than 200 million boxes except when freezes occur. Other major producers are Brazil, Spain, Japan, Mexico, Italy, India, Argentina, and Egypt.

Scientific Classification of the Orange Tree

Kingdom - Plantae

Division - Magnoliophyta

Class - Magnoliopsida

Order - Sapindales

Family - Rutaceae

Genus - Citrus

Orange Flower

Orange Flower

Description of the Orange Tree

The orange tree is an evergreen, flowering tree that can reach 16 - 49 feet with a crown that can reach 20 feet in diameter. The glossy, green leaves are oval or elliptically shaped with crenulate edges (wavy-toothed) and are arranged alternately on the branches.


The orange tree produces white flowers singly or in clusters called racemes. They have a pleasant citrusy fragrance. Orange flowers mostly open in one great flush in the blooming season and give rise to oranges the following autumn or winter. The flowers are pollinated by bees.

The flowers have five oblong, white petals with 20 - 25 stamens with conspicuous yellow anthers.

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Inside the orange fruit

Inside the orange fruit

Structure of the Orange Fruit

The orange fruit is a type of berry called a hesperidium. Hesperidium is a modified berry resulting from a single ovary. The fruit consists of 8 - 16 carpels (segments) that contain seeds and juice.


The fruit has an outer rind, also known as the exocarp; this rind is divided into the

  • flavedo
  • albedo


The flavedo is the outer glandular layer of the rind that is orange and leathery. The carotenoids present in the flavedo give the orange color to the fruit. The rind has many pits that have volatile oil glands. The gland's essential oil is responsible for its aroma when the fruit is peeled, ground, or bruised.


Below the flavedo is the albedo, a white, thick fibrous inner layer. The albedo, also known as the pith, is stringy and spongy. Albedo is a rich source of pectin ( a soluble fiber) that aids gastrointestinal functions and controls blood sugar. It fights against the bad LDL cholesterol in the blood. It is rich in antioxidants that fight against the aging of cells.


The endocarp is the inner part of the orange that has the edible pulp. The endocarp has a central fibrous core composed of segments (carpels) that contain the juice sacs (vesicles) with or without the seeds. Each juice sac has a minute gland at the center. The seeds are also attached to the segment walls by the axial placenta tissue.

The size and shape of the fruit and the presence or absence of seeds vary among orange species. The orange pulp's color can be pale yellow, orange, or red, depending on the number of carotenoids and anthocyanins in the pulp.

Navel oranges and Tahiti lime are seedless; the grapefruit and the pomelo varieties have 30 - 50 seeds.

Note: Below, you will find some of the orange varieties from across the globe

Navel Orange

Navel Orange

Inside the Navel Orange

Inside the Navel Orange

Navel oranges are large with thick skin. A single mutation in 1820 in an orchard of sweet oranges planted in a monastery in Brazil yielded the navel orange. The mutation resulted in a small second orange within the larger fruit at the blossom end ( the end opposite the stem.)

In the place where the second fruit develops, there is an indentation that looks similar to a human navel, hence the name. The mutation resulted in the fruit being seedless and, therefore, sterile. Therefore, cutting and grafting are the only means to cultivate more of this new variety.

Navel oranges are seedless winter oranges that are in season from December through March. They are best eaten fresh because navel oranges contain a compound called limonin, which produces a bitter taste when juiced.

Slice of Blood Orange

Slice of Blood Orange

Blood Oranges

Blood oranges are a natural mutation of the sweet oranges. They have a distinct red/ruby red color due to their high levels of anthocyanin pigments. They are medium-sized fruit and considered the most aromatic in the orange family with a tart-sweet flavor.

Blood oranges grow well in places with Mediterranean climates. There are three main types of blood oranges – moro, tarocco, and sanguinello.

Mandarin Oranges

Mandarin Oranges

Mandarin Oranges

Mandarin oranges are smaller than the standard orange. They are sweet, less acidic, and have bright orange skin that is thin and easy to peel. They are oblate in shape and flat at both ends.

The term “mandarin oranges” is applied to all orange varieties of Citrus reticulata, such as clementine, Dancy, honey, pixie, satsuma, and tangerines.

Mandarin can be easily crossed with other oranges, and as a result, there are about two hundred mandarin varieties, both seeded and seedless.

Tangerine Oranges

Tangerine Oranges


Tangerines are round, small with a thin, deep-orange, easy-to-peel skin. They have a sweet taste.

The name “Tangerine” comes from Tangiers in Morocco, the port where the fruit was first shopped to Europe and Florida in the United States in the 1800s. There are many varieties and hybrids of the tangerine, such as tangelo, Minneola tangelo, Clementine, also known as the Algerian tangerine.

Valencia Oranges

Valencia Oranges

Valencia Oranges

Valencia oranges are sweet summer oranges named after Valencia, Spain. They are available from March up until June. They contain a few seeds and are juicier than other regular oranges.



Clementines are hybrids of a mandarin orange (Citrus deliciosa) and a sweet orange (Citrus sinensis). The skin is smooth, deep-orange, and glossy. They are small, easy to peel, and are typically juicy, sweet, and less acidic.

