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!!!