What is an orange?

The world of citrus fruit is an incestuous one.
I had long wondered what the difference is between a mandarin, clementine, satsuma and tangerine. It turns out that the answer is: ‘bad question’; clementines, satsumas and tangerines are all varieties of mandarin. Looking a little further into the convoluted family tree of the citrus fruit reveals a pretty complicated soap opera style mess of relationships, with most of the common fruits we enjoy being hybrids of other, more unusual ones.

Citrus Venn diagram

To try and make sense of the mess I made the above ‘Citrus venn diagram’ to try and illustrate the relationships between fruit. Each circle represents a variety of citrus and those contained where others overlap signify hybrids of the two.

For example: a grapefruit is a cross between a pomelo and an orange (which is itself a cross between a pomelo and a mandarin).

It’s a rough representation, I’m not making any distinction between species and cultivars (or even a sub-genus like papeda) but at least I finally understand how mandarins, clementines, satsumas and tangerines all relate to each other. There are many more hybrids out there, but I tried to include only the more common varieties. In fact the ongoing search for a better citrus seems to be an important scientific endeavour, there is even a research centre dedicated to the exploration of citrus located, of course, in Florida.

UPDATE: You can download a higher resolution versions here.

Orange in space

(all data was sourced from Wikipedia)


14 responses to “What is an orange?”

  1. Christina says:

    What an awesome diagram! Very cleverly done.

  2. HA! This has entertained me greatly!!

  3. HA! This has entertained me greatly!!

  4. V. says:

    This is so amazing! I have been wondering about this for a while now.

  5. sara says:

    So cool – love it! 🙂

  6. zenchef says:

    Justin. I love this! Can I link to it on Zenspotting? 🙂

  7. […] inter-related, intimately inter-related. Buntworthy over at Cut Squash was pondering the question, what is an orange?, and decided to delve for an answer. B-worthy created the Venn diagram (above) to give us all a […]

  8. […] interesting look at the derivations of citrus fruits, as a Venn Diagram. #ddtbEmbedded Link What is an orange? The world of citrus fruit is an incestuous one. I had long wondered what the difference is between […]

  9. russell says:

    Any idea where a Kaffir Lime would go?

    • Buntworthy says:

      I had this written down in my notes, but think I excluded it as not being popular enough. I will try and dig it out, and maybe make a director’s cut version with some of the other, less popular, citrus.

  10. […] I think we probably all know what an Orange is, and at least something of its characteristics and limitations. Assuming that what we are dealing with here is not sentient (4), but rather a bogstandard piece of fruit, very little introduction is needed (5). […]

  11. […] (all of which are on the small side and easy to peel.) Google turned up a blog post with an incredible diagram that puts the different types of oranges into […]

  12. David Silverman says:

    Good information but missing a lot. No mention was made of kumquats or uglifruit, two great citrus fruits that I seldom see in the USA and never see in Turkey where I live.

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