What Is the Difference Between a Grove and an Orchard?

An orchard is a grove, but a grove is not necessarily an orchard. Grove is more inclusive than orchard, referring not only to the fruit and nut trees of an orchard, but also to any type of trees growing in groups without underbrush, according to the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Although "grove" and "orchard" are almost interchangeable, custom, more than strict meaning, determines which word to use in a particular context.

Orange Grove
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Whether you call it an orange grove or an orchard depends on local custom.

Orchard

An orchard is a planting of fruit, nut or maple trees, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. The word "orchard" has Old English and Latin roots, meaning "yard garden." Considering the literal meaning of these words, it follows that a yard garden is a place to grow food. In common usage, an orchard can consist of one type of tree, such as an apple orchard, or various fruit trees, in which case it is generally referred to simply as "orchard."

Grove

A grove is a small group of trees without underbrush, especially trees that bear fruit, says the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. "Grove" has its origins in Old English from a word meaning "grove" or "copse," with a meaning similar to "thicket." Therefore, grove can refer to any small stand of trees -- deciduous or evergreen -- or a small wooded area kept free of brushy undergrowth.

Grove in History

Historically, groves of trees provided sanctuary, recreation and even places of worship. The types of trees grown in the groves are generally not of particular significance, as it is the sheltering canopy that is important. The care sometimes given to the planning and management of a grove is exemplified in the description of Thomas Jefferson's Grove at his historic home, Monticello. In 1806, Jefferson set aside 18 acres on the grounds of Monticello for a grove with trees pruned high and underbrush removed "so as to give the appearance of open ground," says the Monticello.org article, "The Grove." "Grove" in present-day custom still refers to a tended, wooded area. When referring to food crops, grove most often refers to groups of citrus or nut trees.

Orchard in History

In the early days of the American colonists, when survival depended on growing their own food, the colonists used seeds from Europe to establish fruit gardens on nearly every farm or homestead. These orchards, consisting of a variety of different fruits, not only provided food for the colonists, but also became horticultural experiment stations for wealthy landowners and gentlemen farmers, writes Susan Dolan in "Fruitful Legacy: A Historic Context of Orchards in the United States." Although the word "orchard" more commonly refers to deciduous fruit trees, "grove" is sometimes used.