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OROVILLE, Calif. — Seven billion dollars... that's the economic impact of California's iconic citrus industry today. Citrus trees grow all over the state and it’s all thanks to gold miners.
Before 1856, citrus trees did not exist in California. The first citrus tree was an orange tree, planted in Oroville next to the Bidwell Bar Bridge during the gold rush. That tree is still alive, but State park interpretive specialist, Amanda Speer, said it’s had a rough life.
"She has been through a couple freezes. Been uprooted twice, once due to flooding," Speer said.
Today, the tree is known as the "Mother Orange Tree" and is located at the State Parks district office in Oroville.
Several "sister trees," which were grafted off of the original tree, have been planted at park offices. Seeds from the Mother Tree have also been planted all over California.
"Miners used to come to Bidwell Bar, where she was placed, and take her fruit and enjoy some oranges," Speer said. "Then they would plant her seeds."
You can visit the Mother Orange Tree, but don't pick the fruit — it's illegal. However, oranges that have fallen on the ground are fair game.