What Is an Osage Orange?

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Osage oranges, also called hedge apples, are common in the Great Plains and parts of the Midwest. Although the ripe fruit has a smell reminiscent of oranges, they are not related.

History

  • The Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) is native to eastern Oklahoma and northern Texas, but it spread across the Great Plains as settlers in the 1800s brought the tree with them to use for hedgerows.

Identification

  • The average Osage orange tree grows to about 30 feet tall, and the trunk has a diameter of 1 1/2 feet. The tapered leaves are shiny and turn yellow in the autumn. The fruit is a light green, wrinkled ball approximately 6 inches across, and it remains on the tree after the leaves fall off.

Features

  • Only female Osage orange trees bear fruit. The tree can act like a shrub if it is planted alone but remains a tree if planted among others of its kind.

Function

  • Originally, the Osage orange tree was planted and pruned to create thick, tight hedges. The wood is very strong and resistant to rot, so it is used for fence posts and makes good bows. The fruit can be used as a natural insect repellent.

Warning

  • The Osage orange has sharp thorns, which can make it difficult to prune.

References

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