|Monday Melange: Osage Orange|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Monday, 06 February 2012|
Named after the Osage Indian tribe, the fruit of the Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) tree is not an orange at all, although once it’s sun ripened you can catch a whiff of orange. I first encountered the interesting Osage orange tree and fruit on the streets of my West Philly neighborhood soon after arriving to go to grad school at Penn. I had no idea what it was, except that it was really interesting--so interesting that I grabbed the fruit and ran home to key it out.
A member of the Mulberry plant family (Moraceae), its range extends throughout much of the US, except northern New England where I hailed from and a few other northern states like North Dakota and Montana and Nevada and New Mexico. Hardy between USDA Zones 5 and 9, Osage orange is also called hedge apple or bois d’arc. Although native to the southeastern US, it is now quite common in the Great Plains where it is used as a hedge plant. It’s well suited to this role as it has thorny branches and dense foliage comprised of glossy leaves.
It is a fast growing tree that often reaches 30 feet and is just as wide. Osage orange is more interesting and functional than it is ornamental, but it does tolerate urban conditions, windy, and other difficult environments. Osage orange has male and female plants with only the female plants bearing the 3 to 6 inch diameter fleshy green fruits. The white flowers bloom in June and are inconspicuous. And in case you’re wondering…the fruits are not edible for humans.
Read more about the odd fruits of the Osage orange.