Osage Orange is a deciduous tree native to North America. It is also known as the hedge apple and Bois-D'arc, and the name Osage Orange comes from the native American Osage tribe, which inhabited tree's home range. The tree's fruit is large, looks appealing and has a pleasant orange peel fragrance, but it is inedible to humans. Squirrels, however, enjoy tearing the fruit apart to get to the seeds. It can be identified by several of its characteristics.
The tree grows quickly and can reach heights of more than 20 feet in fewer than 10 years. It thrives in the United States in hardiness zones 5 through 9A and tends to grow in dense thickets. Prior to the advent of barbed wire, Osage Orange trees were commonly planted to form a dense hedge as a form of fencing, the remnants of which are still in some areas.
Leaves and Bark
The leaves of the tree are simple and shaped like lances with undulating edges. Each leaf is about 4 to 8 inches in length and 2 to 4 inches wide, and the tree's leaves alternate along branches. Leaves are green during the growing season and turn yellow in autumn. The tree's bark is brown with tinges of orange, and it is deeply furrowed.
Osage Orange trees grow as if either male or female trees and require cross-pollination to produce fruit. The male forms multiple clusters of tiny white flowers. The females' flowers appear as small, green spherical growths, about 1 inch in diameter, with many hairlike projections. Both flower in spring.
The fruit is large and round, often reaching a diameter of 6 inches, and hangs from a long, thin stem. It is light green with a fleshy, knobby, bumpy surface. Relatively hard to with work, it can be separated to reveal a slimy mucilaginous interior with tiny black seeds.
Osage Orange trees can reach 40 feet in height and can spread just as far. These trees usually grow from a single leader trunk, although multiple trunks are not uncommon. The trunk grows vertically, developing many outreaching branches. Young Osage Orange trees are roughly pyramidal in form; older trees tend to be more rounded and spreading in appearance. The crown is open and coarsely textured. The branches often droop to the ground. While some varieties have branches covered in thorns, other varieties have no thorns.