Maclura pomifera (Raf.) Schneid. - Osage Orange
Non-native , Occasional
By Katherine Gould, Angela Steward
Not peer reviewed
Last Modified 02/03/2012
Common NamesOsage Orange
Field IdentificationMedium sized tree with short trunk and stiff spiny branches; Bark- brown-orange, ridges with irregular furrows; Twigs – armed with short unbranched thorns, milky sap exuded when cut; Leaf- alternate, simple, 2-5 inches long, oblong to ovate, margins entire, shiny upper surface; Flower- not showy, female in dense clusters, males in subglobose racemes. Fruit- citrus odor, drupe 4-5 inches in diameter, outer surface looks like “brains.”
Disclaimer: The information provided here is for reference and historical use. We do not recommend nor do we condone the use of this species for medicinal purposes without first consulting a physician.
An infusion of the roots can be made as a wash for sore eyes and compounds in the fruit are effective as a fungicide.
The large fruit borne on Hedge-apple are inedible, yet they do contain an anti-oxidant utilized as a food preservative, most useful in the preservation of oils. Moreover, a yellow, green or orange dye can be obtained from the bark, and the sap of the fruit used as an insect repellent effective against cockroaches.
The Osage Indians once used the wood from the plant to produce bows, naturally resulting in the French name “bois d’arc,” and Bow-wood the English equivalent. Before the proliferation of metal and barbed-wire fences, the tree was commonly planted to serve as a living fence on farms throughout the United States, later resulting in the name, Hedge apple. Likewise, the hard wood, resistant to decay, was utilized in the actual construction of fences.
NomenclatureMaclura pomifera (Raf.) Schneider, Ill. Handb. Lauhh. 1:806 (1906).
Ioxylon pomiferum Raf. in Am. Monthly Mag. 2:118 (1817).
Maclura aurantiaca Nutt., Gen. N. Am. Pl. 2:23 (1818).
Broussonetia tinctoria sensu Sprengel, Syst. Veg. 3:90 (1826), p. p.Torrey in Ann. Lyc. Nat. Hist. Nei York, 2: 246 (1828).Non Humboldt, Bonplanc Kunth (1817).
Toxylon aurantiacum Raf., Med. Fl. 2:268 (1830).
Toxylon pomiferum Raf. 1817 ex Raf., New FI N. Am. 3:43 (1838), pro syn. Sargent, Silva N. Am 7: 89, t. 322 (1895).
Toxylon Maclura Raf., New Fl. N. Am. 3:4 (1838).
DescriptionHABIT Tree, perennial, deciduous, phanerophytic, diclinous and dioecious, 1-7(-20) m tall, with milky sap, the wood and roots yellowish, the shallow root system with a bright orange, exfoliating bark.
STEMS Main stems erect. Bark furrowed or fibrous, exfoliating, dark orange-brown to gray, flaking. Branches ascending. Twigs light greenish yellow, not odoriferous, rounded or 3-sided, lenticellate, glabrous, without glands. Pith white, round, continuous, nodal diaphragm absent. Thorns present, needle-like, 10-20 mm long, in leaf axils, usually single (rarely 2), tough and greenish at first, becoming brown, tapering to a stout base. Sap white. Resin absent.
BUDS Terminal and axillary present, scattered along stem; surrounded by bud scales; axillary buds 1-2 per axil, small, depressed globose, sessile, 1.5-2 mm long, blunt. Bud scales 4-5, dark orange-red, ciliate. Bud scale scars not encircling the stem. Leaf scars semi-circular or broadly triangular, somewhat raised. Vascular bundle scars 3-5, several in a transverse ellipse or variously consolidated into three groups.
LEAVES Alternate, spiral, spaced somewhat evenly along stem, divergent from stem, simple. Stipules present, lateral, persistent or deciduous, free from the petiole, small, deltoid, scale-like, margins ciliate, stipule scars small. Leaves petiolate, petiole terete, 2-4 cm long, densely pubescent, not glabrescent. Leaf blades lanceolate to ovate, bilaterally symmetric, 5-12 cm long, 3-8 cm wide, membranaceous, base obtuse, cuneate or cordate, margin entire, apex acuminate or acute. Abaxial surface greenish yellow, sparsely to moderately densely pubescent throughout or along midveins, glabrescent or not glabrescent, without glands. Adaxial surface green, glabrous or sparsely pubescent along midveins, glabrescent, without glands. Veins pinnate.
FEMALE INFLORESCENCES A globose head, axillary, 8-16 mm broad (excluding styles), receptacle spherical, ca 4 mm broad in flower, broadening and becoming the dense central core of the syncarp. Peduncle 5-9 mm long, twisted, villous. Bracts present at peduncle base, scaly. Pedicels lacking.
FEMALE FLOWERS 4-merous. Calyx stereomorphic, of free sepals, persistent, abaxial and adaxial surfaces greenish, 1 mm long. Sepals 4, in pairs, obovate, cucullate (hooded), the outer pair enclosing the inner, green, pubescent at tips, 1 mm long, elongating with the growing fruit to equal or slightly surpass it at maturity. Corolla absent. Gynoecium pseudosyncarpous. Carpels 1. Locules 1. Stigmatic surface present along the length of the style. Style 1, not persistent, 6-9 mm long, filiform, elongate, pubescent. Ovary 1 mm long, ovoid, compressed, glabrous. Stamens absent. Staminodes absent.
MALE INFLORESCENCE Globose to oblong clusters, axillary, 1-2 cm broad, born (singly) up to 6 (9) per node on twisted, villous peduncles on lateral spur branches. Peduncle 5-9 mm long. Bracts at peduncle base scaly. Pedicel 2-7 mm long, sparsely to densely villous.
MALE FLOWERS Calyx present, actinomorphic, of free sepals, abaxial and adaxial surfaces greenish, 1 mm long. Sepals 4, fused at base, less than 1 mm long, with villous hairs especially on and near the margins, not glabrescent, apex acute. Corolla absent. Androecium alternate, exserted, introrse. Stamens 4, 1 mm long. Anthers globose, opening along the long axis. Filaments free, straight, slender, ca 1 mm long. Staminodes absent. Gynoecium absent.
FRUITS Achene/syncarpium. Individual achenes 3-5 cm long, compressed, linear-lanceolate, clavate, the apex 3-6 mm broad, convex, forming one of the tubercles of the surface of the multiple fruit (syncarp). Syncarps dense, hard and globose, 6-13(-16) cm diameter, glabrous, composed of the enlarged common receptacle and calyces, completely concealing the achenes, yellowish-green, the surface convoluted, exuding milky sap when broken.
SEEDS many, white, oval, 8-14 mm long, 5-6 mm wide, glabrous, surface minutely striated or pitted, near the middle of the elongate achene.
HabitatGrows best on rich, moist, well-drained bottomlands though occurs on most all types. Natural streams, forested upland areas and fence rows.
Commonly used in fence rows on farms before the advent of wire fences.
Native to North America
United States-- AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MS, NE, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI, WV.
New York Metropolitan Region – Naturalized throughout the metropolitan region recorded in Bronx, Rockland, Somerset, Suffolk, Warren, and Westchester counties.
Rarity StatusHeritage global rank – G3
Connecticut -- not listed
New Jersey -- not listed
New York -- not listed
June [week 2] – June [week 3]
September [week 1] – September [week 2]
Epigeal. Slight dormancy can be overcome by soaking seeds in water for 2 days or stratifying in sand or peat for 30 days.