Where Can I Buy Some Seeds to Grow a Navel Orange Tree?

Excuse Me, Do You Have Any Navel Orange Tree Seeds for Sale?

Just the other day I was asked that question. I’ve often been asked that question, after all, the Navel Orange is the most popular orange in the United States so it is not odd that people want to grow their own. But I always have to answer the same way, “Sorry, but you can’t get seeds to grow a ‘Navel’ Orange tree. It cannot be grown from seed!”

Surprised? I was when I first learned this. You see it is a clone and can only be propagated by cloning or grafting! In Fact, all navel orange trees are all perfect clones of one another and all originate from just one single tree in Brazil.

Read more: Promiscuous Plants and the Pollinators they Tantalize

A Brief History of Navel Oranges

In 1820, a mutation occurred in a group of sweet orange trees growing on the grounds of a monastery in Bahia, Brazil. The mutation created a seedless orange that was much sweeter than the original citrus fruit.

In addition, the new specimen had an underdeveloped twin orange growing within the same skin of each fully developed orange. From the outside, this growth looked like a human belly button, which resulted in the naming of the newly grown citrus variety: navel oranges.

Since navel oranges are seedless, farmers couldn’t simply grow another tree from the seeds to get more of the fruit. The only way to grow more navel oranges is to amputate a blossoming bud from an existing navel orange tree and unite it with another compatible fruit tree’s trunk or root.

This process is called grafting and is only successful if the grafted fruit trees are compatible with one another. Since navel oranges are compatible with grapefruits, lemons, and limes, they can be grafted with any of these.

Read more: Can You Imagine Florida without Oranges?

The Navel Orange Comes to America

Two years after the discovery of the navel orange tree, Brazil sent a dozen navel orange cuttings to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington DC. Five years later, a woman named Eliza Tibbets planted one of these at her home in Riverside, California and it started producing fruit.

Mrs. Tibbets’ success growing this fruit spread, and other California orange growers decided to take buds from her tree to grow as well, since the California climate proved perfect for navel oranges. This variety of navel orange became known as the Riverside Orange, but its name was later changed to the Washington Navel Orange and it is now the most popular type of navel orange in the world.

Bonus Facts About Oranges

Here are some bonus facts about oranges that I’ll bet you didn’t know…

1. The color orange was actually named after the orange fruit, not the other way around, as one might expect.

2. Orange is the world’s third favorite flavor (number one and two belong to chocolate and vanilla).

3. A navel orange tree can grow 30 feet tall and live for well over 100 years (the exact number isn’t known yet because the variety is relatively young and, for instance, one of Eliza Tibbets’ original navel orange trees is still growing and producing fruit today).

4. There is an orange tree in Europe called “Constable” that is 500 years old.

5. Orange trees will not bear quality fruit until at least the third growing season.

6. The majority of people peel an orange to get at the juicy fruit on the inside. However, even though the peel of an orange lacks the sweet juiciness of the actual orange, it is edible and nutritious. The peel is primarily eaten in environments with limited resources and that require minimal waste to be generated, like on submarines. The peel is also a source of nutritional value, particularly containing vitamin C and fiber. Word to the wise: if you’re planning to eat the peel of an orange, stick to the organically grown or processed oranges that haven’t been treated with chemical pesticides and herbicides.

7. If you choose not to eat the peel of an orange, there are a variety of other ways to use it including repelling the annoying slug and garden pests, producing orange oil for the purpose of adding flavor to food and drinks and adding fragrance to perfumes and aromatherapy.

8. When choosing an orange of ample ripeness to eat, skin color is not a good indicator. Make sure the orange is heavy for its size and has a good fresh odor and isn’t too squishy, nor too firm.

9. In 1848, thousands of people rushed to California after gold was found. This time is known as the California Gold Rush. The “other” California Gold Rush occurred in 1882 when California was home for over 500,000 growing citrus trees. It was during this time that California helped establish the citrus industry.

10. The sweet orange is the most commonly grown fruit tree in the world and accounts for approximately 70% of the world’s citrus production.

Although you can find navel orange trees for sale at any number of online sites, I would advise caution. As far as growing your own navel orange tree goes, the best thing I have found is to talk to your local nurseryman. Finding a “nursery guy” you can trust and rely on is one of the best things any gardener can do!

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  • Phoebe says:

    That’s fascinating. I would imagine that if any particular pathogen uniquely targeted Navel Oranges, that could be a pretty big problem, since they are all genetically identical.

  • Orange Lover says:

    Contradiction? All of them are perfect clones, but there are different varieties and types?!

    “all navel orange trees are all perfect clones of one another”

    “This variety of navel orange became known as the Riverside Orange, but its name was later changed to the Washington Navel Orange and it is now the most popular type of navel orange in the world.”

    This may be true (or may have been true at one time)… maybe it’s because of root stock or other area specific traits brought out by differing expression of different genes. BUT in my world, when you make two statements like those, you explain yourself!

    I have a 20+ year old navel tree in the back yard here in Florida, and its oranges are very different from the easily navels ones I prefer.

    I suspect you’re oversimplifying a lot with your statement that “all navel orange trees are all perfect clones.”
    What about Scarlet navel: a blood orange variety with the same mutation as the navel orange?

    Or cara cara navels – with a bright orange rind similar to that of other navels, but their flesh is distinctively pinkish red. The two I bring up may be describing the same variety with different names, but I seriously doubt that they are genetically identical to the tree in my yard, or the California varieties.

  • Orange Lover says:

    Some parts didn’t come through the way I typed them in my comment.

    I was trying to say that navels may all be clones, or may at one time have been clones, but I doubt it. The Florida Navels I grow are very different from the easily distinguished California navels with softer spongy peels. Even the pith on the inside is very different. And I doubt the California varieties are genetically identical to the Florida ones that I prefer.

    Probably, it’s more accurate to say that all trees *of a given variety* are clones of one another.

    Thanks for the interesting article… it contained a lot of things I didn’t know!

  • Betty Bake says:

    thanks for this useful and interesting blog post!
    you live and learn 🙂

  • Naomi says:

    Thank you for the excellent article!

  • R.S. Elam says:

    Wow, I never knew ANY of this! Thanx!

  • Lois says:

    Knowing they’re seedless, this question has plagued me for years. Thanks for sharing!

  • Anthony Thomas says:

    I’m interested in buying orange seeds. I’m from Africa Liberia anthonythomas1975@gmail.com

  • Hi, Mr. Urbach.-
    I live in Costa Rica and own a farm that initially was producing oranges but we change them for teak wood. However, we are very interested in growing Navel orange trees.
    Can you help with advice on where to buy them in the US and ship them to our Country?
    We will try with -lets say-50 trees to beging and see how they behaybe

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