Apples and Oranges

March 27 – One area we also have been trimming is the osage orange. It’s called Hedge Apple around here, and in earlier times, the wood was used to make fence posts. In fact, some of the older fences still remain, having been there for many years. That wood is very hard to cut!

160327_BigOsageYears ago, back in Pennsylvania, when I was driving from home to a school where I would sub for the day, I noticed a light green fruit in the shape off a ball. I knew it was something I had never seen before, and since I always like to learn about new things, I got out of the car, picked up the fruit, and took it to school to ask if anyone knew what it was. Nobody did. However, when I wrote a letter to our daughter here in Missouri, I asked if she knew what it was. Sure, she did! “Mom, EVERYBODY out here knows.” Then she told me about the osage orange or hedge apple. We have lots of those trees growing everywhere in this area. And true, EVERYBODY does know what they are! Our neighbor across the road helped cut fence posts to sell to farmers, back in the old days. Most modern farmers use all-metal stakes, though, that they purchase at farm stores.

Today osages seem to be everywhere. Wherever we go to visit or shop we see the huge trees, bearing their fruit in the fall. Way back they were found mostly in southern Oklahoma and northern Texas. The trees were planted along farm boundaries as fences, and are still used in some areas, being something that farmers don’t have to buy.

160327_OsageTrees

[ Osage Orange trees ]

When we first moved here in 1998, we found about 20 trees separating our land from the adjoining acreage. When we noticed the short, fat thorns on the branches, we decided the trees had to go!

That was a real job for us, as we had to be wary of the thorns on the tree, from top to bottom, and you can be sure that we had lots and lots of gouges and rips in us and in our clothes before that job was over. As I look back, I am amazed that we weren’t scratched even more than we were, considering the fact that all we used to get them out of their original row were clippers and a saw.

So where did the name Osage come from? Easy answer – from the Osage tribe of Indians living near where the fruit was common. One thing I have learned was that some of the trees are male and the others female. At first I wondered why some of the trees never had any fruit, but that answered my question. We have never even tried to eat any of them because, although the outside looks pretty and unusual, the inside is squishy and whitish, not very appetizing to me.

160327_ChewedOsage

[ Chewed hedge apples ]

But I do know who really likes those oranges! Squirrels! In good years, the land around the trees is just full of osage fruit, and we find lots of them that we pick up and toss back towards the fence, with more falling as the days go by. However, there are so many that a number of them lie around and rot. But not this last year! Around many of the trees, not one orange was left to eat because of it being such a dry season. Instead of seeing the oranges just as they fell from the tree, we found the remains of oranges that squirrels had chewed up, picking up the part of the fruit they gobbled down. Squirrels really do eat the fruit; and with food scarce, they cleaned up hundreds of them. First time I have ever noticed that because so many fall that there are always a lot left to get rotten. – CHRIS

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