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Navel Orange Varieties

Orange navel on tree1

Orange navel on treeThe navel orange is a type of sweet orange that is large, seedless and has a rich, juicy flavor that is delicious for eating out of hand.

There are several varieties of navel oranges. They all have thick, rough, bright orange skins that are easy to peel. The segments of the navel orange are easy to separate.

You will find navel oranges at the farm market from fall through spring.

The navel orange gets its name from a depression or hole at the blossom end of the fruit opposite the stem that encloses a small undeveloped secondary fruit. The depression looks like a human navel and thus the name. (As the secondary fruit enlarges, the navel enlarges.)

The original navel orange was the result of the mutation of a common sweet orange growing in an orchard at a monastery in Brazil in 1820. A cutting from that tree was sent to Washington, D.C., in 1870 for propagation. As a result, the original navel orange variety came to be called the Washington navel orange.

In the late nineteenth century, Washington navel oranges were distributed around the United States for general cultivation. They were so well suited for the climate of Southern California that they spawned the California citrus industry. The navel orange is the most commonly grown orange in California today.

The Washington navel orange ripens from fall into winter, and the fruit will keep on the tree for 3 to 4 months.

Other navel orange varieties are sports or mutations of the original Washington. When plant mutations result in desirable traits, they are often developed by growers into separate varieties.

Washington navel sports include:

Cara Cara: a navel orange with a flavorful, juicy pink flesh. Cara Cara is sweet and mildly acidic. Its flavor is reminiscent of strawberries and raspberries.

Cara Cara was discovered on a Washington tree growing in Venezuela. Sometimes Cara Cara is called Red Navel. It ripens from fall into winter.

Fukumoto: a sweet and juicy navel with a reddish-orange rind. This is a medium-sized orange that ripens about one week before the Washington.

Lane Late: similar to the Washington but has a smaller navel and smoother skin. This variety was discovered in Australia in 1950. Lane Late ripens 4 to 6 weeks later than the Washington. The Lane Late is sometimes called a summer navel.

Riverside: this navel orange is the original Washington navel orange by a different name. A cutting of the Washington was sent to Riverside, California in 1870. This was the Washington orange that started commercial orange growing in California. (Bahai is yet another name for the Washington and Riverside navel orange. Bahia is the region of Brazil where the original Washington was discovered.)

Robertson: has medium-large fruit just like the Washington but this variety ripens 2 to 3 weeks earlier than the Washington. The Robertson, which is moderately juicy, bears its fruit in clusters.

Skaggs Bonanza: is a medium-large to large navel orange that bears more fruit than the Washington and ripens 2 weeks earlier. Skaggs Bonanza has a rich and sweet flavor and is moderately juicy.

How to Choose an Orange. Select an orange that is firm and heavy for its size. A heavy orange will be a juicy orange. Avoid oranges that are spongy or have mold. Rough brown russeting on the rind of an orange will not affect the flavor or quality. A slight greening of the orange rind will not affect the quality. An orange with a green tint to its rind can be ripe and ready to eat.

Store. Oranges will keep in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator for up to a month, or they will store in a cool, dark place in the kitchen for a week.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.


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  1. We recently bought property that had a recently planted orange tree. The previous owner stated he bought it from his son through a school fundraiser but doesn’t recall the type of orange tree but was almost positive it was of the Navel variety. This is our 2nd fall to live here and was the 2nd year the tree produced anything. Last year it produced 3 extremely large oranges. So large and heavy the branches hung and 2 of the 3 were sitting the ground and had a rotten spot. The one that wasn’t to the ground we tasted and was extremely bitter.
    To our surprise, the tree produced 18 oranges this year and were not ripe until this last week (11.14.2020 SE Louisiana). We picked one last night not expecting much but was throughly shocked they were so sweet and delicious! We’re a huge mandarin, satsuma eating family and although we would still eat oranges, didn’t particularly care for the bitterness. So we’re definitely looking forward to this years grow from our unknown orange tree 🙂 From your description, I think we may have. a Skaggs Bonanza. I wish I could provide pictures in hopes of proper identification.
    But thanks so much for all the information you’ve provided! Extremely helpful!!

    • Take a couple of fruits to a nearby farmers’ market or the cooperative extension, a grower should help you identify the variety.

  2. on my navel orange tree, some fruit might be sour but others sweet. Some have thin skin, others thick. Very seldom I will get an orange with a seed or two. The tree is 20 years old, appears healthy, produces well. Why would this be? Is there something I can or should do?

    • Not all fruit on the orange tree will reach maturity at the same time. The position of the fruit on the tree with varying degrees of sun exposure can account for some fruit making sugar and others not–some being sweet and some being tart. The only way to tell if an orange or other citrus fruit is ripe is to taste it. Navel oranges, in particular, the Washington navel, is known for producing mutations at different growing points (called bud sports); a single branch or several branches growing from the bud sport can produce fruit that is different (including skin thickness and flavor) from the rest of the plant.

    • The height and width of a naval orange will vary depending upon the rootstock. A standard naval can grow to 30 feet tall and wide. On dwarf rootstock a naval will grow from 6 to 8 feet tall and not quite as wide.

  3. My lane’s late navel orange tree bears no fruit, it has been in the ground about three years, I am not a gardener, however I have given the tree fertilizer designed for fruit, would be grateful for any suggestions.

    • Assuming the citrus fertilizer is not too rich in nitrogen (which will cause the plant to put on leafy growth at the expense of fruit growth), then check soil moisture–do not let the soil dry out but avoid letting the tree sit in pooling water; next check temperature, orange trees to push fruit need extended periods–several months–of warm weather during fruit development, in the 70sF; make sure the tree is receiving no less than 8 hours of sunlight each day. Poor pollination can result from cold or windy weather at bloom time, insecticides, or the failure of bees to find the flowers to aide pollination.

      • Thanks. I know the soil is not to good, hence me using fertilizer designed for fruit, I have a Dwarf Lemon and another Empire Mandarin Tree, both of these have given small quantity 3 or 4 in the past, the Lemon being probably the better, those two Trees at this time bear fruit.
        All 3 trees have good full Sun for many hours, I have seen them wilting and gave them water, the next day they have looked better.

        • Add aged compost or planting mix around the base of your trees twice a year. This will add organic nutrients to the soil and increase the soil’s ability to hold moisture.

        • It’s not unusual for it to take 3 to 5 years to get much/any fruit from citrus, especially since you have poor soil. Hard frost and other conditions can set back young citrus as well. Try to water your citrus before it wilts, as that’s stressing it, and stress causes fruit drop or can prevent fruiting entirely. A drip irrigation system might be ideal to ensure regular watering (without delivering too much water). I would also add an organic mulch around your citrus — at least 2 to 3 inches on top of the soil past the drip line of the tree, but not touching the trunk of the tree. That will help retain moisture.

          If your citrus tree is growing well (good size and shape for it’s age) and has nice green leaves, you’re probably on the right track. It may just need a another season or two before it’s ready to support fruit.

  4. Want more info on naval oranges. Bought some recently that have tough skin around the slices, too tough to chew. . Are these naranja navels.

    • A thick or tough peel on any kind of citrus fruit is likely caused by a nutrient imbalance–either too much nitrogen or too little phosphorus. Nitrogen is aids leaf growth which in turn helps the tree take in energy from the sun. Phosphorus helps the plant to form flowers and fruit. Balance the nitrogen and phosphorus and the fruits will be near perfect. Try applying a citrus food around your tree.

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