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Gov. Jeb Bush is helping nurture Florida's citrus industry as the $9 billion wedge of the state's economy begins to bloom again after the onslaught of hurricanes in 2004.
Bush announced that the orange is now the 29th official emblem of the Sunshine State.
"The orange plays a vital role in our state's economy, with more than 90,000 people employed by the citrus industry and more than 1.2 billion gallons of orange juice produced each year in the state," Bush said, according to a press release. "It's fitting that we designate the orange as the official state fruit."
There are roughly 85 million orange trees around the state. Over 100,000 Floridians are employed in the citrus industry, which generates more than $8 billion in economic activity annually. Throw in the fact that oranges and orange juice are nutritious and taste great, it is only fitting that the orange take its long-overdue place amongst Florida's official symbols.
The idea was brought to the legislature's attention by State Rep. Donna Clark, R-Sarasota, who spoke for an assertive fourth-grade class from Sarasota County's Southside Elementary School. The class developed the campaign to officiate the orange, solicited endorsements and created a theme song to support the bill making Florida's borders one big orange peel, according to the release.
"It's a great honor," said Florida Department of Citrus spokesman Andrew Meadows. "We didn't lobby for it. It was great that it was the idea of these kids. Their genuine effort influenced the governor."
Meadows said his department sent 100 pounds of oranges to the fourth graders, who attended the signing with their teacher.
Meadows said the move could help the citrus industry financially.
The sweet orange, like most citrus, is native to subtropical Southeast Asia. The Arabians were the first people to mention citrus in their writings, and our word for this fruit is derived from their Sanskirt name. The Moors brought these plants to Spain, where they were used medicinally and in religious services. Although the bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) reached Europe by the 1000s, the sweet orange did not arrive in India until 1330, and was planted in Versailles in 1421. Columbus transported oranges to South America in 1493, and by 1587 Cuba was covered with these beautiful trees. It was the Spanish Missionaries who brought this highly prized fruit to California, establishing the first orange groves in the 1700s.
Leaf: The leaves are shiny and leathery, oblong to elliptic, up to 4" long, and have narrow wings on their petioles (leaf stems).
Flower: Orange blossoms are white, very fragrant, and arranged in clusters of 1-6. They bloom in spring and give rise to oranges the following autumn or winter. Last year's oranges often are still on the trees when the new flowers are blooming.
Fruit: A large, round multiple of drupes that is 4 to 5 inches in diameter. The fruit is roundish, golden-yellow or tawny, and several-celled, with a fleshy, juicy pulp; the seeds white and several. The cysts in the rind are convex (L.). The fruit has a very distinctive citrus smell.
Twig: The twigs on many orange cultivars are thorny.
Bark: Bark of a greenish-brown color, having axillary spines on the branches.
Form: The sweet orange is a compact evergreen tree 20-30' tall with a rounded, symmetrical crown spreading 15-20' or so.
The law designating the orange as the official Florida state fruit is found in the 2008 Florida Statutes, Title 4, Chapter 15, Section 15.0315
TITLE IV - EXECUTIVE BRANCH Ch.14-24.
CHAPTER 15 - SECRETARY OF STATE.
15.0315 State fruit. --The orange (Citrus sinensis and hybrids thereof) is hereby designated the official fruit of Florida.
History.--s. 1, ch. 2005-38.
Taxonomic Hierarchy: Orange
Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Family: Rutaceae - Rue family
Genus: Citrus L. - citrus
Species: Citrus ?inensis (L.) Osbeck (pro sp.) [maxima ?reticulata] - sweet orange