Citrus Grove Replanted on Historic FSC Campus
Under the direction of Dr. Malcolm Manners (center), chair of the horticultural science department, and due in great part to a generous gift from Florida Southern College's oldest living alumna, alumni, faculty, and students teamed up to replant one of the historic orange groves, in its original location.
LAKELAND, Fla. (June 27, 2011) — When Florida Southern College's Lakeland campus first opened its doors to students in 1922, it was covered in lush citrus groves. Throughout the years, many trees were lost due to disease and weather, and still others were removed or redistributed due to necessary building expansions on campus. In recent years, the citrus trees were all but gone and the College's connection to its original environment was in jeopardy.
That was until this spring, when FSC alumni, faculty, and students teamed up to replant one of the historic orange groves, in its original location.
Under the direction of Dr. Malcolm Manners, chair of the horticultural science department, and due in great part to a generous gift offered by a Florida Southern College alumnus, the new grove was replanted by FSC students and restored to the campus on April 14. It includes eight varieties of orange trees and will serve as a living laboratory for FSC students for years to come.
The restoration began with a gift from Florida Southern College's oldest living alumna, Lamar Louise Curry of the Class of 1927, who says she can still remember the campus when it was full of fruit trees. She arrived at FSC in the winter of 1923-24. Miss Curry, who is now 103 years old, named the grove after her grandfather, Dr. James P. dePass, who was a former director of the University of Florida's Agricultural Experiment Station in Lake City.
Miss Curry started her college career in Virginia, but when the weather turned cold, she became sick and took a doctor's advice to return "to the land of sunshine." She was drawn to Florida Southern because of the extensive orange groves on campus. She spent the next few months taking classes, eating citrus, and regaining her health. "I spent the afternoons in the orange groves. I'd pick one, and if it was good, I'd take some more," she said. She would always return to her residence hall with a bag of oranges to share with her suitemates.
Now, thanks to Miss Curry's dedication and support, one of those groves that she remembers so well has been restored to the campus in a historically accurate location. Dr. Manners said that not only is the location historically significant, but it also provides ideal growing conditions for the freshly planted trees.
The grove is a quintessentially Florida Southern College venture. The entire project, from funding and planning to planting and maintenance, has been handled by FSC alumni, students, and professors. Given Florida Southern's unique position as the only college in the nation to offer a bachelor's degree in citrus, it is no surprise that every person involved in the restoration would have strong ties to the College's citrus program.
Students from Florida Southern's Citrus Grove Management course were led by Professor Jim Nunnallee, an FSC alumnus, in planting the grove on April 14. They were following a plan that had been developed by students in another course in the major, Introduction to Citrus. The plan arranges the trees so that the farther north they are planted, the later their oranges will ripen. It will be about four years before the first crop is harvested.
More about the orange grove…
There were eight varieties of orange trees planted on the plot on the east end of the L. A. Raulerson Building, ranging from Parson Brown trees, which were commonly used in the early history of Florida citrus, to Vernia, a variety new to the campus that has rapidly become popular in commercial citrus. "I wanted students to have an opportunity to see the progression of trends in commercial citrus by showing them what their grandfathers grew juxtaposed with the trees they will be working with after graduation," said Dr. Manners. Nearly all of the varieties planted are commonly used in commercial juicing, but the grove also contains one row of navel oranges, which are typically eaten fresh.
The trees were special-ordered from Phillip Rucks Citrus Nursery in Frostproof. Rucks, the nursery's owner and a Florida Southern College alumnus, propagated the trees by grafting them onto various types of rootstock that are commonly used in commercial groves. The type of rootstock used affects the fruit's size, sweetness, ripening, and volume. Using different combinations in the grove will allow FSC students to observe the variation between them.
Dr. Manners is proud of how the grove's design looks ahead to the future of citrus production while also maintaining a link to Florida Southern College's past. "Frank Lloyd Wright wanted his buildings to rise organically from the citrus groves, and planting these trees around one of his buildings feels like a fulfillment of that dream."
For more information about Florida Southern College's Horticultural Science Program, call 863-680-4333.
Reporter's note: View photos of the planting of the dePass Citrus Grove, please visit fsc.mocs photostream on Flickr.