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LSU O'Rourke
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L57-11-103, O'Rourke


An OFFICIAL release from the LSU breeding program. LSU O’Rourke is a productive brown sugar fig variety, the second earliest ripening LSU cultivar after Improved Celeste. Ripens with the Mt Etnas. Strong smooth brown skin with some maroon.

According to Charlie Johnson with the LSU AgCenter, Improved Celeste is what they call O'Rourke. See Figs remain popular Louisiana fruit. However, there seems to be much confusion on this matter. Some believe that O'Rourke is indeed an Improved Celeste, but there are other UNofficial releases of Improved Celeste which are distinct from O'Rourke.

From LSU Ag:

‘O’Rourke’ fig (Ficus carica L.) was developed by the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station (LAES) to provide a productive tree of good-quality fruit, which ripens during the traditional fig harvesting period. ‘O’Rourke’ is a common-type fig and the third cultivar released from the LAES fig breeding program that was initiated in the 1950s to develop cultivars for the gulf south region (O’Rourke et al., 2004). ‘O’Rourke’ was evaluated in plantings at The Burden Center, Baton Rouge, LA (long. 3024#3$ N, lat. 916’2$ W) and at the Citrus Research Station at Port Sulfur, LA (long. 2929#7$ N, lat. 8942#7$ W). This selection (57-11-103) was chosen for release because of superior fruiting characteristics.


‘O’Rourke’ was selected from a group of seedlings from a cross of ‘Celeste’ · ‘C1’. ‘C1’ is a designation given a caprifig obtained from the University of California at Riverside in 1950. The cross was made in 1956 and an individual plant selection made by E.N. O’Rourke in 1960 and tested as L57- 11-103. This cultivar is named to honor Dr. Ed O’Rourke’s (Professor) service to the fruit industry.


Fruit. A comparison of fruit (syconium) characteristics of seven cultivars of commontype figs was made in the summer of 2008 using fruit from 8-year-old trees growing at Burden Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA. Sixteen uniformly firm ripe fruit were harvested from each tree in the canopy periphery 1.5 m from ground level. Plots were replicated three times with one tree per plot. Fruit were immediately taken to the laboratory for evaluation. Each replicate was weighed and divided into two lots for measuring soluble solids and color. Fruit from one lot of each cultivar were peeled and macerated. Approximately 3 mL of pulp was used to determine percent soluble solids using a bench-top refractometer. A 20-mL sample of the macerated pulp was used to determine internal fruit color using a Minolta CM3500d spectrophotometer (Minolta Instrument Systems, Ramsey, NJ) standardized with a white calibration plate (Minolta CM-A120). External fruit color was determined objectively by placing whole fruit from each cultivar on the eye lens of the spectrophotometer along the equator of each fruit. Four fruit were measured for external color at two points along the equator of each fruit and the L, a, and b measurements averaged.

The fruit of ‘O’Rourke’ is persistent and does not require pollination. ‘O’Rourke’ has a round distal end and tapers slightly toward the stem end with a long neck region (Fig. 1). The fruit stalk is longer on ‘O’Rourke’ than most common fig cultivars with an average length of 14.2 mm compared with fruit stalk on ‘Celeste’ of 10.4 mm. ‘O’Rourke’ produces good-quality fruit 35 mm in diameter and of moderate size (20 g) and tan in color. The eye (ostiole) of ‘O’Rourke’ is not completely closed when fully ripe compared with a closed eye of ‘Celeste’. Internal color is golden with red near center of fruit when soft ripe (Table 1). Fruit ripen 5 to 7 d before ‘Celeste’ or approximately the last week of June in Baton Rouge, LA. The longer fruit stalk of ‘O’Rourke’ attributes to the characteristics of the fruit hanging down when fully ripe. The main crop of ‘O’Rourke’ ripens over a 15-d period, which is comparable to ’Celeste’.

Trees and foliage. ‘O’Rourke’ trees are vigorous, producing upright trunks with a tendency to produce horizontal growth during the juvenile phase. Trees of this cultivar have moderate resistance to damage from subfreezing temperatures. Field notes indicate trees of ‘O’Rourke’ would be less resistant to freeze damage than ‘Celeste’ but more resistant than ‘Magnolia’. Foliage cover is somewhat sparse on mature trees when compared with ‘Celeste’ in that trunk and branches of ‘O’Rourke’ are still visible after full foliation in midseason. Mature leaves of ‘O’Rourke’ are palmate with five to seven distinct lobes. The primary lobe is spatulate with an irregular, sinuate margin, giving the primary lobe an oak leaf appearance. The leaf base is sagittate with partially imbricate lobes.

Disease resistance. Eight-year-old trees of ‘O’Rourke’ fig cultivars with known degrees of susceptibility to late summer defoliation were grown in a research orchard at Burden Center at Baton Rouge, LA. Field notes were recorded annually in late summer on the degree of defoliation of each tree. ‘O’Rourke’ is more resistant to defoliation caused by the fig leaf rust [Cerotelium fici (E.J. Butler) Arthur] and leaf spot [Pseudocercospora fici (Heald & F.A Wolf X. J. Liu & Y. L. Guo) = Cercospori fici] complex than ‘Celeste’. Symptoms caused by the two pathogens often appear at the same time creating difficulty in separating the two diseases under field conditions as to which one causes defoliation.

Culture. ‘O’Rourke’ is a common-type fig that is very productive and has performed well in grower trials and home orchards. This selection has previously been unofficially named and propagated as ‘Improved Celeste’; however, ‘Improved Celeste’ is not necessarily the same as ‘O’Rourke’. This selection most closely resembles ‘Celeste’, which is one of the most prominent fig cultivars grown in the gulf south region (Pyzner, 2005). ‘O’Rourke’ produces a larger, earlier maturing fruit than ‘Celeste’ and complements current recommended varieties by increasing the diversity of fruit types. A marketing limitation is the tendency of the fruit of ‘O’Rourke’ to have a partially closed eye at maturity. Under humid conditions, this may increase the amount of fruit spoilage compared with ‘Celeste’. However, field notes have not denoted a greater tendency for fruit spoilage than other cultivars. When the fruit is harvested at the proper stage for processing (firm ripe), this should not present a problem.



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  • Cold Hardiness: fair