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Total word count excluding headline: 386 The Green Orange Tree

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The Green Orange Tree

Some people like this tree, others just think it’s messy. Particularly when it is dropping its big, round, lime green fruits in the fall. The bumpy surface of the fruit makes it look like brains, and it smells citrusy, hence one of its names – the Osage Orange.

The Osage Orange is native to Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, but has been naturalized through most of the U.S. and Canada.

This is a medium-sized tree that grows twenty-six to sixty feet tall. Its size and short trunk make it a perfect tree for windbreaks. In 1934 President Roosevelt initiated the “Great Plains Shelterbelt” WPA project to modify the weather and prevent soil erosion in the Great Plains states. The Osage Orange tree was the tree of choice for the windbreaks. By 1942 30,233 shelterbelts had been planted. They included 220 million trees, stretching for 18,600 miles. The use of the tree along windbreaks gave it another nickname, the hedge apple.

The male and female flowers live on different plants. They bloom late spring to early summer. By fall the fruits appear, usually four to five inches in diameter. The leaves turn a bright yellow-green, then to an orange-brown before falling off for the winter.

The Osage Orange has sharp thorns on its branches, which made it popular with ranchers as fencing for cattle before barbed wire was available. Afterwards, the hard wood of the tree was used for fence posts.

The tree is also called a “bois d’arc”, which means “bow wood”. The French settlers saw the Native Americans use the wood for war clubs and bows. The wood is so good for making bows, that many claim it superior to English Yew.

The fruit also has its uses. It has been known to deter spiders, cockroaches, and fleas.

The Master Naturalists are looking for the largest Osage Orange in Milam County. If you think you have the biggest tree, then nominate it.

Download a form from the website:, or pick up a hardcopy at the AgriLife Extension Office in Cameron.

Mail forms to: El Camino Real Master Naturalist, c/o AgriLife Extension Service, 100 E. First St., Cameron, 76520; or email to

For more info on Big Trees in Texas, visit the Forest Service web site at:

For interesting Historical Trees in Texas visit:

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