Citrus sinensis, orange or sweet orange (to distinguish it from related species, such as sour orange, C. aurantium, and mandarin orange, C. reticulata), is a small tree in the Rutaceae (citrus family) that originated in southern China, where it has been cultivated for millennia. Oranges are now grown commercially worldwide in tropical, semi-tropical, and some warm temperate regions, and have become the most widely planted fruit tree in the world. Oranges are the world’s most popular fruit, and are eaten fresh and used for juice.
The orange tree is small, spiny tree, typically growing to 7.5 m (25 ft), but occasionally reaching heights up to 15 m (50 ft), generally with a compact crown. Leaves are leathery and evergreen, and range from elliptical to oblong to oval, 6.5-15 cm long and 2.5-9.5 cm wide, often with narrow wings on the petioles (leaf stems). The fragrant white flowers, produced singly or in cluster of up to 6, are around 5 cm wide, with 5 petals and 20 to 25 yellow stamens. The fruit, which may be globose to oval, is typically 6.5 to 9.5 cm wide, and ripens to orange or yellow. The fruit skin (rind or peel) contains numerous small oil glands. The flesh or pulp of the fruit is typically juicy and sweet, divided into 10 to 14 segments (although there are seedless varieties) and ranges in color from yellow to orange to red. Hundreds of cultivars have been developed, which are grouped into 4 major categories by geography (Mediterranean oranges, Spanish oranges) and characteristics (blood oranges, navel oranges).
Oranges, which are high in vitamins A and C and potassium, are eaten fresh or processed into juice, which can be consumed directly or further processed into concentrate, both used in numerous soda and cocktail drinks, punches, orangeades, and liqueurs (although many orange liqueurs are made from sour, rather than sweet, oranges, or from a combination). Orange fruits and peels are used in numerous desserts, jams and marmalades, candied peels, as well as cookies, cakes, and candies. Oil derived from orange peels, as well as flowers, leaves, and twigs is used as an essential oil in perfumes; orange seed oil may also be used in cooking or as a component in plastics. Orange blossoms produce more nectar than any other source in the U.S., and are important for honey production (more than 25% of honey produced in California is from orange groves).
The total global commercial production of oranges in 2010 was 69.4 million metric tons (mt), harvested from 4.1 million hectares. Brazil, which is the leading producer (with 19.1 million mt), produced more than twice as much as the second-ranked U.S. (with 7.5 million mt). Other leading producers included India, China, Mexico, and Spain.
Orange trees and fruits are susceptible to various pests and pathogens, including the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata), numerous fungal leaf spots, blights, and root rots (including Cercospora, Colletotrichum Fusarium, Phytophthora, and many others) and viruses that can significantly reduce yields.
(Bailey et al. 1976, FAOSTAT 2012, Flora of China 2012, Morton 1987, van Wyk 2005.)
- Bailey, L.H., E.Z. Bailey, and the L.H. Bailey Hortatorium. 1976. Hortus Third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. New York: Macmillan. p. 276–77.
- FAOSTAT. 2012. Searchable online statistical database from Food and Agriculture Division of the United Nations. Retrieved 7 March 2012 from http://faostat.fao.org/site/567/DesktopDefault.aspx?PageID=567#ancor.
- Morton, J. 1987. Mandarin orange. Citrus sinensis. p. 134–142. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. Available online from http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/orange.html.
- van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. “Citrus sinensis.” Food Plants of the World: An Illustrated Guide. Portland, OR: Timber Press. p. 145.
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