Is Parson Brown the Better Early Orange?

Ernie NeffVarieties

early orange
Parson Brown tree in Lake Wales, Florida

The old Parson Brown sweet orange variety is showing some characteristics that could make it more attractive than Hamlin, which has long been Florida’s leading early-season orange.

“Observations made in commercial blocks in Polk and neighboring counties illustrate an improved canopy density, improved mature fruit retention and higher yields in the early-maturing Parson Brown sweet orange when compared to adjacent Hamlin blocks,” said horticultural researcher Manjul Dutt. “Preliminary molecular analysis of randomly sampled leaves from trees at a Lake Wales grove have indicated the possibility of systemic acquired resistance (SAR) playing a role in tolerance to HLB in the Parson Brown. Our current plan is to sample trees from all major citrus-producing counties to understand if this tolerance mechanism is prevalent in all clones of Parson Brown planted in Florida.” Dutt works for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

Dutt is leading a Parson Brown project being considered for funding by the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF). CRDF Field Trial Coordinator Brandon Page and retired Extension agent Gary England are working on the project, identifying potential Parson Brown blocks to survey.  

“Evidently with the terribly low availability of early processing fruit, the juice plants are more open to receiving Parson Brown than (they were) a few years ago,” England said. “My work with Parson Brown has been on mostly very old trees on sour orange. In most cases, it was interesting observing obvious HLB symptoms on trees that seemed to produce a decent amount of fruit.”

A 1998 UF/IFAS publication, Florida Citrus Varieties, reported that Parson Brown originated as a chance seedling at the home of Reverend N.L. Brown near Webster, Florida in 1856. “While Parson Brown may be harvested slightly earlier than the Hamlin, it is not as productive but has slightly better juice color,” the publication stated.

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large