Our citrus flowers are starting to bloom this week. A few started earlier, but the large bloom isn’t here yet. We’ll probably see a dramatic increase in the amount of bloom over the next couple of weeks. One problem we need to watch out for is Postbloom Fruit Drop. This is a disease that infects the flowers, then causes fruit drop later in the season. For now, though, the flowers appear healthy and abundant!
You may have seen previous reports on this blog and in the news about the early bloom in Florida citrus trees this year. In some groves, bloom started as early as the middle to end of January. A lot of people think this is due at least in part to some of the unprecedented disease issues in the state now. As shown in this iPhone photo, however, some trees are just now coming into full bloom. It’s hard to fully explain the never-before-seen horticultural behavior of the trees this year. Let’s hope that this year is an anamoly, and next year will be much more normal.
The fruit drop in the Florida citrus industry has been big news lately, such as talked about in this article in the Lakeland Ledger and this one in Fresh Plaza. There are a lot of possible contributing factors to this drop and it’s generally thought that greening is the biggest culprit. But, another reason can be what we call “overbearing”, which is where trees simply set more fruit than the physiology of the tree is able to support. This photo shows an example of a heavy fruit set in a Florida orange grove resulting from the recent bloom this season. It’s not likely all such fruit will hang on the tree until maturity.
The bloom for this year is winding down. This orange blossom is one of the last to be seen in this Florida citrus grove. The bloom started early this year in January–about 6 weeks sooner than normal. It continued for about 8 weeks, resulting in 2 to 3 different crop sets. We have never had this situation before, so it will be interesting to see how the trees and crops develop this season.
This photo shows a newly-set Valencia orange crop in a Central Florida citrus grove. These fruits are about 1/2-cm in diameter. You can see the pistil of the flower hasn’t completely fallen off yet, suggesting the youngest fruits in this cluster were probably set within the last week or so. Not all of the fruits in the cluster will reach maturity and one or more of them will probably fall off before the fruit ripens next year.
Here’s a photograph of petal fall nearing completion in an orange grove. If you look closely, you can see recent fallen leaves intermixed with flower petals in this debris under the tree. This indicates that bloom season is coming to an end, honeybee activity is slowing down, and the trees for the most part have completed fruit set.
This time of year is when both flowers and fruits are on the trees at the same time. In the background of this shot, you see Valencias ripening to maturity. A lot of people consider spring to be the most photogenic time of year in Florida citrus groves.
Bees are important pollinators in Florida citrus groves. Many growers work with professional beekeepers to set hives near groves to improve flower pollination and fruit set. Florida citrus honey is also enjoyed by many for culinary reasons.