Fresh Orange Juice

Fresh Orange Juice

Health Benefits of Orange Juice

Every type of orange has more than 100 % of the recommended daily dose of Vitamin C.

One medium-sized orange has -

3 grams of fiber

12 grams of sugar

1 gram of protein

70 milligrams of vitamin C

14 micrograms of vitamin A

6 % of the daily recommended amount of Calcium

237 grams of potassium

15.4 grams of carbohydrates

60 calories

No fat or sodium

Health Benefits of Vitamin C

The vitamin C in oranges helps to -

  • protect cells from damage
  • makes collagen
  • enables the absorption of iron to prevent anemia
  • boosts the immune system that helps to fight germs
  • helps fight cancer-causing free radicals

The three grams of fiber in a medium-sized orange help to keep the bowels healthy, cholesterol low and prevents the formation of ulcers. Fibers also slow down the rate of absorption of sugar by the body.

Oranges are rich in folates used by body cells to make DNA. Folates prevent congenital disabilities and are an essential vitamin for pregnant women.

The citric acid and citrates present in oranges help prevent kidney stone formation.

Uses of Oranges

The most popular product made from oranges is orange juice. They are also peeled and consumed as a snack. In addition, oranges are used to make jams and marmalade and in cooking and baking.

The flowers of Citrus sinensis are called "orange blossoms." These flowers are used in the production of perfume. It is traditionally related to good fortune and is used to make bridal bouquets and head wreaths for weddings. In addition, the orange blossom's petals are used to make orange flower water and for cooking and baking many dishes.

Orange blossom honey is produced by placing beehives in citrus groves during the blooming period. This also pollinates seeded citrus varieties.

The sweet orange oil is produced by cold-pressing the fragrant peels. The oil has a sweet, fruity, fresh fragrance, used as an aromatic ingredient to make perfumes. Orange peels are also used to make potpourri.

Oranges are used to manufacture skincare products because of the high vitamin C content; this vitamin helps the body cells make collagen and elastin, which helps maintain skin elasticity and prevents the formation of wrinkles.


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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Nithya Venkat


Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 17, 2020:

Thank you for your visit and comments srsddn, I am glad you enjoyed reading.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 17, 2020:

Thank you for reading MS Singh emge.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 17, 2020:

Thank you for your visit and comments Linda, I am glad you enjoyed reading.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 17, 2020:

manatita44 thank you for your visit and comments. Oranges are filled with vitamin C and taste delicious my favorite fruit.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 17, 2020:

"Cuties" is the brand name for Clementine oranges. Thank you for your visit and comments Ruby.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 17, 2020:

Thank you for your visit and comments, Mary. Yes, it is amazing how plants spread to different places.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 17, 2020:

Thank you Bill for your visit and comments. Have a great week.

Sukhdev Shukla from Dehra Dun, India on December 17, 2020:

Thanks, Nithya, for sharing this great information about orange tree and oranges. It is rather overwhelming to know about a fruit one is eating since childhood without knowing its varieties, nutritional value and other related information. I thoroughly enjoyed going through your article.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on December 16, 2020:

Thanks for a lot if information on a common fruit. Interesting.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 16, 2020:

Thank you for sharing this very informative article. Oranges are one of my favorite fruits. The facts that you've shared are interesting. I enjoyed reading the article very much.

manatita44 from london on December 16, 2020:

Well, I thought mandarins, clementins, etc, were all separate. Sisters, perhaps, but you seem to be saying that they are varieties of oranges. Great!

This article is written so well! I absolutely loved it! The nutritional value is also noteworthy, although I, in fact, knew quite a lot about vitamin C

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 16, 2020:

I love oranges. I have a half every morning with my breakfast. I prefer navel, but Walmart has a bag called cuties that are good. Your article was interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 16, 2020:

This is really a very informative article. It's so interesting how the plant travelled all over the world. Thanks, too, for differentiating the various oranges available.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 16, 2020:

I always love your articles. Without exception, I always learn something new. Thank you for that.

I hope this finds you well. Stay safe and have a wonderful Wednesday!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 16, 2020:

Thank you for your visit and comments, Ann. Homemade juice is the best, and when you add oranges to the mix, the juice tastes even better.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 16, 2020:

Thank you for your visit and comments. Chitrangada. Winter oranges do taste great.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 16, 2020:

I hope you can harvest the oranges in the coming season Peggy. It must be great to just go to the yard pluck an orange and eat it fresh from the tree. Thank you for your visit and comments,

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 16, 2020:

We can grow oranges in our Houston climate. Your article is well researched and informative. We have a type of mandarin orange tree planted in our backyard. Twice, when it was loaded with blossoms, we had a hail storm knocking most of the blossoms off of the tree. Perhaps this year we will luck out and have a decent crop!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 16, 2020:

A well written, researched and informative article about oranges.

I enjoyed reading about it’s history and it’s different varieties. I believe, it’s grown in many countries. Though oranges are available throughout the year, I find the winter oranges to be the best.

Thank you for sharing this elaborate and well presented article.

Ann Carr from SW England on December 16, 2020:

So many plants originate in China, don't they? I love oranges, large and small. I make my own fruit juice and a large proportion of the mix is oranges.

This is such an informative article. I didn't realise that the orange was an evergreen. Thanks for the education!


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