Why do oranges split?

Splitting Citrus Fruit: Why Orange Rinds Split Open And How To Prevent It

Citrus trees have numerous requirements. They need fertile soil, full sun, and protected locations, tropical to sub-tropical conditions, supplemental irrigation and plenty of additional food. They are prone to many diseases, especially funga,l and have several pests. Nonetheless, they are an exciting addition to the home orchard and provide vitamin-rich fruits. Cracked citrus rinds are another issue, and in oranges, can split open, making the citrus fruit inedible. Providing the correct cultural and nutrient conditions will prevent this fruit damage.

What Causes Oranges to Split?

One of the most commonly grown citrus is the orange. Orange rinds split open, as well as mandarins and tangelos, but never grapefruit. Navel oranges are the most prone to the problem. So what causes oranges to split? The rind splits because water and plant sugars travel to the fruit too quickly for it to produce enough rind to hold the substances. The excess fluids cause the skin to burst. Young trees have the highest incidence of oranges splitting. Most cases of splitting citrus fruit occur in July to November.

Cracked citrus rinds begin at the blossom end of the fruit. Although most of the splitting happens at the end of the season, it can begin as early as July. Trees with the greatest crop load are the most affected. Orange rinds split open seasonally and is primarily the result of plant care, but also temperature fluctuations and humidity.

The size of a split varies. It may be slim and short or expose the pulp inside the fruit. Naval orange rinds split open more, likely because of the thickness of the rind and the large stylar, or navel. The green fruit is usually the splitting citrus fruit.

Tips for Preventing Splitting Citrus Fruit

Oranges splitting, or any other citrus fruit, are a result of cultural activities. Irrigation problems may contribute where the tree gets too much water. In winter, the tree only needs 1/8 to 1/4 inch of rain per week. In March to June, this increases to ½ inch and during the warm season, the tree requires 1 inch of water per week.

Over fertilizing will also cause the problem. The nutrient needs of oranges should be 1 to 2 pounds of nitrogen annually. You should break up the application into three or four periods. This will prevent too much food, which will make orange rinds split open and possibly crack.

Tree stress is thought to be another cause of splitting citrus fruit. Hot, dry winds desiccate the tree and dry the plant. Then it takes moisture from the fruit, which shrivel. As soon as water is available, it goes to the fruit, which then swell too much. Young plants with small root systems are most susceptible because they do not have a wide enough root area in which to gather moisture.

Q. I live in Southern California and I have an orange tree which produces delicious and very sweet oranges. Unfortunately about 30percent of the fruits have cracked skin… What is causing this? Do I need some special fertilizer or spraying of the tree? Please advise.

A. I’m sure it is discouraging to home gardeners to see their long-awaited crop of navel oranges begin to split as the harvest season approaches. Even commercial growers can experience this frustrating situation, and it can occur on other types of citrus too, not just navel oranges. The good news is that this is not the fault of a disease or insect. Instead, fruit split in citrus is believed to be caused by cultural and environmental conditions.

Culturally, it’s important to maintain an even water status in the soil. Never allow your tree to become droughted before applying water. When a citrus tree becomes droughted, it responds by pulling water from the fruits in order to spare the leaves. Then, when water is applied, the tree moves water and nutrients back to the fruits, but it may be more than the fruit is capable of holding, making a split likely. In navel oranges, the navel is the weak point of the fruit so the split is most likely to begin there. Applying fertilizer in small amounts on a monthly schedule from late winter through early summer, instead of in one or two big doses, may also help to maintain an even rate of growth.

Environmental conditions will also contribute to fruit splitting. We have had some especially hot and windy conditions periodically this summer, and from the appearance of the fruit pictured, it looks to me like this is what happened to your tree. Sunburn and windburn can toughen the rind of the fruit, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the fruit to expand as it tries to grow. If generous amounts of water and fertilizer are applied sporadically, the fruit will likely split. Obviously, you cannot control the weather, but if hot, windy weather is expected, it may help to irrigate the day before to try to minimize your tree from experiencing drought conditions.

