June 27, 2013
Maclura pomifera
Osage Orange

DescriptionThe tough osage orange is a small, long-lived tree with a full dense, thorny canopy and few pests. It can survive many extreme conditions. The osage orange history is as interesting as its large, ornamental fruit.
UsageReclamation, windbreak, specimen, boulevard.
OriginSouth-central USA
Hardiness zone4,5
Form/textureRounded, dense vase on short trunk.
Growth rateRapid; long-lived.
LeafAlternate, simple, lustrous dark green.
FlowerDioecious, green, interesting but not showy.
FruitGrapefruit-sized drupes on female plants;
Mixed accounts on importance as food for wildlife; is eaten, but perhaps not the food of choice.
Exposure/cultureFull sun.
Grows well on a wide range of soil textures, qualities and pH.
Tolerates occasional very wet to extremely dry soils.
Few pests, diseases, (termites do not eat Maclura).
Salt tolerant.
Thorns, half inch on young stems, though thornless cultivars do exist.
Some authors say extensive root systems may interfere with sidewalks (Pair, Gilman).
CommentsA historically important plant for the midwestern U.S. agricultural communities, Maclura could grow where most other trees would not. Once planted and pruned, the fast growing small trees created dense growth that effectively barred livestock and trespassers. "Horse high, bull strong and pig tight" (Pair).

When barbed wire was invented, fences replaced hedges. Maclura wood was still in demand for fence posts and wheels because of its resistance to rot and termites.

Extensively planted beyond its natural range, it has become an invasive plant in 13 states (e.g. Ohio, Illinois, West Virginia).

The fruit are very unusual and are now finding a use in dried or bough arrangements.

Choose thornless cultivars to avoid the effective thorns.

"'Wichita' �The trees were upright spreading with a full, dense canopy. In actuality, better than Bradford Pears but the public will never believe it" (Dirr).

Barnett, J.P. and J.D. Burton. 1997. Osage-Orange: A Pioneering Stewardship Species. Tree Planter's Notes 48(3/4): 81-86.
Dirr, M. 1998. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Stipes Publishing, Champaign, Illinois 1187 pp
Gilman, E.F. 1997. Trees for Urban and Suburban Landscapes. Delmar Publishers. Albany,N.Y. 662 pp
Pair, J.C. 1992. Magnificent Maclura-past and present. Arnoldia 52(3): 14-19.
Smith, J.L. and J.V. Perino. 1981. Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera): History and Economic Uses. Economic Botany 35(1): 24-41.