sweet orange tree

Mother Orange Tree

The Mother Orange Tree, located in Oroville, California, is the oldest of all Northern California orange trees. Originally planted in Bidwell's Bar near the Bidwell Bar Bridge, it is a Mediterranean sweet orange cultivar, and was the first rootstock brought from Mazatlán, Mexico around Cape Horn on a shipping vessel. The two-year-old orange tree, which was a novelty in Northern California at the time, was purchased by Judge Joseph Lewis in the city of Sacramento and planted in 1856 at the western approach to the bridge.

As the years passed and the tree flourished, growing to a height of over 60 feet (18 m), it was a favorite attraction of the miners who would sample its fruit and save seeds to plant in the dooryards of their cabins. On average, it yielded about 600 pounds (273 kg) of oranges that ripened between February and May each year. It has been transplanted twice, once in 1862 to avoid flooding of the Feather River, and again in 1964 during the construction of Oroville Dam to its present spot in the California State Park Headquarters in Oroville.

The tree's survival proved that the citrus industry could thrive in the colder climate of Northern California, encouraging many people to grow oranges in the area around Oroville, although the vast majority of oranges produced in the region are of the navel orange variety instead.

In 1998, a severe frost struck and the tree stopped bearing fruit for a number of years. As a result of the frost, decay fungus entered the trunk and hollowed it out. To ensure preservation of the tree, propagation experts at the University of California, Riverside successfully cloned the tree in 2003 and three clones were brought to Oroville for planting. The tree has since resumed fruit production.

The California Historical Landmark commemorative plaque for the bridge may be found near the tree.

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