Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Reading - Osage Orange Tree






While I don't see many Osage Orange trees around the Small-Hold anymore these days, down South of us a bit where I been cutting firewood the last several weekends there are quite a few nearby. I counted several in a couple of cow pastures with the large green fruit scattered about and a few dozen cattle lounging under the canopy.

This ancient specie of tree that was once found only in a small pocket that encompassed parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas can now be found growing in many parts of the country although I see it a lot more out in Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas these days.





The wood from an Osage Orange tree is truly beautiful with a yellow color that is reported to make some of the best bows in the world. Some experts even claim it is a far better wood for bows than English Yew. Personally I don't know enough to argue either way but I can tell you that Osage Orange wood was known to bring a premium cost during the frontier days.

It is also extremely rot resistant and makes some of the best fence posts or any other use that requires contact with the ground or wet. Many categorize the Osage Orange tree as a shrub but I have seen them grow tall when hemmed in by other trees and when left to grow unmolested will branch out like a shrub but with branches two feet thick or more. These branches will grow horizontal a few feet off the ground and if you can find a large copse of them to clear out inside make some wonderful campsites with ready made benches inside a secluded shady area.




One sure fire way to identify an Osage Orange tree are the huge, round, green fruits they bear. They kinda look like a big plushy ball but are not exactly soft. The fruit is edible but I hear it has a chemical taste like eating bug spray or something although I have also heard like Persimmons it begins to sweeten after a good frost. Still in a survival situation it maybe all you can find and it is easily identifiable. As far as I know there is no imposter fruit out there.

If you ever resorted to burning Osage Orange as firewood, something I simply can't imagine doing unless it was fallen dead and had been laying a long while, it is reported as having the highest BTU heat output of all wood types. It is rated as a 30 on the MBTU chart with a density of 4845 pounds per cord. It's a dense heavy wood. I would also be very careful if I was burning Osage Orange in a wood stove as too much air flow could easily do damage to the stove.

Osage Orange is also reportedly a very quick growing tree as well. SO much so it was often used as a wind brake or field hedge to act a as fence. The younger trees will also often have thorns but these seem to disappear on the old specimens.

All in all if you access to it the Osage Orange tree is one of the most useful trees you can grow. Eventually I plan on introducing a few around the field edges here at the Small-Hold.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!




17 comments:

  1. I've run across a few of the Osage Orange trees in my rambling backpacking days, but I'm not so sure as to the edibleness of the fruit. I've often seen many scattered around the tree, so I figure if the animals are leaving it alone, chances are good that it's not good for me.

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    1. K - Well I have come across a few sources that say it is in fact edible but so bad tasting you wouldn't want to eat it. I know some animals around here will take the fruit and strip away the out side stuff.

      All that being said not something I wanna try :)

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  2. We have a couple in our back yard as does our neighbor. The squirrels will eat the "hedge apples" as a secondary food source later in the season. The article is dead on that it is a very hot burning wood and will get an old cast iron stove glowing if you keeping stoking it. The wood itself has an almost yellow tint to the grain, think pressure treated pine. We are south side of Kansas City and this tree is common to the counties traveling in a straight line down towards Oklahoma.

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    1. Anon - Apparently some 30K of these trees were planted all around Kansas and Missouri during the old WPA work crew days and that is why they are common. Miles and miles were planted as fence rows which is the other name for the tree "Hedge Apple"

      Just North of KC near Smithville lake there is a campsite that has a long row of these trees so large there are several sites built under the tree canopies.

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  3. PP,

    Nice and healthy looking tree's. Some of those bows made from these tree's go for good money.

    Speaking of tree's, we just returned from Broken Bow, OK for a weekend trip and came across all of these pine trees growing in different (years)stages of life. Along with areas of mountainous land cleared completely of trees. I had no idea this part of Oklahoma had a large paper and plywood processing plants.

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    1. Sandy - There are a number of places like that scattered around. At one point the government was trying to replace all of Missouri's hardwoods with pines believe it or not. There is a big pine forest just up the road from me and I know there is a big one down in Mississippi too.

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  4. They call them mock orange here. It is a pretty yellow wood, you could make a spring or bow out of it if you had good wood with out knots.

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    1. Sf - Yes it is a pretty wood. I have seen some custom pistol handles made from it and several knife handles too.

      Other things look really good with the knots included as well.

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  5. I was wondering if it would grow in our zone (5b) and per the Boise rag, it sounds like it may since some guy has some growing in his yard. May be a good experiment....

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    1. hobo - I think it will grow most all over the US. The reason it's range had shrunk so far by the 1800's is because the were few animals that spread it's seed properly. Apparently the only one left by our time had been the Buffalo and well.....

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  6. Funny you said the fruit taste like bug spray. As a kid in southern Indiana I remember people saying hiding an osage orange fruit around the house was a good insect repellent. Never tried it but could use in SW Florida if someone finds out it works.

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    1. Anon - I was reading somewhere that some company had been selling the fruit extract as a bug repellant and got sued over it and had to remove that claim but keeping the "apples" in the house as a bug repellant has been a custom for years around here.

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  7. I desperately wish I had some osage orange trees here. We used to put a couple of the green monkey balls (yeah, really, that's what we called them) in each room in the house to keep the spiders away. They smell good.

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    1. Xa Lynn - I have known of several people who have done that as well, including my Grandmother who was from Kansas.

      She often complained about not having any of them here in Central Mo until she found one growing up the street from their house.

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    2. I keep looking - but I haven't seen any here in MI since we moved here. I wonder if its too cold?

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  8. Never heard of it but the wood sounds good. Be useful if you had a forge or something that needed to get very hot.

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  9. My family is from Republic, in SW Missouri. Osage Orange all over the farms there. When I was a kid, m, my granddad showed me fenceposts that he and his dad put in back in the 20s or 30s, and most of them were still there last year.

    I guess Bois d' Arc is the same tree.

    I thought this was pretty cool - look about 1/3 or 1/2 way down the page. A hedge made by "weaving" OO saplings together to form a thick living hedge.

    http://projetscollectifs.org/node/141

    - Charlie

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