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Featured Plant Of The Month

There is always something in bloom at the Arboretum! Use our Plants Library to plan a photo shoot or to choose one of the trails to walk. Learn more about the plants at the Arboretum by visiting our Previously Featured Plants list and our Special Seasonal Featured Plants page.


Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera)

Osage Orange

Osage Orange, also known as hedge apple, bois díarc, bow apple, or horse apple, is a native shrub in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Before barbed wire was developed in the mid-19th century, settlers planted rows of the spiny, impenetrable Osage Orange as fences throughout the Midwest and Southeast. A short row of three of these trees can be seen along the edge of the Arboretumís Shadetree Collection, just off Arboretum Drive.

Osage Orange belongs to the plant family Moraceae that also includes figs and mulberriesis. It is the only member of its genus. The tree can grow to heights of 50-60 feet, but in hedge rows it usually does not exceed heights of 20 feet. Osage Orange is dioecious (separate male and female plants), bearing small greenish flowers in May. The twigs are armed with 1/2 to 1 inch spines. The wood, which is yellow/orange when first cut, turns brown as it dries. The yellow-green fruits, 4-6 inches in diameter, are said to look like brains. Some believe that placing the fruits around outer walls of buildings can serve as an insect control. The wood is hard, heavy, and durable. It was used by the Osage Indians and other tribes for war clubs and archery bows. It has also been used for furniture, fence posts, and railway ties.

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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
901 South Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830 · Telephone: 865-483-3571 · Email: UTforest@utk.edu