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Why do oranges have peels?

Jane Lindholm
Vermont Public

Why do oranges have peels? Why is the inside of an orange segmented? Why are lemons and limes so sour? Why do lemons have seeds but limes don’t? Why does fruit have juice? How many oranges are in a gallon of juice? How do seedless oranges reproduce? How are oranges available year-round? Why are the fruit and the color both called orange? We’re answering questions about citrus with Fernando Alferez from the University of Florida’s Southwest Florida Research and Education Center.

Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Drive | Transcript

  • Citrus is a group of fruits that includes oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruits, pomelos, and limes. There are an estimated 1,000 or more varieties of citrus. 
  • Hesperidium is the botanical name for citrus fruits. They’re actually modified berries. A tough outer rind and fleshy, segmented interior protect the seeds of the fruit. 
  • The juicy deliciousness of fruits make them attractive to animals (including humans). The seeds get spread around by animals through their poop, and can grow into new trees.
  • The segments of a citrus come from the way the fruit develops in the ovary of the plant. The ovules, the part of the ovary that will become the seed, is already segmented. Each segment contains one or two seeds.
  • The peel of the citrus is thick to help protect those seeds. As the fruit ripens, the peel often becomes less tough.
  • Oranges in Florida are mainly grown for juice! Ninety-five percent of the oranges grown in Florida are turned into juice. 
  • Before traveling traders started importing oranges to English speaking countries there actually wasn't a word for the color orange. The word for orange in English is the word for the fruit. And once people started seeing oranges in markets and knowing what they were, that’s when people started using the same word for the color!
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
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