Historic Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera)
This month we celebrate the 200-year-old osage orange tree in Alexandria, Virginia. This historic tree is the oldest tree on George Washington’s River Farm. It is believed that Thomas Jefferson, who received lots of seedlings from the Lewis and Clark expeditions, gave this tree to Washington.
The osage orange is native from Arkansas to Oklahoma and Texas, but can be found throughout much of North America. It was planted as hedgerows in the plain states and is heat, drought, wind and pollution tolerant.
The tree produces large grapefruit size fruit that are said to repel insects. The wood was used for making bows. It is also beautiful and very rot resistant and has been used for making furniture, fence posts and even patios.
Thornless and fruitless varieties are available for homeowners that want to grow the tree, but avoid the large messy fruit.
A bit more information: The fruit does contain compounds found to repel insects. Unfortunately, they are not concentrated enough in the fruit to be effective. If you decide to test it yourself, be sure to wear gloves as the milky sap in the stems and fruit can irritate your skin.