Department of Natural Resources
Osage orange Maclura pomifera
orange is also known as hedge apple or bow wood. This deciduous tree
may attain a height of 40 feet and a trunk diameter of 12 inches. Its
bark is light gray-brown with an orange tint. The bark separates into
shaggy strips. Twigs are dull, orange-brown, smooth, zigzag and have short,
sharp spines. The tiny buds are red-brown. Leaves are arranged alternately
along the twigs. Each smooth leaf is simple, ovate and long-pointed at
the tip. A single leaf may be as much as five inches long and three and
one-half inches wide. Leafstalks may be two inches long. The male (staminate)
and female (pistillate) flowers develop on separate trees. The small flowers
are yellow-green. Male flowers are borne in clusters on stalks up to four
inches long. Female flowers develop in spherical heads on short stalks.
The large (up to six inches in diameter), spherical fruit is green-yellow.
The fruit contains many seeds, juicy flesh and milky sap.
orange may be found throughout Illinois. It grows in fence rows and wood
edges. Flowers are produced from May through June. The wood of this tree
is used for fence posts, archery bows, railroad ties and tool handles.
The seeds are eaten by some wildlife species as a food source. Groups
of these trees are often planted as windbreaks. Osage orange is a native
of Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma that has been planted in Illinois and
become naturalized here.
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