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Ponce de Leon historical painting

1493 & 1513

Florida Citrus originated in 1493 when Christopher Columbus brought oranges to the New World. In 1513, Spanish explorers including Ponce De Leon, Hernan Cortez, and Hernando DeSoto brought citrus to Florida. 


Nearly 250 years later in 1763, Jesse Fish of St. Augustine established the first commercial citrus grove. The adoption of this industry continued to progress and in 1776, the first references to the shipment of fruit out of Florida appeared in writing. It is said that 65,000 oranges and 2 caskets of juice went by boat to England.

Jess Fish historical painting
Douglass Dummett Historical Sign


Looking to enhance the citrus crop, in 1800, Captain Douglass Dummitt found sour orange trees growing on Merritt Island and topworked (grafting established trees to another variety) them with sweet orange buds from a grove in New Smyrna. His new orange crop would be one of the first to survive the great freeze of 1835. 


In 1809, the first grapefruit arrived in Florida by Odet Philippe, who brought seeds of shaddock and established groves on the west coast of the state in Pinellas County. The Duncan Grapefruit, believed to be the oldest variety grown in the United States, developed from its first planting during this time.

Odet Philippe historical painting