All oranges are members of the genus Citrus and share life cycle characteristics. However, most commercial oranges are not the product of a conventional growth from seed. Commercial oranges today are grafted, which manipulates the natural life cycle of citrus trees.
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Naturally, an orange would be eaten by an animal that would pass the seeds through its digestive system, promoting seed dispersal. The new tree would grow for several years (varying by species and location), produce flowers, undergo insect pollination and produce single fruits from single ovaries in flowers. Every tree would produce fruit with slight genetic and qualitative variations.
Grafting is a way of producing genetically identical fruit in order to conserve desirable traits, such as size, sweetness, colour or fragrance. The process consists of cutting a branch from a tree that produces the desired fruit and inserting it into the rootstock of another tree, ensuring that the vascular tissues, which transport water and sugars, are aligned. It is the method used for propagating commercial oranges.
Every seed in an orange has a distinct genetic make-up as a result of sexual reproduction. For this reason, if oranges and other fruits were to be commercially grown from seed, farmers would have no guarantee of what the qualities of the resulting product would be.
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