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Osage Orange Trees

Osage orange trees are naturalized across southern Michigan.

Do Osage Orange Trees Grow in Michigan?

Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) trees, native to Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, have naturalized in southern Michigan. They grow in the Michigan counties of Hillsdale, St. Joseph, Berrien, Kalamazoo, Oakland, Livingston and Kent. Early Michigan settlers planted the thorned, up-to-60-foot trees as nearly impenetrable barriers in place of fences.

Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) trees, native to Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, have naturalized in southern Michigan. They grow in the Michigan counties of Hillsdale, St. Joseph, Berrien, Kalamazoo, Oakland, Livingston and Kent. Early Michigan settlers planted the thorned, up-to-60-foot trees as nearly impenetrable barriers in place of fences.

What Eats Osage Orange?

Humans

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.

Wildlife

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.

Insects

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.

How to Decorate With Osage Orange

Beautiful paisley design.

Paint the osage oranges with a variety of designs, or in solid, bright colors. Use craft stencils to make designs such as ivy vines, flowers and paisleys. Allow the paint to dry for approximately eight hours.

Place the twigs in the wicker basket and arrange them so the foliage hangs over the edge of the basket. Arrange the painted and dried osage oranges on top of the branches so they show through the foliage.

Place the decorative basket on a table or shelf in your home. Alternatively, osage orange baskets make wonderful centerpieces at picnics and barbecues.

How Fast Does the Orange Osage Tree Grow?

Osage orange trees are related to the mulberry tree.

Osage orange trees grow rapidly, up to three feet a year, to an average mature height of 30 feet. Compare this to oak trees which grow one to two feet a year. Osage orange trees are named after the Osage tribe.

What Is an Osage Orange?

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.