Lue Gim Gong
Lue Gim Gong (Chinese: 呂锦浓; pinyin: Lǚ Jǐnnóng; born 1860, Taishan, Guangdong, China – died July 3, 1925 DeLand, Florida, U.S.) was a Chinese-American horticulturalist. Known as "The Citrus Wizard," he is remembered for his contribution to the orange-growing industry in Florida.
Born in Taishan, Guangdong, China, to a family of farmers, Lue Gim Gong, was interested in the United States and the opportunities that lay across the Pacific Ocean. After his uncle returned from America when Lue was 12, the boy pleaded with his parents to let him return with his uncle to America. His parents agreed, giving him a bolt of silk to sell when he arrived. He lived in a heavily Chinese-populated area in San Francisco until the age 16 when he moved to North Adams, Massachusetts, to work at a shoe factory.
At the factory, Lue met Fannie Burlingame, who taught his Sunday School class. When she learned of his skill with plants, she asked him to live with the Burlingames to tend their garden. She converted him to Christianity, and helped him become a United States citizen in 1877.
Lue had been advised to move to a warmer climate due to his recent contraction of tuberculosis. Due to his conversion, he was unable to return to China. Fannie recommended a relocation to DeLand, Florida, where she and her sister owned land. Lue agreed, and in 1885, he was working once again, this time in orange groves.
- Lue had learned some pollination techniques from his mother in China, with which he was able to develop an apple which ripened a month earlier than other varieties, and a tomato plant that grew in clusters. In Florida, he learned to cross-pollinate citrus by watching bees. He developed a cold-tolerant grapefruit that was slower to drop, and grapefruits which grew singularly, rather than in clumps, on the branch, as well as an aromatic variety.
- Wooden Fish Songs, by Ruthanne Lum McCunn, is an historical novel based on Lue's life.
- In 1888, Lue cross-pollinated the "Harts late" Valencia and "Mediterranean Sweet" orange varieties, which produced a fruit both sweet and frost-tolerant. Originally considered a hybrid, the "Lue Gim Gong" orange was later found to be a nucellar seedling of the "Valencia" variety, which is properly called the "'Lue Gim Gong Strain". Distributed by Glen St. Mary Nurseries, the variety was awarded the Silver Wilder Medal by the American Pomological Society in 1911, the first such award for a citrus fruit.
- The "Lue Gim Gong" variety is still grown in Florida as of 2006, but is sold under the general name "Valencia".
- Cigar City Brewing in Tampa Florida has dedicated a citrus forward pale ale to his legacy, appropriately named Lue Gim Gong.
- Lue's influence was also felt in his native land China. His name appears in 'Scientific Database of China Plant Species'. "In the 1940s, the summer-time citrus types such as "Valencia" or "Lue Gim Gong" variety was imported into China. Based on these imported varieties, several new species were developed such as the "Guixia" orange which is widely cultivated in Guangxi Province, and "Wuyuehong" orange, in Jiangjin City of Sichuan Province".
- Purdue University archives
- Morton, J. 1987. Orange. p. 134–142. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/orange.html
- "The Life of Lue Gim Gong." West Volusia Historical Society. Retrieved on October 25, 2006.
- "Orange", Fruits of warm climates by Julia F. Morton. Florida Flair Books, 1987. ISBN 0-9610184-1-0. Retrieved on October 26, 2006.
- Ruthanne Lum McCunn, Wooden Fish Songs. Plume, 1996. ISBN 0-8070-6229-4
- Virginia Aronson, Gift of the Unicorn: The Story of Lue Gim Gong, Florida's Citrus Wizard. Pineapple Press (FL), 2002. ISBN 1-56164-264-9