Fruit on young trees is especially susceptible to wind and sun damage, but as the trees develop a nice full canopy of leaves, the fruit becomes more protected. Fortunately, fruit-splitting rarely affects more than a small percentage of the fruit on a tree, so as young trees get larger and more productive, the small losses to splitting are not so disappointing. Hopefully, the weather will be less challenging to our gardens next year.

Q. I’ve built my first compost pile. My gardening buddy told me I need to turn it over periodically but couldn’t tell me why.

A. The microorganisms that drive the composting process are aerobic, that is, they need air to live. In the center of your compost pile, air is in lower supply. By turning the compost pile periodically, you allow air to reach all parts of the pile to keep the composting process going. Turning the pile also mixes the slower and faster decomposing ingredients together to make a more homogeneous mixture ensuring that all compost ingredients finish at the same time.

Ottillia “Toots” Bier has been a UC Cooperative Extension master gardener since 1980. Send comments and questions to [email protected]

Contact the writer: [email protected]

Green Oranges Splitting Before They Ripen

By Ellen Brown


Why are the green oranges on my tree splitting open before they ripen. The tree is Valencian orange.

Hardiness Zone: 11


Hav from Spain



This type of fruit splitting is thought to happen as a result of unstable environmental conditions that cause stress to the tree. This is usually due to sudden swings in temperature, rapid increases in moisture or notable changes in the relative humidity. If these sudden fluctuations happen during the initial stages of the fruit’s development, the inner fruit and the outer rind of the orange may end up growing at slightly different rates or the orange may develop a weak rind. Either will eventually cause the fruit to split sometime down the road as the fruit continues to mature and grow in size.

Although there isn’t a lot you can do to control the weather (e.g. preventing cool spring weather from suddenly turning hot), you can avoid extreme fluctuations in moisture levels by keeping the soil around your tree consistently watered. Citrus trees do not like to stand in water, so hopefully yours is growing in well-drained soil. Depending on the rainfall in your area, try to water it at least every other week during the growing season-more during extreme heat.

To prevent overwatering, let the top 5-6 inches of soil dry out between each watering. The key here is consistency. Wilted or curling leaves are an indicator that moisture levels are either too high or too low. Certain types of orange trees are known to be more resistant to fruit splitting. If you plant orange trees in the future, contact local growers to find out which of these are available in your area.

Good Luck!

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com



Usually fruit that splits has too much water at too fast of a rate. This usually occurs later in the season. (09/09/2006)

By thrifty 50

Green Pinot Noir grapes splitting before they are ripe

What would make my grapes split before ripening. I regularly dust with sulfur and have not watered them, although we did have almost an inch of rain last week. (07/25/2007)

By Willie

Green Oranges?

Ever see a green-tinged orange and wonder if it means the fruit isn’t ripe yet? The FruitGuys asked one of its citrus farmers, Emily Ayala of Friend’s Ranch in Ojai, CA (growers of the fabulous Pixie tangerine and other citrus fruits), to explain why regreening sometimes happens to orange citrus.

According to Emily: “Fruit grown in warmer doesn’t develop a deep orange color and sometimes keeps some green on its skin. Cold nighttime temperatures cause citrus to show deep orange color, and when the weather warms up again in late spring and early summer, the citrus tends to regreen.”

The green is due to chlorophyll produced on the peel of orange citrus to protect itself from sunburn. The green color has no impact on flavor—in fact, some growers believe that citrus with regreening can have more sugar than deep-orange fruit. Regreening can also be caused by the position of individual fruits on the tree—fruit tucked in among the leaves tends to have more green, as it’s trying to maximize its reach for the sun’s rays. Chlorophyll is vital for photosynthesis, which allows fruit to absorb energy from sunlight.

Next time you see an orange or tangerine tinged with green, give it a try! Let us know if it tastes any sweeter to you.

If you have a fruit question you’d like to ask The FruitGuys, please email us at [email protected]

While in The Gambia I ate some oranges with green skins. I was surprised when I first saw them because I had always assumed that oranges are orange. In the English language, the colour orange was even named after the fruit. So why are the skins of some oranges green?

