Sunday, November 8, 2009

Osage Orange - Maclura Pomifera

They look like alien pods, but in the Ozarks we call them hedge apples, as did Captain Meriwether Lewis when he sent samples home to President Jefferson. A resident of St. Louis, Pierre Chouteau, had received slips of this tree from the Osage Indians in Missouri, and shared samples with Lewis, who seemed to be fascinated by the fruit of the tree. We are not much impressed with them around here. At this particular time of year, the fruit can be found all over the ground beneath the host tree. Most people don’t grow these trees on purpose anymore , and many are found growing wild along the roadside. I dislike driving under a hedge apple tree, as I’m afraid one will fall off the tree and land on my car, causing a considerable dent.

According to the book, another name for the tree is “bois d’arc” or bow-tree. I found this interesting because there is a small town not far from here that is named “Bois D’Arc”. A can only assume that the towns original settlers found an abundance of osage apples.

I also learned from this book that the common name of ‘hedge apple’ was probably derived from the old custom of using the tree as a hedge for cattle.

Common to This Country, Botanical Discoveries of Lewis & Clark by Susan H. Munger