Osage Orange, a tree introduced into Ohio during the 1800's, is commonly seen in rural areas where it frequents fields and fencerows. Its usage as a large hedge tree in a row planting and the softball-sized fruits of female trees give it the alternative common name of Hedge Apple.
The Osage Indians of the southern Great Plains and the resemblance of its fruits to lime-colored oranges give it the more common name of Osage Orange. Commercially, its very strong wood is used to make the best bows for archery. When its wood is used as fenceposts or laid-down timbers, it takes decades to completely rot. Most parts of the tree exude a sticky white sap containing latex when wounded or cut.
A native of portions of Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, Osage Orange loves the prolonged hot and dry conditions of summer, and thrives in poor soils. Specimens found in the open are upright and rapidly growing in youth, becoming arching and spreading with age, reaching 40 feet in height and 40 feet in width with a dense crown of interlacing, thorny branches. A distinctive growth habit is the repeatedly arching branches that hang down at the ends, but periodically send up vertical shoots. As a member of the Mulberry Family, it is related to the Mulberries and Figs.
Planting Requirements - The adaptability of Osage Orange to a wide range of soils (organic, clay, sandy, or rocky, with acidic or alkaline pH) and moisture levels (wet, moist, or very dry) accounts for its widespread distribution throughout the eastern, midwestern, and Great Plains areas of the United States, far beyond its native range. It is most noteworthy during prolonged hot and dry summers, when its dark green, shiny foliage never fades or wilts. Osage Orange grows in full sun to partial sun, and is found in zones 4 to 9.
Potential Problems - Osage Orange is virtually disease and pest free, although dead branches persist in the interior of the canopy for years due to self-shading, and the fact that the wood is rot-resistant. However, surface roots with age, heavy fruit litter beneath female trees in autumn, and extreme thorniness (especially in youth and on its lower branches) are its landscape liabilities. Its rapid and vigorous establishment in the first few years after planting are among its greatest attributes, however.