Oranges grown in The Gambia and other tropical countries have green skin. Image Credit: Louise Tutton

Oranges and other citrus fruits—e.g. lemons, limes and grapefruits—have been cultivated for a long time. The sweet orange (Citrus sinensis)—the variety we most commonly eat or make into juice—does not exist in the wild but is actually a hybrid of tangerines and the pomelo or “Chinese grapefruit” from South-East Asia.

Oranges (Citrus sinensis) growing in tropical countries have green skins and orange flesh. Image Credit: Christian (taken in Cameroon) via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The flesh of an orange is generally yellow or orange, but the colour of the skin depends on where it grows. Orange trees grow well and produce fruit in temperatures ranging from about 15 to 30 °C. In more temperate climes, the green skin turns orange as the weather cools down in the autumn. This is because the green pigment chlorophyll is removed from the fruit, similar to what happens when the leaves of deciduous trees turn brown in the autumn. However, in tropical climates—like The Gambia—it is always hot so the chlorophyll is preserved and the skin of the oranges remains green.

Oranges and other citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C, an important nutrient that we cannot make ourselves. Some enzymes in the body need Vitamin C to be able to work properly, including the enzymes that make collagen, a structural protein that supports tissues and organs. A deficiency in Vitamin C can lead to a condition called scurvy, which produces symptoms including tiredness, joint pain, swollen gums, heart problems and, in severe cases, death.

Scurvy was a common illness in sailors on long voyages because they had poor diets lacking in fresh fruit and vegetables. In 1497, the Portugese explorer Vasco de Gama almost lost most of his crew to scurvey while at sea, but when they landed on the East Coast of Africa and ate some oranges, the crew miraculously recovered. From then on, De Gama would send for oranges when his crew got sick, but it seems that he kept knowledge of the cure to himself.

It was the mid-18th Century before it was widely known how to cure scurvy. While working as the Surgeon’s mate on HMS Salisbury in 1747, James Lind realised that citrus fruits were an effective treatment for scurvy. Eventually, the information filtered through the hierarchy of the British navy and when Captain Cook sailed around South America to New Zealand and Australia in the 1760s he was able to keep his crew healthy by feeding them citrus fruits and sauerkraut (pickled cabbage, also contains Vitamin C).

Blood oranges have dark coloured flesh due to the presence of pigments called anthrocyanins. Image credit: Jacqueline via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

A variety of orange called the blood orange grows in several Mediterranean countries, including Italy. Their flesh is much darker in colour than a normal orange due to the presence of anthocyanins, which are reported to have health benefits due to their anti-oxidant properties. The dark flesh of the blood orange only develops in regions with climates similar to the Mediterranean where the weather cools down in winter.

So, although the colour of the skin and flesh of your orange won’t tell you whether it is ripe or not, it may give you a clue where it may have come from.

Orange is the Organism of December here at PlantScientist. Visit the Organism of the Month page to see previously featured organisms.

  • Laws, B (2010). Fifty plants that changed the course of history. David and Charles.
  • Wikipedia: Orange retrieved 01/12/14
  • Wikipedia: Citrus retrieved 01/12/14

QI: Quite interesting facts about orange

So how have they ended up giving their name to a colour? It’s because oranges are a subtropical, not tropical fruit. The colour of an orange depends on where it grows. In more temperate climes, its green skin turns orange when the weather cools; but in countries where it’s always hot, the chlorophyll is preserved and the fruit stays green.

How ripe is my orange?

You can’t tell the ripeness of an orange by its colour, no matter where it’s from. If an orange is unpicked, it can stay on the tree until the next season, during which time fluctuations in temperature can make it turn from green to orange and back to green again without the quality or flavour being affected.

Orange juice

Although its origins are in south-east Asia, the first New World orange trees were planted in Florida in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León.

Brazil now grows a third of all oranges in the world, of which 85 per cent are used for juice. Brazil’s Cutrale company produces one glass in five of all the orange juice drunk in the world. You don’t see it on packaging as it exports the concentrate, which is then turned into juice and listed as a product of the importing country.

It takes 50 glasses of water to grow enough oranges to make one glass of orange juice.

