By Jill Brooke
Since the fragrant orange blossom – Florida’s state flower since 1909 – reportedly has many soothing properties including reducing cortisol levels, insomnia and anxiety, we are hoping for many ways to reduce stress for those impacted by Hurricane Ian.
Did you know that the state was named by Ponce de Leon in 1513 because “La Florida” was called the “land of flowers?”
The orange blossom with its five waxy petals is a magical flower indeed. The sweet orange tree that produces the flowers before the fruit of navel oranges appears, blooms from mid-January to March in Florida. It is an evergreen that reaches heights of 20-30 feet and grows in full sun and sandy soil. It thrives in Florida, thanks to its climate and typically abundant rainfall.
The scent is both memorable and heavenly – used for culinary sweetening as well as perfumes.
In fact, it was the favorite flower of Queen Victoria. In 1840, instead of a tiara, she wore a wreath of orange blossoms on her wedding day to her beloved Prince Albert. Her wedding dress was also trimmed on the bodice with orange-flower blossoms. From then on, Prince Albert would give her orange blossom-inspired jewelry as gifts which created a worldwide trend and appreciation for this flower.
Victoria’s love for the bloom also went on to influence her daughters, daughters-in-law and generations of royal brides who incorporated orange blossom into their own dress designs.
Aside from Florida, orange trees have also long been a feature within royal gardens, not least at Versailles, where their fragrance was adored by Louis XIV. Queen Anne’s orange trees had been intended to winter in the Orangery at Kensington Palace – Queen Victoria’s birthplace – but instead, the Orangery became a more popular choice for balls and court entertainments, during her reign. The Orangery at Hampton Court Palace is still used today, to house the beloved orange trees of William III, England’s joint monarch from the House of Orange.
Despite its popularity, there was some competition to become the Florida state flower. Some lobbied for the camellia and gardenia but the orange blossom won the prize. Although oranges are native to Southeast Asia, by the time the orange blossom was declared Florida’s state flower in 1909, there were more orange trees growing in the U.S. than in any other country in the world. We are hoping they will bloom again soon.
Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD, floral editor for Aspire Design and Home magazine and contributor to Florists Review magazine.