Washington Parent Navel Tree


Parent Washington Navel Tree at the Mission Inn, Riverside, California, early 1900s. Handwritten on reverse: PARENT WASHINGTON NAVEL ORANGE TREE. COURT OF THE GLENWOOD MISSION INN, RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA.

Father of Riverside’s astonishing agricultural prosperity was Judge John Wesley North, an abolitionist who in 1870 established the Southern California Colony Association here. Mother of California’s orange industry-and, in a sense, mother of the Southern California myth-was Eliza Tibbetts, who in 1873 planted the first two U.S. “bud sports” (mutant bud stock) of the Selecta orange that originated in Bahia, Brazil. The trees flourished, and the fruit was clearly superior to any other commercial orange variety of the day-in size, appearance, texture, and flavour. The fact that navel oranges were also seedless further enhanced their prospects as popular table fruit. Mother Tibbets’s orange was originally christened the Riverside navel by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but other Southern California citrus growers objected, vehemently, and campaigned for a name of more “national” scope. Thus navel oranges-and all their descendants-were named after the nation’s father, George Washington.
One of the original two trees was acquired by Frank A. Miller, founder of the famed Mission Inn. With the hands-on assistance of President Teddy Roosevelt, Miller transplanted it to the inn’s courtyard on May 8, 1903. That tree died in 1921, however, and was replaced by an 11 year-old descendant.
Ownership of Eliza Tibbets’s surviving sport reverted to the city of Riverside in 1902, and the tree was transplanted to its current home on the corner of Arlington and Magnolia. With help from a horticultural technique called ‘inarching’, Riverside’s Parent Navel Orange Tree has since been re-vivified with new roots .

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