Osage Orange Tree – Maclura pomifera

Osage Orange Tree – Maclura pomifera
Mulberry Family: Moraceae
Osage Orange heartwood is
decay-resistant and impervious to termites.

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Osage Orange Hedgeapple

Osage Orange Fruit, commonly called hedgeapple
Osage-orange produces no sawtimber, pulpwood, or utility poles, but it has been planted in greater numbers than almost any other tree species in North America. Known also as hedge, hedge-apple, bodark, bois-d'arc, bowwood, and naranjo chino, it made agricultural settlement of the prairies possible (though not profitable), led directly to the invention of barbed wire, and then provided most of the posts for the wire that fenced the West. The heartwood, bark, and roots contain many extractives of actual and potential value in food processing, pesticide manufacturing, and dye making. Osage-orange is used in landscape design, being picturesque rather than beautiful, and possessing strong form, texture, and character.

The natural range of Osage-orange is in the Red River drainage of Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas; and in the Blackland Prairies, Post Oak Savannas, and Chisos Mountains of Texas. According to some authors the original range included most of eastern Oklahoma, portions of Missouri, and perhaps northwestern Louisiana. Osage-orange has been planted as a hedge in all the 48 contiguous States and in southeastern Canada. The commercial range includes most of the country east of the Rocky Mountains, south of the Platte River and the Great Lakes, excluding the Appalachian Mountains.

Osage Orange Thorns
Those wicked thorns kept the cows out of the apple orchard all right.

Although Osage-orange is one of the healthiest tree species in North America, it is attacked by some parasites. Cotton root rot, caused by Phymatotrichum omnivorum, attacks Osage-orange and most other windbreak species in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arizona (59). Losses are greatest in plantings on dry soil where rainfall is scant. Cotton root rot is the only serious disease.

Osage-orange trees are attacked by at least four stem borers: the mulberry borers (Doraschema wildii and D. titleernatum), the painted hickory borer (Megacyllene caryae), and the red shouldered hickory borer (Xylobiops basilaris).

Osage Orange Tree

The female flower in ripening becomes very fleshy, forming a large multiple fruit or syncarp composed of 1-seeded drupelets. The fruit ripens from September through October. The ripe fruit, 7.6 to 15 cm (3 to 6 in) in diameter, yellowish-green, resembles an orange, often weighing more than a kilogram (2.2 lb). When bruised, the fruit exudes a bitter milky juice which may cause a skin rash and which will blacken the fruit on drying. Female trees often produce abundant fruit when no male trees exist nearby, but such fruit contains no seeds. [1]

Image: Osage Orange Leaves

The outer layer of sapwood is very thin; consequently, even small-diameter stems give long service as stakes and posts (40,43). About 3 million posts were sold annually in Kansas during the early 1970's. The branch wood was used by the Osage Indians for making bows and is still recommended by some archers today. The chemical properties of the fruit, seed, roots, bark, and wood may be more important than the structural qualities of the wood. A number of extractives have been identified by researchers, but they have not yet been employed by industry.

Numerous organic compounds have also been obtained from various parts of the tree. An antifungal agent and a nontoxic antibiotic useful as a food preservative have been extracted from the heartwood. Osage-orange in prairie regions provides valuable cover and nesting sites for quail, pheasant, other birds, and animals, but the bitter-tasting fruit is little eaten by wildlife. Reports that fruit causes the death of livestock have been proven wrong by feeding experiments in several States. [1]

1. J.D. Burton, USDA Forest Service Silvic Manual, Maclura pomifera (Raf.) Schneid.
NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees
3. Flora of China, Maclura tricuspidata
Tree Encyclopedia / North American Insects & Spiders is dedicated to providing scientific and educational resources for our users through use of large images and macro photographs of flora and fauna.

Mulberry Family: Moraceae consists of flowering trees, shrubs, herbs or lianas (vines), both evergreen and deciduous; mainly woody and tropical, they are most abundant in Asia.  Moraceae includes both self-supporting and epiphytic (plants that use an immobile object such as another plant, or a building to support their structure) vines. The largest genus is Ficus, with about 750 species of figs.
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