Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Aren't these odd?! They're the fruit of the Osage Orange tree. Every year we watch for them to appear on the ground at this singular location just outside the town of Union. The size of baseballs, they litter the road and squirrels love them! Usually, there are a few squirrels, too, that got a little too interested in eating and didn't pay attention to the oncoming vehicles. But, not this year.
Mother Earth News for October/November has a piece on "living fences." The Osage Orange tree, according to MEN, together with its fellows, makes a fence that eventually is "horse-high, bull-strong and hog-tight." Now that's a fence!
It's been called by various names: hedge apple, horse apple, bodark and is named for the Osage tribe of native Americans, and the smell of the ripe fruit which is not edible (it's not poisonous, just unappealing except to squirrels). And it was widely planted across the Plains states to counter massive soil erosion during the Dust Bowl. Literally thousands of miles of Osage Orange were planted to provide windbreaks and natural fences. The tree is tolerant of a wide range of soils, drought resistant, can be started from seed, root cuttings or sprouts from the roots; it has thorns, which is why the "living fence" becomes impermeable. Each "orange" has about 200 seeds. Of course, only the female trees bear fruit. Getting the seeds free of the fruit is a challenge and takes the better part of a year, working with the hot and cold of nature. Osage Orange wood is stout! It makes wonderful fence posts and once harvested, will grow back in between 10 and 16 years. The posts are immune to termites and are THE most resistant species of any kind, to rot. So, they're definitely the farmer's friend.
For years, MM has wanted to try to sprout the OO. So, this year, we finally made the effort to stop and gather a few from the roadside and save them from being mashed by the traffic. He's going to follow the directions in Mother Earth News (thank you Debbi for the magazine which was serendipity!) and see if he can make a living OO fence.
Here's where you can find out more about the Osage Orange: