The Story of Citrus in Polk County Florida. A brochure prepared in 1933 for the Chambers of Commerce for several cities in Polk County.


     Golden "apples" blossoms...Fountain of Youth...the very atmosphere of "Orange Land" breathes of romance!  And so this lucious fruit has ever been connected with romance in its varied meanings. The ancient trees of Spain---many  of them still bearing at five hundred years of age---the bringing of the golden balls to Florida and the beginnings of the great industry---all make a story full of thrills and interest.
     In Greek mythology there was a certain garden of gods in which grew the "golden apple" -- symbolic of love and fruitfulness, and it was believed those blessings were bestowed upon those who had the good fortune to come into possession of this fruit.
     The golden apples were really oranges, the word "orange" having come down to us through many languages from Sanskrit "Narranga."  It was the famous Roman naturalist, Pliny, who gave the name of citrus to the fruit, which technically is a berry produced by an evergreen tree.
     The Malay Archipelago is given the honor by researchers for having been the original home of the orange.  At a very early date it spread to southern China, Japan, India, Syria and Arabia, and about the 10th century was introduced by the Arabs through the Mediterranean countries into Spain, from thence it has spread to practically all the warmer climes of the world. It was undoubtedly the Spanish explorers who introduced the orange into the new world---it may have been by the courtly Ponce de Leon, who first landed in Florida in 1513.  At any rate, Florida was the first home of the orange in America, where it has been growing for over three hundred years.
     It was the wild orange that was brought in by the Spanish explorers, who carried this fruit with them on shipboard as an anti-scurvy measure.   The seeds were thrown upon the coast, took root, grew and bore fruit.  The native Indians recognized the fruit as being medicinal and it became quite popular with them, so much so that the seed was carried throughout Florida and planted wherever the Indians set up camp. Some of the trees planted by the later Seminoles are still living and bearing---the trees having been planted in irregular groups and now in rows as is now the custom.  Great advancements in the scientific development of oranges has taken place since those days.


     The grapefruit is a comparatively recent member of the citrus family, having been developed in Florida.  After a great deal of experimentation, abut 1884 some famous eastern doctors shipped the first grapefruit to New York for some of their patients.  It derives its name from its tendency to grow in clusters like grapes, over 75 grapefruit having been known to grow on one small, tough branch, resembling a huge bunch of yellow grapes.  Growers now "discourage" this tendency through scientific cultivation so that each fruit may have a better chance for symmetrical maturity.


     Some orange trees in Florida are over 100 years of age and still bearing delicious fruit, but mot of the twenty million orange and grapefruit trees are much younger, and the greatest development of the citrus industry has taken place in the last 25 years.
     It is a very fascinating and interesting industry, from the planting of the little stick-like trees up through the fifth year (the beginning of commercial bearing) and on through the picking and preparation for market. The growing of the fruit is a science requiring intelligent and systematic work, but it is said that no tree responds so readily to good care as the orange or grapefruit.
     There are early, mid-season and late varities of both the orange and grapefruit, making a ripening period extending from the early fall to June.  The blossom time usually begins in February and extends through April, though there is also a lighter bloom in June.  It is a very usual and beautiful sight to see the golden fruit, the little green "marbles" and the fragrant white orange blossoms all on the same tree at the same time.


     The soil, the altitude and the climatic conditions of Polk County have been found to be ideal for the growing of citrus fruit.  "Imperial Polk" is located in about the geographic center of the state and it contains much high ground and over 1000 lakes.   The elevation provides excellent air drainage and the lakes temper the occasional cold spells so that frost dnger is at a minimum in Polk County.
     Also in this section of the state there is a little rain practically every day during the summer months, caled "The Season of Summer Showers," just the time when citrus fruit needs moisture.  So that with the occasional shower during the fall and winter, irrigation is rarely needed saving a big cost in production.
     The highest point in the state is in Polk County, according to the U.S.Coast and Geodetic Survey: it is Iron Mountain, the hill-top on which is located the beautiful Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower from which place one gets a fine panorama of groves, for around here one may look down rows of orange trees from one to three miles long.
     Polk County produces from one third to one half of the output of grapefruit of the entire state. According to the Florida Grower, May 1930 issue, for the ten year period from 1919 to 1928 Florida shipped an average of 30 percent of the oranges produced in the United States and over 90 percent of the grapefruit.
     *****The above information was from a brochure printed in 1933 for the Chambers of Commerce and citrus industries of Polk County.*****
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