Carol Cloud Bailey
CITRUS sinensis 'Cara Cara'
Plant Common Name
Cara Cara Pink Navel Orange, Orange
A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine and many people agree. The juice of sweet oranges has become a dietary staple of millions worldwide. No trees of Citrus sinensis exist in the wild today, but probably originated in China, northeastern India, and southeastern Asia. They were eventually moved along Asian trade routes to Africa, the Mediterranean and Europe where those of wealthy means established orangeries. Spaniards brought oranges with them to South America in the 1500s and from there they were introduced to the United States on several occasions. Today, this luscious fruit is grown commercially and in backyards in warm, subtropical regions the world over.
Sweet orange trees are medium to large, evergreen and have rounded crowns covered with glossy, elliptical, fragrant leaves occasionally with slightly winged stems and minute teeth along the edges. The branches sometimes have flexible, blunt thorns. Flowers appear from winter to spring and may be single or clustered. In bud they are red or purple-hued and open to reveal white fragrant blooms that are highly attractive to honeybees, which produce orange blossom honey.
The cultivar ‘Cara Cara’ is a pink fleshed naval orange. It produces fragrant, medium-sized, round fruit with a slight neck on top and navel at the bottom. The skin is thick, easy to peel and has orange to red-orange skin. The flesh is of excellent flavor, dark pink, not very juicy and seedless. The fruit ripens early to mid season and should be harvested when ripe; however it does keep for a short period on the tree. Medium-sized trees have drooping branches and are moderately vigorous and temperamental in production. They are nearly thornless and alternate bearing, which means they produce a heavy crop one year and a lighter crop the next and do not require a pollinating tree nearby. Naval oranges are best for fresh fruit as they do not process for juice well.
Cold sensitive, orange trees prefer locations with warm, dry winters, and cool summers; they will tolerate temperatures a few degrees below freezing for only a few hours. They require full sun and are tolerant of most soils, even poor soils, with ample drainage. Though moderately drought tolerant once established, they must have regular applications of water for good fruit production. Regular fertilization is also required as they are heavy feeders. The trees are generally self-pruning and only require removal of water sprouts, low branches and damaged or crossing limbs. Orange trees need plenty of space for their crowns to grow. They are grafted on to rootstocks, which impart tolerances to soils, pests and climate conditions.
The whole of the orange tree is usable. The fruit is used culinarily and medicinally, the wood for furniture, the pulp for animal feed and the oil from the skin is extracted and used industrially, for cleaning, as a pesticide and to scent everything from soap to perfume. Plant sweet orange in tubs or as conservatory specimens where not hardy and in the home orchard for the versatile, tasty fruit and to attract the North America giant swallowtail butterfly which uses this and other citrus as larval food.