Varieties Of Orange Fruit: Learn About Different Types Of Oranges

Oranges On Tree
(Image credit: craiganderson619)

Can’t start the day without a glass of orange juice? You certainly aren’t alone. Oranges in their many forms-- juice, pulp, and rind-- are sought after fruits throughout the world. Generally speaking, orange juice as we know it in North America comes from navel oranges. However, there are many types of oranges. Just how many orange varieties are there? Let’s find out.

How Many Orange Varieties are There?

The sweet orange (Citrus aurantium var. sinensis) is not to be found in the wild. It is a hybrid, although of which two types there is much conjecture. Most sources seem to settle on the marriage between the pomelo (Citrus maxima) and the mandarin (Citrus reticulata). Confusion surrounds the origin of cultivation as well, but it is assumed to have first been grown in China, northeastern India, and possible southeastern Asia. 

Italian traders carried the fruit to the Mediterranean around 1450, or Portuguese traders around 1500. Up to that point, oranges were primarily used for medicinal purposes, but wealthy aristocrats soon seized upon the fragrant, succulent fruit for themselves.

Types of Oranges

There are two basic categories of orange: the sweet orange (C. sinensis) and the bitter orange (C. aurantium).

Sweet orange varieties

Sweet orange is divided into four classes, each with distinct characteristics:

  • Common orange – There are many varieties of common orange, and it is widely grown. The most common varieties of common oranges are the Valencia, Hart’s Tardiff Valencia, and the Hamlin, but there are dozens of other types.
  • Blood or pigmented orange – The blood orange consists of two types: the light blood orange and the deep blood orange. Blood oranges are a natural mutation of C. sinensis. High amounts of anthocyanin give the entire fruit its deep red hue. In the blood orange category, varieties of orange fruit include Maltese, Moro, Sanguinelli, Scarlet Navel, and Tarocco.
  • Navel orange – The navel orange is of great commercial import, and we know it well as the most common orange sold at the grocers. Of the navels, the most common types are the Cara cara, Bahia, Dream navel, Late Navel, and Washington or California Navel.
  • Acid-less orange – Acid-less oranges have very little acid, hence little flavor. Acid-less oranges are early season fruit and are also called “sweet” oranges. They contain very little acid, which protects against spoilage, thus rendering them unfit for juicing. They are not generally cultivated in large quantities.

Also included among the sweet common orange varieties is an original citrus species, the mandarin. Amongst its many cultivars are:

Bitter orange varieties

Of the bitter oranges there exists:

  • Seville orange, C. aurantium, which is used as rootstock for the sweet orange tree and in the making of marmalade.
  • Bergamot orange (C. bergamia Risso) is grown primarily in Italy for its peel, which in turn is used in perfumes and also to flavor Earl Grey tea.
  • Trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) is sometimes included here and is also used as rootstock for sweet orange trees. Trifoliate oranges bear downy fruit and are used to make marmalade as well. They are native to northern China and Korea.

Some oriental fruits are included in the category of bitter orange as well. These include:

  • Naruto and Sanbo of Japan
  • Kitchli of India
  • Nanshodaidai of Taiwan

Wow! As you can see there are a dizzying variety of oranges out there. Certainly, there must be a type of orange suited just to you and your morning orange juice fix!

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.