Orange hair

Alexander the Great washed his hair in saffron to keep it a lovely shiny orange colour. During his time saffron was as rare as diamonds and more expensive than gold.

Orange birds

Canaries were originally a mottled greeny-brown, but 400 years of crossbreeding by humans produced their yellow colour. A diet of red peppers turns them orange.

Orange brands

Flymo, the hover lawnmower, was originally blue and only turned orange in 1977. This was in response to consumer research that claimed it made it easier to find in long grass. Orange, the telecom company, was founded in 1994. Brand consultants Wolff Olins developed the orange square to emphasise the colour, rather than the fruit. They drew on the Chinese aesthetic discipline of feng shui, in which orange is the colour of purpose and organisation, and is supposed to help focus concentration. In the same year, advertising agency WCRS came up with the tag line: “The future’s bright, the future’s Orange.”

Less than a year later, airline easyJet launched with orange livery.

New Orange

New Amsterdam was founded by the Dutch in 1653, taken by the English in 1664 and renamed New York, then retaken by the Dutch in 1673 and renamed New Orange. Under the Treaty of Westminster in 1674 the city was ceded to the English and New York became its permanent name.

Orange boxes

The black box flight recorders on aircraft are actually bright orange so that they can be found more easily. They were originally called “black boxes” because early electronic prototypes were stored in black metal boxes.

Orange punishment

In Spanish, anaranjear means, literally, to “orangicate” – to pelt something with oranges.

5 Ways To Make Sure You’re Buying Good Quality Mandarins

Of course, people in earlier times managed to get through winter without these little orange-colored vitamin bombs. But during the colder months, almost no one wants to give up eating mandarins if they don’t have to. Because when the days are so short that you leave home for work when it’s dark, only to arrive back also in the dark — these citrus fruits with the brightly-colored peel are having their high season. Let’s bring a little sunshine into our homes!

flickr/Rob Bertholf

But you don’t always strike lucky when it comes to shopping. If the goods were in the warehouse too long, the shiny peel can still look inviting, but the mandarin flesh will taste woody, stale and leathery. You can avoid such disappointments, when you look for these five little details when purchasing:

flickr/Will Power

1. Firstly, not all mandarins are alike. Close relatives of the mandarin — including clementines, tangerines, satsumas and minneolas — can also be found at the market. If you like the taste to be more intense and slightly acidic, go for mandarins or small tangerines. Clementines and satsumas are sweeter and have almost no seeds. Incidentally, these two sorts can be stored for longer (about two months).


2. Having first found the mandarin that you like the taste of best, it’s now time to determine the freshness of the produce on sale. A clear indicator here is the weight. The more time that has passed since a mandarin was picked from its tree, the more juice — and therefore weight — it has lost. If you are spoilt for choice, you should weigh the fruits against each other.

flickr/Michael R

3. Use the skin to undertake a further test of freshness: it should be firm and not too easy to peel off. Mandarin peel that feels like a pair of oversized pants is an indication of juice lost due to a long time in storage, as previously mentioned.

flickr/Frank Jakobi

4. Check the point where the fruit was plucked from the tree — ideally this should appear white and soft. However, if this is beginning to turn brown, the fruit is already drying out.

5. When the mandarin has a stem and leaves, these can also help you out a little bit. Juicy, green and supple leaves are an indication of a particularly fresh fruit. But the leaves wither very quickly. If they crumble between your fingers, it’s not automatically a sign that the flesh of the fruit is past its best.

flickr/Till Westermayer

Incidentally, green spots on the mandarin have nothing to do with whether it’s already ripe. The skin takes on its orange colour when the days in the production region are much warmer than the nights. If the nights are too mild, the peel stays green in patches. These green spots do nothing to affect the flavor of these juicy favorites. With this in mind, snap up as many mandarins, clementines and satsumas as you can while stocks last! And if you can still remember what the other two types are called, why not give them a try too?


Nutrition Notes

One clementine provides only 35 calories, along with 36 milligrams of immune-boosting vitamin C, half a day’s worth for women. (The daily recommendation for vitamin C has been increased to 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for women.)

