Except for squirrels, most wildlife and birds find the large fruit of the Osage orange tree, also known as hedge apples, unpalatable. The fruits resemble wrinkled, green balls that grow up to 6 inches in diameter.
While the seeds of Osage orange fruits are edible, most people don’t eat them or any other part of the fruit. Getting to the seeds involves removing a gooey husk that surrounds each seed. If you pick up a bruised fruit, it may leak a sticky, white juice that irritates the skin and causes a rash.
Osage orange fruits strongly appeal to squirrels. They animals tear apart the hedge apples to get at the small seeds. The squirrels must first get rid of the slimy husk surrounding each seed before they can enjoy their prize. You can tell squirrels are eating the fruits if you see piles of the shredded fruit underneath the trees.
At least four stem-borer insects find the woody parts of the trees an edible source, including the mulberry borer, painted hickory borer and red-shouldered hickory borer. Scale insects also attack the tree, feeding on opening buds and new leaves.