Grower credited with saving industry

Orange-shaped structures dot the Florida landscape and Brevard is no exception. On U.S. 1 in Eau Gallie, the huge cement Big Orange built during the 1960s once served as a fruit stand where the Chamber of Commerce would dispense orange juice to tourists.

The Chamber of Commerce used the 16-foot cement citrus to dispense orange juice to visitors.

Big Orange on U.S. 1 north of Eau Gallie is hard to miss. The Chamber of Commerce used the 16-foot cement citrus to dispense orange juice to visitors. JASON HOOK

Although visitors will no longer enjoy any OJ there, they do stop for a photo op with the round structure, 15 feet in diameter, carefully preserved in all its orange and green glory by the Melbourne Rotary Club.

In the 1800s, Douglas Dummett owned a citrus grove perfectly situated near the warm waters of the Indian River. A good caretaker to the grove, Dummett developed unique grafting techniques that, coupled with the location of his grove, saved his trees from a landmark freeze in 1835, a freeze that felled almost every orange tree in the state.

Dummett graciously provided not only seeds and cuttings from his healthy, hardy trees to his fellow growers, but he also showed them a technique to propagate by grafting buds of sweet orange trees onto the stumps of the wild sour orange trees, a process that speeded growth and increased the
tree’s endurance.

For his efforts, Dummett has been called the father of Florida citrus. Unfortunately, his groves did not survive. The United States government decided to allow the 9,000 acres of orange groves that buffer Kennedy Space Center to revert to the wild, and the trees that once saved the Florida citrus industry soon were just a footnote in history.

See the original article in the print publication

Maria Sonnenberg
professor at Florida Institute of Technology |

Maria is a prolific writer and proofer for Space Coast Living and an adjunct professor at Florida Institute of Technology’s Nathan M. Bisk College of Business. When not writing, teaching or traveling, she can be found waging a one-woman war against her lawn and futilely attempting to maintain order among the chaos of a pack of extremely clueless wirehair dachshunds and an angst-driven basset hound.