Pining for a Change

a Florida Trend Exclusive


The pine tree has long been a staple of northwest Florida’s paper mill industry, which for many years has been among the region’s major air and water polluters. But wood pellet manufacturer Enviva, based in the tiny Jackson County town of Cottondale, is now using pine trees to create a source of clean and efficient power. Full story here (part of a business news roundup for Northwest Florida).

The slash pine

In addition to the use of the pine tree in the paper manufacturing industry, the slash pine may be the answer to the dwindling demand and supply of citrus, Florida’s state fruit for over a hundred years. Before the Big Freeze in Central Florida in 1893-4, Citra, Florida, named for citrus, just a few miles north of Ocala, distinguished itself as one of the largest shipping points for citrus fruits in the world. Photographs of Citra told the sad story of the freeze. Orange groves looked like a collection of bare stick trees with icicles hanging from branches where oranges once hung ready for picking. Frozen oranges covered with ice lay on the ground under the icicle trees, eerily like ice cold Christmas trees.

Today, when you take a leisurely drive on U.S. 29, north of Ocala to Citra. There are ten acres of fragrant blooming oranges surrounding one small orange juice stand next to the highway. Stopping there to buy a cup of freshly squeezed cold orange juice for me and my wife. I told the man tending the telephone-booth-sized stand that I was doing a story on the history of Citra.

He turned out to be an old-timer, born in Citra, and filled with the lore of old Methodist Church, and the names of older folks I might talk to to flesh out the history of a not-so-well-known central Florida town. He also revealed some interesting information about his stand and the surrounding grove.

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