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Hedge-Apple Maclura pomifera

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
muh-KLOO-ruh pom-EE-fer-uh
Description

Osage-orange is a deciduous tree in the Moraceae (mulberry family) native to the central southern U.S.A.  It has naturalized in many areas of the eastern United States.  The genus name Maclura comes from American geologist William Maclura (1763-1840) and the species name pomiferaI means apple-bearing referring to the large inedible round fruits. The bark is somewhat orange in color and the fruits resemble oranges hence the common name.  

Plant in areas in full sun with cool temperatures and ideally 40 to 45 inches of rain each year or supplemental irrigation. When located on an ideal site Osage-orange can reach heights of 70 feet but is more typically 25 to 60 feet tall.  It tolerates a wide range of soil types including poor, wet, or dry, and a range of pH conditions except highly acidic.  Tolerant to wind and heat.   In shade, its appearance will suffer.

The tree has a short trunk with a low, rounded, irregular crown, and stiff, spines that emerge from leaf axils.  Commonly known for its large green fruits that are roughly the size of a baseball, they ripen in September through October.  The fruits are enjoyed by squirrels and other small mammals that tear them apart searching for the seeds buried deep inside.  The latex sap found inside this plant keeps most herbivores like deer and rabbits away.

Because of its nasty spines and dense growth habit, it makes an impressive security plant and was once used extensively as a hedgerow or living fence to define property lines until the introduction of barbed wire.   It was also planted extensively in the 1930's in an effort to prevent soil erosion by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  It is not recommended except as a novelty, and in poor, infertile sites.   There are some cultivars that are male and thornless.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No serious problems.  Flowers and fruits of female plants can be messy and have unpleasant odors if not cleaned up immediately.  

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Park'
    Male, thornless
  • 'White Shield'
    Male, thornless
  • 'Wichita'
    Male, thornless
'Park', 'White Shield', 'Wichita'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#drought tolerant#rabbit resistant#security plant#air pollution tolerant#showy fruits#hedges#messy#wind tolerant#deer resistant#nighttime garden#spines#thickets#glossy leaves#Braham Arboretum#wind pollinated#flowers late spring#poor soils tolerant#larval host plant#messy fruits#flowers early summer#wet soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#dry soils tolerant#moth larvae#dense growth
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Park'
    Male, thornless
  • 'White Shield'
    Male, thornless
  • 'Wichita'
    Male, thornless
'Park', 'White Shield', 'Wichita'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#drought tolerant#rabbit resistant#security plant#air pollution tolerant#showy fruits#hedges#messy#wind tolerant#deer resistant#nighttime garden#spines#thickets#glossy leaves#Braham Arboretum#wind pollinated#flowers late spring#poor soils tolerant#larval host plant#messy fruits#flowers early summer#wet soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#dry soils tolerant#moth larvae#dense growth
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Maclura
    Species:
    pomifera
    Family:
    Moraceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Native Americans used the flexible but strong branches to make bows. It was also used for fence posts, tool handles, and police billy clubs.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South East Oklahoma to Texas and Arkansas
    Distribution:
    Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma. More common in western areas such as Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas
    Wildlife Value:
    The larva of two moths Ceratomia hagenii (Osage Orange Sphinx Moth) and Archips argyrospilus (Fruit-Tree Leafroller), feed on the leaves and flower buds. Fruits are enjoyed by small mammals.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Drought, clay soil, and air pollution.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 25 ft. 0 in. - 70 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 20 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
    Appendage:
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Frequent Standing Water
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    4-6 inch inedible wrinkled fruit resembles a large, yellow-green orange or grapefruit. It is a syncarp of drupes covered with a rind and when opened oozes a latex sap.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Insignificant
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Head
    Insignificant
    Raceme
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Dioecious plant, the flowers appear after leaves. Male flowers in 1"-2" racemes dangling from leaf axils individual flowers are quite tiny at 1/8". Female flowers are green globloaid heads 3/4"-1" wide, found singularly or in clusters of 2 or 3 arising from leaf axils. Each head contains up to 200 tiny flowers giving it an almost hair-like appearance. Flowers are pollinated by the wind in late spring to early summer.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Smooth
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Shiny simple dark green on top light green and slightly pubescent below lanceolate to ovate leaves 2 1/2 to 5" long and 1 1/2-2 1/2" wide. Margins are smooth to slightly wavy. Petioles are thin 1" to 2" long may have some hairs and do have a mikly sap when broken.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Orange
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    Orange-brown bark deeply furrowed with straight, curved or forked ridges
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Orange
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Stems have orange brown to grey brown smooth bark that zig zags somewhat. 1/4" -1" long stout spines and ooze latex sap when cut. New stems are green and teterate.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Theme:
    Nighttime Garden
    Design Feature:
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Security
    Shade Tree
    Attracts:
    Moths
    Small Mammals
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Diseases
    Dry Soil
    Pollution
    Poor Soil
    Rabbits
    Wet Soil
    Wind
    Problems:
    Malodorous
    Messy