Hedge apples. We used to call them horse apples in Texas…

Hedge or horse apples in urns

You may have seen the 4-6 inch round, wrinkled lime-green fruits lying on the side of the road recently.   These are the (inedible to humans) fruit of the ‘Osage orange’ tree (named for the Osage Indians).  They have fallen from large, old trees that were often originally planted by farmers and trained as a hedge prior to the invention of barbed wire.   The trees can be managed as a hedge, keeping them less than 20’ high.  They will be bushy and thorny, keeping animals from pushing through.  (As a tree, they can reach 50’). The wood of the tree is rot and insect resistant, and has been prized for fenceposts for that reason.  It was also used to make bows, since it is strong and flexible—thus the translation of Bois d’arc (bois is wood) of the bow.

In Texas and Louisiana, we used to collect the fruit at this time of year and put it in closets as a moth deterrent and air purifier.   People report  inconsistent  success but I do it as much for tradition and the fresh smell as well as for hoped-for insect benefits.

My favorite use, though, is for seasonal containers and decorations.  They last for weeks (even those with a spot will last a long time.)

Last year I put them in an urn with cypress branches and a rosy-pink ribbons.  I have also used them indoors—in white urns as mantle decorations, mixed in with magnolia seed pods and leaves, moss and burlap, to go with small twig and brush animals.  I have seen them among other elegant container materials in local garden centers for those not inclined to search for them. Either way, they are fun and different choice for winter and provide a fresh, modern color for decorations.

Lagniappe: Where did the Orange part of one of the common name come from?  Could be from the faint orange smell of the green fruit, could be from the orange root that was used to make yellow dye.   See www.hedgeapple.com for even more info.

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