In spite of the fact that its fruit has a passing resemblance to an orange, although a yellow-green one, Osage orange trees are more renowned for their branching structure than for their fruit. During the decades between the years 1850 and 1870, they were commonly planted as living fences. According to research conducted by the University of Georgia, the thorns that grow on the zigzagging branches of these plants were the inspiration for the development of barbed wire.
The Osage orange, also known as Maclura pomifera, has naturalised in the United States and may survive in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9. In certain parts of the world, it is now labelled an invasive species, despite the fact that white-tailed deer use its leaves as a key food source throughout the spring, summer, and autumn seasons.
Identifying Osage Orange Leaves
Along the twigs of each branch of an Osage orange tree, the leaves are arranged in an alternating pattern. They vary in length from three to five inches and in width from one and a half to two and a half inches. They are glossy, smooth, and dark green in colour. The undersides of the leaves have a light green coloration to them. Between one and two inches in length, the petiole is the thin stalk that links the leaf to the stem of the plant.
According to the website Illinois Wildflowers, the form of an Osage orange leaf may be defined as “lanceolate-ovate.” According to the description and images supplied by the Australia National Botanic Gardens, this indicates that they may be ovate, which is shaped like an egg when seen lengthwise, or lanceolate, which is a slenderized egg form when viewed longitudinally. In the autumn, its leaves take on a golden hue.
The solid and sharp thorns that grow at most leaf axils, which is where the petiole connects to the leaf, are distinctive features, especially when the tree is grown in full sun. These thorns are especially prominent when the tree is mature. These thorns have the potential to cause injury to the unfortunate person who is attempting to examine a leaf in order to determine what kind of plant it is. In addition, it is because of these thorns that this tree is said to have been the inspiration for the construction of barbed wire, at least according to folklore. Barbed, indeed.
Osage Orange Tree Identification
According to the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Osage orange trees may grow to be between 30 and 40 feet tall, however there have been accounts of unique specimens reaching heights of up to 70 feet. They were mostly used as hedges in the Midwestern states where they were first planted, but now they may be found, for the most part, throughout all of the lower 48 states. The bark of the tree is scaly, has deep cracks, and has a hue that is between between orange and brown. When you break off a piece of the stem, it oozes a milky sap.
According to research conducted at Iowa State University, the tree is dioecious, which means that some trees produce only female flowers while others produce both male and female flowers. May or June sees the appearance of the little, green, hardly noticeable blossoms produced by each kind. On the female tree, the blooms eventually develop into the fruit that is known as “hedge apples,” regardless of whether or not the tree is pollinated.
The Osage Orange Hedge Apples
The fruit of the Osage orange tree, which is known as a “hedge apple” if it is successful in bearing fruit, is the characteristic that sets it apart the most. They may reach a diameter of up to 6 inches and often weigh more than a pound each. The knobbiness of their rough, yellow-green exterior is generated by clusters of one-seeded drupelets, which give the fruit a similar look to that of a raspberry but are far more robust. Female trees, regardless of the presence or absence of a male, will always yield fruit, but these fruits will not develop into fertile seeds.
Because the sap is bitter and contains latex, the fruit is not regarded to be edible, and birds and other forms of fauna do not appreciate eating it either. If you have an Osage orange tree growing in your home garden, the fruit may become an annoyance and clutter your yard in the autumn as it falls from the tree.