The Parent Washington Navel Orange Tree is credited with the growth and wealth of many southern California cities, including Riverside, Corona, San Bernardino, Redlands, Ontario, and Pomona. The tree may be seen at its historic site in Riverside.
The tree's history can be traced from Bahia state, Brazil. The first introduction of the navel orange bud-wood to the United States probably occurred during the end of the 19th century. It was taken from Bahia to Washington, D.C., by boat in 1871. It was then transported by rail, stage coach, and finally by wagon to the home of Luther and Eliza Tibbets in the newly formed settlement of Riverside.
The tree became popular in California because its fruits were large, sweet and seedless distinguishing them from the small and seedy fruit on the seedling trees then present in California. The Navel Orange Tree became influential in the development of numerous new cities, fruit packing houses, boxing machines, fruit wraps and the iced railroad car.
When Phytophthora a fungal disease threatened to destroy the tree, inarching* to save it was accomplished in 1918 and again in 1944, by personnel of the Citrus Experiment Station. More than 130 years after its journey from Bahia, the tree is alive, thriving, and still bearing excellent fruit.
The magnificent tree is considered to be the most important plant introduction ever made into the United States, and all Washington navel orange trees throughout the world are possibly descended from it.
*To graft by uniting a growing branch to a stock without separating the branch from its parent stock.