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Long before citrus became a viable commercial crop for growers, Spanish missionaries who settled in Southern California during the 1700s were cultivating a variety of citrus fruit, believed to have originated from Southeast China thousands of years ago.

While the early success showed that there was a regional market for citrus, it was not until the introduction of the navel orange in the 1870s that propelled the growth of California citrus, which fueled the economic and social development of California. The navel orange was far superior to other varieties at the time because it was seedless, sweet and ripened in winter under California's Mediterranean climate.

Today, nearly all of the navel orange trees grown in the state are descendants of the Tibbets' original trees. One of those trees, now 137 years old, still stands and bears fruit in Riverside, and has been designated as a California historical landmark.

California Citrus

Today, California's citrus sector, valued at more than $1 billion annually, ranks second in the U.S. after Florida, which produces the most Valencia oranges; those are the seeded oranges used mostly for orange juice. California is No. 1 in fresh-market oranges, most notably the navel, but also produces a significant share of the nation's Valencias, lemons, grapefruit and tangerines.

USA Enterprises Inc.