Throughout the ages, the fruit of citrus trees has been recognized as a symbol of eternal love, happiness and holiness. The Japanese thought citrus blossoms represented chastity, while the Saracens believed it was a symbol of fruitfulness. Kings and queens built entire indoor gardens around citrus and Arab women used its essence to color gray hair.
The first citrus was brought to the New World in 1493 by Christopher Columbus. The early Spanish explorers, probably Ponce de Leon, planted the first orange trees around St. Augustine, Florida, between 1513 and 1565.
Citrus trees could be found growing wild throughout many of Florida's forests by the 19th century. Cultivated oranges groves could be found along the St. Johns River and around Tampa. Florida's unique sandy soil and subtropical climate proved to be ideal for growing the seeds that early settlers planted. However, it took nearly 400 years before growing citrus in the state turned into a profitable business venture.
Today, there are more than 12,000 citrus growers cultivating a record 107 million citrus trees on over 858,000 acres of land in Florida. More than 100,000 other people also work in the citrus industry or in related businesses. The state produces more oranges than any other region of the world, except Brazil, who leads the world's grapefruit production.
The citrus industry generates more than $8 billion in economic activity in Florida. As such, the citrus industry plays an important role in the life of just about every Floridian.