Everything You Wanted to Know About Navel Oranges

We love oranges in winter, summer, spring, and autumn, and are very familiar with the sweet, seedless Navel Orange that is in season from winter to late spring. Because of the peculiar human-navel-like formation found opposite the stem-end, we can easily identify Navel Oranges from other cultivars or varieties. This belly-button like formation answers the question “Why are Navel Oranges called Navel Oranges?”

Navel Orange origin

We know what it looks and taste like, but exactly what are Navel Oranges, and where do Navel Oranges come from?

According to a study done by Palemon Dorsett, Archibald Dixon Shamel, and Wilson Popenoe in 1917, the Orange Navel citrus is a single mutation that happened in the early 1800s on a Selecta Orange tree planted in a monastery in Bahia, Brazil. The mutation on this sweet orange caused it to develop a secondary rudimentary fruit at the base, opposite the stem end, nested within the peel of the primary fruit. The said mutation also caused the fruit to be seedless.

In 1835, twelve cuttings from the original Navel Orange tree were introduced to Florida. In 1870 these cuttings were sent to Riverside, California where they were grafted onto California sweet orange trees resulting in Washington Navel Orange Trees. Further cultivation led to the birth of the dwarf Washington Navel Orange tree. 


The mutation that caused the Navel Orange to develop a secondary fruit caused it to be sterile which does not allow the typical breeding method – growing from seed. Now you might be wondering, if Navel Oranges are seedless how are Navel Oranges grown? Standard or dwarf Navel Orange trees are propagated via cutting and grafting techniques so it is safe to say that all Navel Orange trees grown worldwide are clones of the single tree from Bahia, Brazil.


  • Where are Navel Oranges grown? – Commercial Navel Orange trees are grown in Brazil, California, Florida, and Arizona.
  • How big is a Navel Orange tree? – A standard Navel Orange tree can grow up to 30 feet in height and width, while dwarf Washington Navel Orange tree only reaches 6 to 8 feet tall.
  • When do Navel Oranges bloom? – The typical bloom time of standard and dwarf Navel Orange trees is in the spring. The greatest numbers of flowers are produced in April. 
  • How big is a Navel Orange fruit? –  Three inches across is the normal Navel Orange size. However, there are instances wherein Navel Oranges can grow as big as 4.5 inches in diameter. 
  • Where to find dwarf Navel Orange tree for sale? – If you live in a citrus state you can call your local citrus nursery and see if they have the orange cultivar you wish to grow. On the other hand, if you live outside citrus states you can go online and buy Washington Navel Orange tree for sale or other Navel Orange varieties.