In October and November, apple-green, grapefruit-size fruits of feminine Osage orange timber (Maclura pomifera, Zones 4–9) fall from their canopies and hit the bottom with a hearty thump. This North American native species is a part of the mulberry household and has an extended historical past of use all through the Midwest for its wooden, and extra not too long ago, for its excessive tolerance to city circumstances. It’s value contemplating the subsequent time you might be planning to plant a big panorama tree.
Initially native to the Southern Plains, Osage orange can now be present in all 48 contiguous states
Osage orange is known as after the Native American Osage tribe that historically lived in a lot of the Central and Southern Plains and used the sturdy and durable wooden of the tree to make bows (which explains the origin of one other frequent identify of this tree, bow wooden). This species is native to river valleys and wealthy bottomlands in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.
Now present in all 48 contiguous states, it acquired broad promotion and use throughout Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Nice Plains Shelterbelt” WPA (Work Progress Administration) program for erosion management and as a barrier hedge that was “horse excessive, bull-strong, and pig tight.” Thorny branches, fast development, and a “thicketing” tendency allowed for the broad availability, use, and distribution of this species. 1000’s of miles of Osage orange hedgerows had been planted within the Thirties. Nonetheless, the mass manufacturing and availability of barbed wire turned the extra in style means of separating and securing house. Osage orange has additionally been used for soil stabilization tasks and strip-mine reclamation.
This massive tree produces its fascinating fruit after 10 years of age
Reaching heights of 35 to 60 ft tall and simply as huge, Osage orange options ovate, shiny inexperienced leaves that get a good yellow fall coloration. The orange-brown bark turns into showier with age, and the sturdy, close-grained wooden has excessive rot resistance, which is nice for the well being of the tree and those that want to use the tree for wooden. Moreover, a yellow-orange dye might be extracted from the wooden, and it has the best heating worth of any North American wooden, burning very popular for a very long time.
The fruits, usually produced after 10 years of age, develop to about 5 inches throughout and are fairly distinctive and fascinating. Feminine timber want a male pollinator to provide fruit. Every fruit is definitely a dense cluster of a whole lot of smaller fruits which have merged—or to make use of the botanical time period, it’s a “syncarp of drupes.” Milky latex oozes from broken or lower fruits. Whereas not toxic to people or livestock, the fruit shouldn’t be eaten by many creatures, though deer and squirrels will nibble on the internal seeds. They’re additionally inedible for people.
The fruits had been lengthy put in closets, drawers, and cupboards for his or her insect-repelling properties, which have since been discovered to be exaggerated. Nonetheless, latest analysis by the USDA has discovered that the chemical elemol, which might be extracted from the fruits, reveals wonderful promise as a mosquito repellent, with comparable capability to DEET.
Osage orange thrives in robust circumstances in full solar
Whereas preferring moist websites, Osage orange tolerates each dry and moist circumstances in addition to excessive drought, clay, and air air pollution. Full-sun areas are most well-liked, though partial solar is appropriate. Needless to say the USDA now signifies that Osage orange has the potential to invade areas abused by poor administration or overgrazing. Changing into weedy and aggressive in some areas or habitats, it might displace fascinating vegetation. Correct administration in these conditions is essential to stop this plant from spreading in an undesirable method.
This tree is gaining extra prominence in city settings with the promotion of male (therefore fruitless) and thornless choices resembling ‘White Protect, ‘Wichita’, and ‘Denmark’. These and different choices have gotten extra out there to be used as avenue timber, in city parks, and different robust areas. However, gardeners who just like the fruit would possibly need to try ‘Cannonball’, which has fruits as much as twice the dimensions of the typical fruit. Osage orange has an extended and wealthy historical past of use and appears to have a vibrant and promising future as properly.
—Mark Dwyer is the backyard supervisor for the Edgerton Hospital Therapeutic Backyard in Edgerton, Wisconsin, and he operates Panorama Prescriptions by MD.
Images: Mark Dwyer