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MACLURA pomifera

Image of Maclura pomifera

Jessie Keith

Family

Moraceae

Botanical Name

MACLURA pomifera

Plant Common Name

Bois d’arc, Hedge Apple, Osage Orange

General Description

The large, warty, round fruits of Osage orange are heavy and dangerous when they start thudding to the ground in fall. Originally this native deciduous tree only inhabited the plains of the Red River in Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas and the other regions of Texas, such as the Blackland Prairies and Chisos Mountains. Populations spread due to human cultivation and now exist across much of North America. The tree itself is medium-sized, long-lived and develops a pleasing rounded or pyramidal canopy. Its wood is remarkably strong and resists rotting, so it’s historically been used for fence posts. Osage orange produces lots of potentially valuable chemicals that may be useful in medicine as well as the food and pesticide industries.

Deeply fissured, yellowish gray-brown bark covers the broad, strong trunk of this tree and conceals its bright orangish yellow heartwood. When broken the stems emit a strong, acrid smell and milky sap. The new stems of younger trees have vicious thorns. Its ovate leaves alternate on the stem and have tapered, acute tips. In fall they turn shades of yellowish green. The trees are dioecious, which means that each tree produces either male or female flowers. Both male and female flowers small and greenish yellow. The female blooms are round and fuzzy and mature into green warty fruits that are round and often called “monkey balls.” The hard fruits are inedible and emit a milky sap if broken. As they age, they will shatter to release their seeds.

Trees planted in open areas with full sun develop the most pleasing canopies. This is a tough tree that’s quite drought tolerant once established and will withstand a broad range of soil types with average drainage. Like most floodplain trees, it can withstand occasional flooding at the rootzone. It has few pest and disease problems and requires little to no maintenance—aside from the cleanup of fruits from female trees. Male trees can be planted in park, open lawns and even make great street trees. Female trees should not be planted where children play or pedestrians frequent.

Scientists believe Osage orange fruits were the favored food of species long extinct, such as early American horses and the Pleistocene mega fauna like giant ground sloths and mammoths. The Osage tribe's people used the strong, attractive wood for bow wood and war clubs. In fact, the common name bois d’arc is French for "wood of the bow."

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    10 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 10

  • Sunset Zone

    2a, 2b, 3a, 10, 11, 12, 13

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    25'-60' / 7.6m - 18.3m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring, Late Spring

  • Native To

    Southeastern United States, South-Central United States, Texas

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Tolerances

    Soil Compaction

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Yellow Green

  • Fruit Color

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Green, Yellow Green

  • Bark Color

    Yellow, Orange, Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Fissured

  • Usage

    Mixed Border, Shade Trees, Street Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes