General Description / Cultural Significance
Monaco resides on the northwest Mediterranean coast, a country whose small size is no indicator for its regard as one of the most luxurious tourist destinations in the world. Locals and visitors alike enjoy the beach and boating culture of the seaside and enjoy walking the streets of the Principality, lined with hundreds of Orange Blossom Trees, Citrus aurantium. Native to Monaco, over six-hundred of these trees, also known as Bitter Orange Trees, can be found throughout the city and even more grow in the yards and home gardens of Monaco residents. Their flowers release a glorious scent that has become a large, beloved olfactory hallmark for the small country. At the beginning of every new year, Orange Blossom fruits emerge in their round, fragrant glory to inspire a new year of celebrating Mediterranean culture. Anyone who visits the city is welcome to hand pick as much of the fruit as they want from the city’s trees. Locals take advantage of the Principality’s trees while also picking fruit from their own gardens to use in daily cooking. Bitter Orange is not sweet enough to eat raw or to juice, but is ideal for making sauces, marmalades, and the country’s signature famous Bitter Orange liquor. The plant’s fruit and zest is included in Mediterranean pastries, chocolates, and wine, and Orange Blossom water is a key ingredient in Monaco’s special variation on the decadent French bread called fougasse.
Orange Blossom has a beloved home in traditional Mediterranean medicine. Locally, Orange Blossom has been consumed as an appetite suppressant, a property attributed to its active constituent synephrine. An infusion of the fruit’s juice is considered a facial toner with antiaging abilities. In Mediterranean, Brazilian, Iranian, and many other herbalism traditions, Citrus aurantium is known for its calming effect on both the mind and body. This has since been confirmed by research of the plant’s flowers which contain antidepressant and antianxiety bioactive compounds. The fruit’s soothing effect is also helpful for those experiencing symptoms of menopause and premenstrual syndrome.
The annual production of fruit by hundreds of Orange Blossom trees has historically created lots of waste: nearly four hundred kilos of Oranges must be picked daily by the end of February for properly distribution and consumption timing. The government now distributes free Oranges to the districts of Monaco throughout January in the hopes of minimizing organic waste, better pruning the city’s trees, and minimizing food scarcity among its people. This has become an annual tradition celebrated by the people of Monaco and tourists alike.
Climate Change / Conservation Status
Though life in Monaco seems pristine, the country is not immune to the effects of global climate change. As a coastal nation, rising sea level and coastal erosion are of constant concern. The Mediterranean basin has experienced changing rainfall patterns and higher average temperatures which is increasing sugar and reducing acidity in Citrus aurantium, placing the fruit’s signature characteristics out of balance. Warmer winter temperatures are affecting flower bud induction, causing a decline in reproduction in the spring. This means fewer flowers are left with enough energy to survive heat stress, reducing fruiting. Although these are incremental changes which need more investigation, the manipulation of seasonal patterns and the physiology of aromatic plants is a grave indication of greater climate impacts to come. Citrus aurantium is just one of many medicinally and culturally important plants that are indicating to us the need for immediate climate action.
Thankfully for the Orange Blossom, Monaco’s government is well-equipped to finance adaptation projects to promote sustainable development and a carbon-free economy for the future of the country. Monaco is now considered a leader in global climate action, a great example of how financial resources and comfortable quality of life can produce actionable solutions. Monaco now has set an inspiring goal for zero single-use plastic waste by 2030. Being the small country that it is, Monaco makes a minimal contribution to climate change but is still fighting for sustainability. This ethos is a message for the wealthy who frequent the Principality to follow in Monaco’s footsteps and put their money towards a better and more sustainable future for all people.
Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Principality of Monaco to the United Nations. This statement can be found on the World Sensorium original website.
De Ollas, C., 2019. Facing Climate Change: Biotechnology of Iconic Mediterranean Woody Crops. Frontiers in Plant Science, 10, p.427. DOI:10.3389/fpls.2019.00427
EBSCO NAT Editorial Team, 2022. Health Library: Citrus aurantium. Beth Israel Lahey Health. [website]
Gertaldi, A., 2021. Five drink “Made in Monaco” to try this summer. Monaco Tribune. 
Héliabrine, 2022. Main Active Incredients. Héliabrine Monoco. [website]
Horsman, S., 2022. Monaco to hand out tons of free oranges. MonacoLife. [website]
Mendez, L., 2021. Monaco Is Becoming an Unexpected Leader in Sustainability. Architectural Digest. [website]
Monaco Tribune, 2021. Traditional harvest of bitter oranges in Monaco, Monaco Tribune. [website]
Núria, 2021. Orange Blossoms Harvest. Rove. [website]
Raphaelleprince, 2022. Favorite bitter orange recipe. World Akkam. [website]
S, B., 2017. Phyto-pharmacological effect of nine medicinal plants as a traditional treatment on depression. Journal of Applied Pharmacy, 09(03). DOI: 10.21065/1920-4159.1000244
Sorre, B., 2021. VIDEO. Traditional harvest of bitter oranges in Monaco. Monaco Tribune. [website]
UNEP, 2018. Climate change is impacting us too, says Prince Albert II of Monaco. United Nations Environment Programme. [website]