Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wisdom or Wives Tales

One of the hardest thing about moving to the Northern U.S. after living most of my life in the South was the difference in plants and trees. Many of the thing I had grown up with and were familiar with would not grow up here. Likewise many of the things that grew here I had never seen before. One of those things was the Osage Orange tree. Around in our area also called the "Hedge Apple". 

I have been doing some research on the tree and found that the Osage Orange is native to a small area in Eastern Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, and southwestern Arkansas. This region was also the home of the Osage Indian. Hence the name Osage Orange. White settlers moving into the region found that the Osage Orange possessed several admirable qualities. It is a tough and durable tree, transplants easily, and tolerates poor soils, extreme heat and strong winds. It also has no serious insect or disease problems. It seems that during the mid nineteenth century it was planted by mid west farmers as a living fence. Thus my fence lines are full of it! When pruned into a hedge it provided an impenetrable fence for livestock. The widespread planting of Osage orange stopped with the introduction of barbed wire. However I guess like my farm they have now become naturalized and can still be found through out the state. 

I have been researching this tree because they have new hybrids out that do not produce fruit or thorns. This seems like a tree that I would like to try to plant  at some time. We have cut Osage Orange and used the wood for fence posts which seems to be their most common use here. We have also had a Native American man come and ask to cut some for carving archery bows which I found interesting. I have also heard of collecting the fruit for ornamental purposes. What I found interesting was that some say they repel insects and spiders. Even ants.  

This belief about the use of hedge apples for insect control seems widespread and persistent. it is claimed that placing hedge apples around the foundation or inside the basement will repel or control insects. A few years ago, Iowa State University toxicologists extracted compounds from hedge apples. When concentrated, these compounds were found to repel insects. Scientists also found that natural concentrations of these compounds in the fruit were too low to be an effective repellent. 

I have lots of these apple available on the farm so I think I may spread some around my foundation and see how that works on ants. Remember my spring ant problem.

If you decide to pick hedge apples to check out the repellency yourself or to use the fruit as a fall decoration, it would be wise to wear gloves. The milky juice present in the stems and fruit of the Osage-orange can irritate the skin.

Go to this link and read this survey of people that swear by the use of hedge apples. 

Wisdom or wives tale? I'll keep ya informed..........

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter


  1. Good luck! I hope it works for you. :)

  2. That was interesting to read. I have never heard of or seen hedge apples, they look really cool. I am originally from Hawaii and was raised between the islands and California for most my life. We moved from CA 5 yrs. ago, so I understand the change in plants and such.

    I reeally miss certain smells like orange blossoms that grow abundantly in So. CA or the smells of the island like the fruit tree guava or pineapple fields.

    We truly love it out here, the midwest hold it's own beauty and we are learning of it's native plants slowly.

  3. hedge apples - who knew (I love your background music "Amazing Grace")

  4. Let us know! I have seen and heard of them, but never knew what they would be good for.

  5. Around here (OK) most people call them bois d'arc trees (pronounced BO-dark) and the fruit are called horse apples, though I don't know if they're actually safe for horses to eat. I first heard the term "Osage Orange" a few weeks ago from my father-in-law. Interesting that the tree is called orange and the fruit are called apples.

    I didn't know about their insect-repelling properties. Good information.

  6. Here in Southeast KS, they are mostly used for fence posts and firewood. Can't beat a hedge fire. It produces a lot of heat, but also a lot of soot and tar, so you really have to clean your flue out good every season.

  7. I have seen them around since I was a child. I live in Southern Indiana. I have always heard that they will keep insect pests away, but I have never tried them. I have lots of spiders and ants. When I was a child, I knew where several of these trees grew in the neighborhood. Now, I am not familiar with any place in my neighborhood that has them. I saw some laying on the ground last year along a one lane county highway, but it was not a good place to stop since there was no room to pull a car over. I thought about going by and trying to collect a few but, I didn't want to take a chance to pick a few of them up, since they were located also on the outside of a curve as cars come around at 55 mph. I will have to take a walk and check around my neighborhood.


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