Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Osage Orange

Osage "oranges" and a pen.
Weedy, big, messy, thorny and with some damn strange, inedible fruit -- you won't find many Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) trees in manicured suburban gardens.  On the other hand, many of the same qualities that make them unlikely garden selections are pluses on the farm.  They are hardy, easily started from cuttings or seed, can be coppiced or take other severe pruning, and when used in hedgerows or wind breaks, their thorns deter livestock and two legged trespassers.  Additionally, Osage orange wood is strong and resists rot so is useful as fence posts, tool handles, or in the past, as bow-making material.  It is also energy-dense and burns hot, making it a great fuel for wood stoves.  The fruit?  Well, it's still strange.  Some (including my folks in the October 2009 Field Notes) claim it deters bugs, but there's not much science to back that up.

An Osage orange tree towers over the farm truck.
For more on Osage orange, check out wikipedia, this interesting permaculture article that discusses the firewood and other uses of Osage orange, a 1973 publication and an entry in the Silvics of North America Manual from the US Forest Service, and this interesting piece on the co-evolution of Osage orange with now-extinct mega fauna of North America.


  1. But is it a good tree inwhich to build a fort?

  2. I doubt it -- the thorns are pretty nasty.