Japanese Dwarf Grafted Trees in Palermo

      From The Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society (1905):

       "WEST INDIAN ORANGES. -- Mr. Worsley said that the fruit he exhibited at the last meeting under the name of 'Mandarin' Orange does not appear to be the same as that mentioned by Rivers in Nicholson's 'Gardeners' Dictionary.'  He treats it as distinct from the Tangierine[sic].  Yet it may be a garden form of the Chinese Orange, possibly that mentioned by Rivers as grown in the Azores.  This is not improbable.  The seeds have long, horn-shaped ends, more developed even than in the Blood Orange of Malta and Palermo.  The class of Blood Orange is also Japanese (or Chinese), and used to be imported fifty years ago [c.1855] to Palermo from Japanese gardens in the form of dwarf grafted trees only a few inches high.  The appearance of the seeds lends colour to the view that the specimen of the Mandarin we had is also of Chinese stock, even if altered in appearance (of the fruit) by new conditions.  The fruit I found juicy, but more acid than the Tangierine.  The amount of seed points to the tree being a seedling.  Nearly all the Jamaican Oranges are seedlings, and this is why they are so crammed with seeds.  I noted this when in Jamaica in 1895.  When they begin to 'garden in Jamaica they will soon produce very fine Oranges.'" [emphasis added by RJB]

       This was apparently right after the opening of Japan to the West.  Which Japanese gardens did the oranges come from?  Who started the importation in Japan and in Palermo?  Was the purpose to bring in "fresh blood," so to speak, for the stocks in use in Sicily which had originally come from the Philippines via Malta?  Which route did the oranges travel?  Were there other plants traveling with them?  How long did the importation last and how many plants were shipped with what success rate?  Are there any writings, graphics, or even extant trees traceable to these imports?  Dwarf orange trees in Japan were reported by Westerners about this time.  We have not yet discovered anything specific about Italy-Japanese trading at the time, although there was a first Japanese embassy to Europe in 1862 which did not include Italian participation.


1     "Scientific Committee,"  Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, Vol. XXXI, Dec. 19, 1905, pg. xcvi.

Also found in "Horticultural Science,"  The Journal of Horticulture and Home Farmer, Vol. 51, Dec. 28, 1905, pg. 596, and
"Societies, Royal Horticultural, Scientific Committee,"  The Gardeners' Chronicle, Dec. 30, 1905, No. 992, pp. 459-460.

"Sicily's unification (1734) with the Bourbon-ruled Kingdom of Naples as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies inflicted a devastating blow on the elite of Palermo, as the city [on the north-northwest side of the island] was reduced to just another provincial city, the royal court residing in Naples.  Palermo rebelled in 1848 and held out against the Neapolitan crown until May 1849.  The Italian Risorgimento and Sicily's annexation (1860) to the Kingdom of Italy gave Palermo a second chance.  It was once again the administrative centre of Sicily, and there was a certain economic and industrial development.  In the second half of the 19th century Palermo expanded beyond the historical centre, especially towards Via della Libertá.  Monumental public buildings were erected and a new thoroughfare was cut into the dense old town, called Via Roma."  Per "Palermo," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palermo.

"In 1530 Charles I of Spain gave the islands to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in perpetual lease...  The Knights' reign ended when Napoleon captured Malta on the way to Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1798...  In 1814, as part of the Treaty of Paris, Malta officially became a part of the British Empire and was used as a shipping way-station and fleet headquarters.  Malta's position [just to the south of Sicily and] half-way between Gibraltar and the Suez Canal [which opened in 1869] proved to be its main asset during these years and it was considered an important stop on the way to India."  Per "Malta," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malta.

"The [Spanish East Indies] colony [of the Philippines] was governed as a territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain [from Mexico City] from 1565 to 1821, and administered directly from Spain from 1821 to 1898."  Per "Philippines," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippines.

Arthington Worsley (1861-1943) was a British mining engineer who travelled extensively in South America, and became a specialist in bulbous plants on his retirement to Middlesex.  The Worsleya rayneri (Blue Amaryllis) is named after him.  Per "The Worsleya" in "Subtropicals in Kerikeri," http://www.communities.co.nz/wharepuke/Feature.cfm?WPID=4228.

