The Nippon orangequat is a cross between a Satsuma mandarin and a Meiwa kumquat, hybridized by Dr. Eugene May of the USDA and introduced in 1932, and is a member of the citrofortunella group. 'Nippon' is the only named cultivar in existence.
This is a small, round, orange fruit, which is larger than a kumquat. The fruit ranges from 2–4 cm in circumference. Orangequats can be eaten whole, including rind, but they have a very bitter and sour taste and most contain seeds. The orangequat trees can get somewhat large, the leaves are usually long and narrow and bright green in color. The trunk and branches of the trees are slightly narrow, given the size of the trees. These trees can be seen with fruits on them through many of the colder months, since that is the season for orangequat growing. Orangequats have not been genetically altered to be resistant to citrus canker, which is a citrus disease that causes small, round, sores on the fruit and its tree. The orangequat also has not be bred to be seedless or sweet, this fruit is very tart, like a lemon, and has a fair amount of slightly large seeds inside.
The Meiwa kumquat, a hybrid of a round and an oval kumquat, and the Satsuma mandarin are the two fruits that were used to parent the Nippon orangequat. Both of these fruits are able to withstand cooler climates, the meiwa being partially dormant in the winter months and the satsuma maturing in October to December. Since both of these citruses are able to grow in the colder season, the orangequat inherited that trait and is also grown and harvested in the colder seasons. Both of the parents of the orangequat are grown in many countries of the world, like China, Japan, South Africa, and the United States of America. However, orangequats are typically grown in the United States, mainly in the Southern states like Florida and Alabama, but they are also grown in California and other Western states.
The first plant hybrids were credited to Gregor Mendel back in 1866. Mendel was the plant breeder who was able to figure out the importance of dominant and recessive alleles, which are behind physical traits and how they get passed down from parents to offspring. Mendel was experimenting with pea plants at the time, but in 1719, Thomas Fairchild (gardener) was experimenting and he ended up cross breeding the Dianthus barbatus and dianthus caryophyllus flowers, creating the first hybrid plant. Thomas Andrew Knight was the first to produce hybrid fruit trees by cross pollination, meaning that instead of plants like flowers or peas, he was able to grow a tree that had been fully hybridized. By doing this, Knight was able to collect the tree's seedlings and harvest them for seeds. Since he was able to collect these hybrid seeds, he was able to plant them and regrow the trees he had cross pollinated.
Orangequats are a lesser known hybrid fruit, some more commonly known are the pluot, tayberry, and tangelo. There are many steps involved in creating a hybrid fruit, one must understand how fruit genetics work and how cross pollination works. Scientists use different oils and even gas chromatography to create new plants. When fruits are hybridized, they usually gain good qualities, like being able to extend a growing period, or being able to defend against citrus diseases, or making the fruit seedless, but what some people don't realize is that by hybridizing plants and fruits, they can also lose some of their natural defenses in their original genetics.
Other citrus fruit hybrids have been able to help the economy in Florida over the years as a way to extend the orange season. Many of these fruits are not necessarily combinations of two different fruits, like how an orangequat is, but they have been hybridized to grow through colder months, begin ripening earlier, have longer harvesting periods; all of these traits are used to be able to extend the overall length of citrus season in Florida. By extending the harvest period, many farmers are able to grow and sell more product, which then provides them with more income and will in turn improve the economy in Florida.