PIECES OF THE PAST: Noteworthy 1921 Tangelo Tree

Tacy CalliesPieces of the Past


I came across an article in the March 1921 issue of Citrus Industry that was titled “Tangelo Tree Attracts Attention” by W.B. Powell of Lakeconics. Two things caught my eye: 1) “Lakeconics” — where or what the heck was that!? and 2) the singular use of “Tree.” What was so special about this one tree? So, of course, I had to share the story:

“More than 10 years ago, Hon. Walter Swingle, head of the United States plant board, Washington, sent to Mr. J.P. Donnelly, of Mt. Dora, a cutting from a tree he had propagated, a cross between a tangerine and a pomelo. Recently Mr. William Watt forwarded to Mr. Swingle a box of tangelos.

“In the meantime, the tangelo tree on Mr. Watt’s place is attracting much attention. Mr. Donnelly gave the cutting to Mr. Watt and he has tenderly nursed the stock to which he grafted the cutting, and today the tangelo is a large, sturdy tree, bearing probably 10 boxes of the most delicious fruit that man ever tasted.

“The fruit is about the size of a large navel orange, with a smooth texture. It peels like a tangerine. The fruit is heavy with juice, practically seedless, and with enough grapefruit flavor to just counteract the sweetness of the tangerine.

“Mr. Watt has grafted 250 sour stock to the tangelo wood and intends to increase his tangelo acreage from now on. He finds a ready market for all his fruit at $9 a box on the tree. Lewis N. Wiggins, of the Ocklawaha hotel, took a box to his hotel at Eustis, and the guests were so delighted with the morning appetizer which they could eat in segments, or sliced, thus doing away with the “squirt” of a refractory grapefruit under the pressure of a spoon, that he immediately asked Mr. Watts to sell him all the fruit on the tree. This Mr. Watts refused to do, as he takes considerable pride in the tree and its product and delights in letting his friends taste thereof.

“Discussing the possibilities of this fruit, we learned that two other varieties of citrus fruit will soon be on the market in a small way as a test of its marketing and sale values. One is a limequat propagated at Eustis by Mr. Savage, and the other an orange that will be dead ripe for the Thanksgiving trade, and the man who burbanked this wonder asked your reporter not to mention his name, for his time is taken up with so many other things that he cannot answer correspondence that this information would create. An early Florida orange would be a world-beater, and would do much to put a check on the green fruit shipments each fall.”

Now, I don’t know which Thanksgiving-ripe orange the writer is referring to here yet, but I’ll keep reading more of the early issues of Citrus Industry to find out. In the meantime, feel free to send in your comments or guesses. As for Lakeconics, that apparently refers to the Tavares area!

Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.

Seeking Citrus History
Do you have any photos, memorabilia or stories you’d like to share or donate to the Citrus Archives? Please send them to BBurne1003@aol.com. Visit www.FloridaCitrusHallofFame.com to see the photos, postcards, citrus labels and videos on file.