Clementines also serve up fibre, folic acid and potassium, a mineral that helps keep blood pressure in check.

Nutrition information for 2 clementines, the equivalent of one food guide fruit serving:


70 kcal
Carbohydrate 18 g
Fat 0 g
Protein 2 g
Fibre 2.6 g
Vitamin C 72 mg
Folic acid 36 mcg
Potassium 262 mg

(Source: Canadian Nutrient File 2007b)


Technically, clementines are a cross between mandarins (Citrus reticulata) and Seville oranges (Citrus auratium). They’re closely related to lemons, pummelos and tangerines.

There are 16 species of the California clementine, each being slightly different in taste and size. The pixie variety has the thickest skin, making it easier to peel, while the encore clementine is larger with a thinner skin.

Clementines are also grown in Europe, North Africa, Israel and Japan. In these countries, clementines are not always distinguished from other varieties of mandarins. For instance, the German word for clementine is “Mandarine”.


In North America, clementine season runs from mid-November through January. Clementines are often sold in pre-packaged mesh bags or boxes. If you’re able to sort through loose clementines, select those that are firm and heavy for their size. Clementines that are fragrant with rich color and thick skins will be easy to peel and delicious!

The skin of a ripe, juicy Clementine will feel loose on the fruit and should have no brown spots or wrinkles. Green areas on the skin aren’t a sign of poor flavor – it just means the fruit isn’t ripe yet but can be stored until it’s ready to be enjoyed.


Clementines should be stored in a cool, well-ventilated area. The ideal storage temperature for all citrus fruit is about 7 or 8 degrees Celcius. They can stay at room temperature for up to one week. If refrigerated, they will keep for up to two weeks.


Clementines are sometimes called “zipper oranges” because they’re so easy to peel. Peeling is the only “preparation” you need to enjoy this healthy, grab-and-go fruit.

For clementine juice, slice several clementines in half, remove any seeds and then apply the fruit to a juicer. Using an electric citrus fruit juicer will give you more juice than a manual juicer. To get fresh juice from one clementine, simply stick a fork in it and squeeze without removing the fork.


Clementines can be enjoyed fresh, canned, frozen or juiced. Unlike other citrus fruits, the zest of a clementine is very bitter and should not be used in cooking.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy


  • Make a fruit salad with clementines, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries.
  • Add clementine segments to a bowl of yogurt.
  • Top a bowl of oatmeal or cold cereal with clementine segments.
  • Make a smoothie with two whole clementines, a banana and unsweetened soy milk.
  • Alternate layers of granola, yogurt and clementines for a delicious breakfast parfait.


  • Toss clementine segments into a spinach salad to boost iron absorption (vitamin C enhances iron absorption from plant foods).
  • Add a squeeze of fresh clementine juice to balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a salad dressing.
  • Garnish a quinoa or bean salad with chopped clementine segments. Serve chilled.


  • Mix clementine juice into sauces for a sweet and tangy twist.
  • Add a diced clementine to your cranberry sauce for a festive twist.
  • Chop half a clementine into salad dressings, salsas and relishes. Get a recipe.
  • Toss clementine slices into any green salad to add color, sweetness and extra nutrition. Get a recipe.
  • Squeeze clementine juice onto fresh fish, in place of lemon juice.

Snacks and Dessert

  • Grab a clementine and a few nuts for a nutritious snack on the run.
  • Add a few slices of clementine to a store-bought fruit salad.
  • Incorporate clementine juice into your favorite cocktail or add as a garnish to your drink.
  • Freeze clementine segments that have been dipped in dark chocolate for a fancy treat.

Did you know?

  • There are 14 segments in a clementine.
  • The original fresh mandarin has bright green skin with orange flesh.

More Information

  • Wikipedia
  • Sun Pacfic Cuties California Clementines


Fruit split is not uncommon in oranges at this time of year. It happens when an orange tree absorbs water rapidly and moves it into the fruit. The flesh of the fruit expands faster than the rind can accommodate, and so the rind splits.


