Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Citrus sinensis ‘Chinese Oval’

Probably a Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck cultivar. This is a tree with a rounded top, shiny, dark green, ovate-oblong leaves and fragrant white flowers followed by large orange edible fruits. To 10m. [RHSD, Hortus]. Citrus sinensis is believed to be a hybrid between the Pomelo, Citrus maxima (Burm.) Merr., and the Tangerine, Citrus reticulata Blanco var. ‘Tangerine’. Macarthur’s ‘Chinese Oval Orange’ can be assumed to have had an oval-shaped fruit. 



Horticultural & Botanical History

The American Fruit Culturist describes a number of oval-fruited oranges under the general heading of ‘Sweet China Oranges’. ‘Typical form oval or elongated rather than flattened; saccharine qualities strongly marked; become palatable early, and seem to show remote admixture with the sweet citron.’ [American Fruit Culturist p.642/1911].

Oranges have been grown in China as a fruit for probably millennia. E. H. ‘China’ Wilson attempted to remove some of the misunderstandings about the origin of oranges and the difference between sweet and sour oranges. He begins his discussion with the Sour Orange

‘The sour or Seville orange has a very close superficial resemblance to the sweet or common orange, Citrus sinensis Osbeck, but is in reality a very distinct species as noted in the discussion under the latter species. Linnaeus named the sour orange Citrus Aurantium and distinguished the sweet orange as Citrus Aurantium var. sinensis. Much confusion was brought about by Loureiro, Risso and other botanists who followed them by calling the sweet orange Citrus Aurantium and giving some other name to the sour orange. Hooker even called the sour orange a variety of the sweet, thus exactly reversing the usage of Linnaeus. Loureiro is apparently the first writer to misapply Citrus Aurantium to the sweet orange. His Citrus fusca seems to have been intended for the sour orange, though very few botanists have been able to grasp his meaning, to judge from the variety of unrelated species that they have classed under this name.

There is much confusion as to the application of the three principal Chinese names of oranges - Ch'êng, Chü and Kan. Fortunately, we have the direct and competent testimony of Osbeck (Dagbok Ostind. Resa, 192) that the sour orange is called Chang (Tjang in Swedish) in Canton, although he says the common tight-skinned sweet orange is sometimes called by the same name. This name is without any doubt the Ch'êng of Mandarin Chinese. Kan refers to the loose-skinned or mandarin type of oranges, so by a process of exclusion the name Chü should apply to the tight-skinned sweet orange. This would give three Chinese names, each written as a single ancient character, for the three species of oranges cultivated in China.’ He continues with a discussion of the sweet orange:

‘The common sweet orange, often confounded with the sour or Seville orange, is in fact quite distinct from the latter. The fruits of the sweet orange have a solid core, never becoming hollow like that of the sour orange; the petioles are narrowly winged in the sweet and broadly winged in the sour orange; the leaves and flowers of the two species have a very distinct odor. The two species show decided differences in their soil requirements and in their susceptibility to the attacks of fungous diseases. Many other minute but constant divergences are shown between these two oranges in all their organs. These two plants, then, superficially so similar are in reality very unlike and should by no means be united as varieties of one species.

The earliest available name for the sweet orange as a species distinct from the sour orange is Citrus sinensis Osbeck. Osbeck in the German edition of his Voyage applies the name to both the mandarin orange and the tight-skinned or common orange, but expressly excludes the sour orange. He had previously in the Swedish edition of his work called the sweet orange seen in Spain Citrus sinensis and the sour orange Citrus Aurantium, but in an incidental way, probably not establishing the name though referring to it clearly enough to make it plain that of the two forms included in Citrus sinensis in 1765 the type must be held to be the common orange grown in Spain and China both, and not the mandarin orange. There is no warrant for using Citrus Aurantium Linnaeus for the sweet orange, as Loureiro, Risso, Hooker and many other authors have done.’ [E. H. Wilson - Plantae Wilsonianae vol.2, p.148/1916].

Johnson’s Dictionary records the Sweet Orange (under the name Citrus aurantium) as being introduced to Britain by 1595. For several centuries the Orange was grown in Britain, under protection in winter in Orangeries an underdeveloped, , as much for its attractive foliage and highly scented flowers as for its edible fruit.



History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues as ‘Chinese oval ditto’ [Orange Tribe no.2/1843]. In the 1843 catalogue it follows ‘Bahia or Navel Orange’. ‘Oblong or egg-shaped Chinese Orange’ was received per ‘Sovereign’ in February 1831 [MP A2948].




Published May 04, 2010 - 01:29 PM | Last updated Jul 23, 2011 - 12:05 PM

Family Rutaceae
Region of origin

Garden origin, South East Asia and China. This variety presumably from China.

  • Citrus aurantium L. var. dulcis L.
  • Citrus aurantium L. var. sinensis L.
  • Citrus buxifolia Poir.
  • Citrus vulgaris Risso
  • Citrus fusca Lour.
  • Citrus macracantha Hassk.
  • Aurantium sinense Mill.


Common Name

Sweet Orange

Name in the Camden Park Record

Chinese oval ditto



Confidence level high