Parent Washington Navel roots in 1944
page created 9 March 2002 re-designed 27th Jan 2011

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 .
For the history of this tree, I quote from my "Moon Handbook for Southern California":-
The Parent Washington Navel sweet orange tree and a 'smudge pot' - an obsolete form of heating that was widely used to protect groves from the occassional winter frosts.
While I was photographing the Parent Washington Navel, the Riverside City employee who looks after the area happened to arrive. He unlocked the gate and, seeing my interest, proceeded to pick a couple of oranges and hand them to me! I took them back to my motel room, photographed them and ate them for my supper. Of medium size, they were deliciously sweet and juicy - though probably contaminated by pollution from the nearby busy roads!
Below right is a close-up of the base of the trunk, showing the new rootstocks that were grafted in place to support the tree when its own roots declined due to gummosis (foot-rot) caused by the fungal disease Phytophthora . For comparison I have included a photo taken in 1918 and in 1944, twenty-six years after the 'inarching' was performed. The new root-stocks were three of each of Sweet Orange, Sour Orange and Rough Lemon. In 1951, it was noted that some of the original inarches were girdled with Phytophthora lesions. Therefore, in that same year a second inarching was done using three seedlings of Troyer citrange and one of trifoliate orange.
Citrus Variety Collection
Citrus State Historic Park
Also at Riverside
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There is an excellent and comprehensive web-site giving the full history of this tree. Click here. Some information from it has been used in this web-page.
Parent Washington Navel roots in 1918
Parent Washington Navel roots in 2002
Parent Washington Navel plaque
California Historical Landmark 20
The Parent Washington Navel & smudge pot
oranges from Parent Washington Navel