QUESTION: A couple of weeks ago we noticed fruit splitting on our navel orange tree. Since then, about a dozen or more have split and fallen to the ground. What’s causing the fruit to split and fall before maturation, and how might we prevent it in the future?. — Carrie Delany

ANSWER: Fruit split is not uncommon in oranges at this time of year. It happens when an orange tree absorbs water rapidly and moves it into the fruit. The flesh of the fruit expands faster than the rind can accommodate, and so the rind splits. This may happen when generous rains occur after a dry period. There’s not much you can do to stop it. You might water the tree during dry periods so that it receives an even supply of moisture. But I’ve seen fruit split occur even during summers when rainfall is fairly even. Usually only a percentage of the fruit will be affected, and most will remain good. Any split fruit should be removed from the tree or picked up from the ground and disposed. Fruit drop is also common this time of the year as citrus trees adjust their crops. Just collect and dispose of the fallen fruit.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter.

Splitting Fingertips Skin Fissures

It’s bad enough that it’s frigid outside and the weather is gloomy, but on top of that to have splitting fingertips – Skin Fissures makes everything that much worse and the winter seem that much longer. Splitting (fissuring) of the fingertips is a very common problem affecting many of us, most often in the winter months. Splitting fingertips (Fissures) can cause substantial discomfort, particularly frequent pain. This pain can make it difficult for us to do our normal daily activities. It also seems that those of us who tend to do the most activities with our hands, whether it be work related functions or recreational things, tend to suffer the most from fingertip splitting.

Splitting Fingertips – Skin Fissures

It’s worth taking just a moment to discuss why these splitting fingertips (Fissures) occur in the first place. Skin throughout the body normally has a certain amount of elasticity—its ability to bounce back to its normal position after stretching. Think of it like a rubber band. You could stretch that rubber band and as long as you don’t pull it too much it will spring back to its normal shape after you’re done pulling.

Certain areas of the skin tend to have less elasticity, and this is especially true for fingertips. With the right background environmental conditions that elasticity can further dwindle down to very low levels. Dry air in the winter can dry out our skin, making it less elastic. Some of us are particularly prone to dry and sensitive skin causing even more susceptibility to this problem. Others may have skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis that further compound the problem. And then what happens? When you pull or stretch that skin, rather than easily bouncing back, instead it more easily tears and splits open causing fingertip fissures.

Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands Omaha & Council Bluffs

We at Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands know how incredibly uncomfortable this can make you—and are happy to report that there are several different things that you can do to improve your skin and get the spots to heal.

Moisture is key!

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Do this throughout the day, and especially at bedtime. When selecting a moisturizer, the thicker the product the better it may be for you. The best dermatologists know that lotions are the weakest moisturizers, with creams being better, and ointments being best. In cases of severe dry skin on the hands, especially if that is causing splitting of the skin, we will often have patients soak their hands in lukewarm water for 3-5 minutes at bedtime. Following that they will immediately coat their wet hands in petroleum jelly/Vaseline, then put on soft white cotton gloves. Doing this nightly for stretches of time and using the same pair of gloves (without cleaning the gloves) can really soften the hands.

Baby your hands

This means when things get particularly bad with dry and splitting skin, try to minimize activities that put great strain on the fragile skin. This includes various mechanical activities. Also avoiding exposure to the elements, such as cold outdoor temperatures, can help. Repeat wet-dry cycles, like you get with washing dishes, cleaning, doing mechanical work where you wash your hands afterwards can also be a problem. Consider wearing gloves for these activities, such as work gloves for heavy mechanical activities and thinner disposable gloves for household activities. Nitrile gloves are often good for this and can be bought by the box.

Contact Us

If these measures don’t do enough for you, consider seeing us here at Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands. In some cases, more aggressive treatments may be needed, resulting in great improvement.

Again, we know how bad winters can be, especially on the fingertips. Splitting fingertip fissures can be an extremely uncomfortable. We hope this information has been helpful to you, and if you still have difficulties, we have appointments available to evaluate and treat your problem at our offices in Omaha, Council Bluffs and outreach locations in both Iowa and Nebraska.

For any information or to make an appointment please contact us.


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