George Nicholson (1847-1908) produced The Illustrated Dictionary of Gardening, A Practical and Scientific Encyclopaedias of Horticulture for Gardeners and Botanists (4 vols., 1885-89, London: Upcott Gill) and The 1900 (-Century) Supplement, etc. (2 vols., 1900-01).

Thomas Rivers was a member of an English gardening family.

Some background:
       "The Maltese oranges certainly deserve the character they have, of being the finest in the world.  The season continues for upwards of seven months; from November till the middle of June.  Daring which time, these beautiful trees are always covered with great abundance of this delicious fruit.  Many of them are of the red kind, much superior, in my opinion, to the others, which are by far too luscious.  They are produced, I am told, from the common orange bud, engrafted on the pomegranate stock[sic -- see below].  The juice of these oranges is red as blood, and of a fine flavour.  The greatest part of their crop is sent every year in presents to the different courts of Europe, and to the relations of the chevaliers.  It was not without a good deal of difficulty that we procured a few chests for our friends at Naples."  Per Brydone, Patrick, F.R.S.  A Tour Through Sicily and Malta, In a Series of Letters to William Beckford, Esq., Vol. I (London: W. Strahan; 1773), pg. 311;

       "In the garden we found an abundance of oranges, now ripe, of the kind, called blood orange from their colour."  Per James, John M.D.  Sketches of Travels in Sicily, Italy and France, (Albany: Packard & Van Benthuysen; 1820), pg. 88;

       "The orange (green outside, when ripe) is not at all equal to the blood-orange of Palermo, or even to the yellow-fleshed orange of the same city."  Per Day, Charles William, Esq.  Five Years' Residence in the West Indies (London: Colburn and Co.; 1852), pg. 40 and

       "One of the old gardeners gathered her a bouquet, and another proffered a large cluster of blood-oranges plucked from an over-laden tree."  Per Tuckerman, Henry T.  Sicily: A Pilgrimage (NY: George P. Putnam; 1852), pg. 59;

       "The blood-orange is a mere variety of the sweet orange obtained by cultivation, and appears first to have been raised by the Spanish gardeners in the Philippine Islands, from the capital of which (Manila) it, together with the well-known cigars, formed at one time one of the chief articles of export.  On its first appearance in Europe it excited a considerable sensation; and in the last century [i.e., 1700s], very high prices were demanded for the trees which bore the wonderful fruit.  None, however, now come to us from Manila, our supply being derived almost entirely from Malta, where great pains and attention are bestowed upon their cultivation.  It was for a long time supposed, and indeed the idea is not yet quite extinct, that blood-oranges were produced by the grafting of the orange with the pomegranate; but there is not the slightest foundation for this belief."  Per "Oranges and Orange-Blossom,"  Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Arts (Edinburgh: W.&R. Chambers), No. 249, Vol. V, Oct. 6, 1888; pg. 637.

       Now, oranges are classified in Subclass: Rosidae, Order: Sapindales, Family: Rutaceae, and Genus: Citrus, while pomegranates are Subclass: Rosidae, Order: Myrtales, Family: Lythraceae, and Genus: Punica.  By the rules of botanical classification, there is no way that these two unrelated plants should be able to be successfully grafted.  This myth was still circulating in authoritative circles up to at least the year 1903.

       "In some countries where the temperatures never cool off, oranges remain green, even when mature.  It is the cool temperatures which promote the release of the orange pigments (carotenes).  If the temperature fluctuates, the fruits may alternate from one colour to the other.  To overcome this problem, oranges are often treated with ethylene, which promotes the development of a uniformly 'orange' appearance.  Depending on the variety, oranges can also be yellow or mottled with red."  Per "Oranges," http://www.innvista.com/health/foods/fruits/orange.htm.

       RJB does not recall ever seeing during his stay in Phoenix, Arizona (1971-2002) any green ripe oranges.  I did not ever see a single blood orange tree there either.

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