Friday, December 12, 2014

The Mystery Tree Revealed

We use Newville Road to get to Orland. Newville has signs on the internet and other directional signs when you get off. However, when you get to Newville there is not a single sign to tell you that you are there. You just have to know that the falling down structure over there is the old gas station(?) and that there were a lot of houses there at one time. The biggest indicator that Newville, a boomtown for chrome mining and logging, was once there is that there is a good size cemetery. That really tells you something. Newville is dead and gone.
Farther past Newville as you continue your trip to Orland there’s what I call Turkey Woods because we always see a huge flock of turkeys strutting their stuff. There’s the pomegranate tree on Millsaps property and we bandito-ed a few when they were ripe. They cost a couple bucks in the stores and I’m sure as heck not going to pay that if we can get some for free. I’m getting to know the road pretty well. We travel it a fair amount. There was one thing that we kept driving past that made me rubberneck and it wasn’t until last week that I said let’s stop. I have to see what this is.
It was a medium size tree/bush that had lots of large ruttle-ly lime green globes hanging from the branches or scattered all over the ground underneath. I picked one up and some sap stuck to my fingers. Otherwise it was unremarkable except for its size (large – about 3 ½ “ in diameter) and texture (weird). We took it home and I got out my reference books. Badda-bing! It was immediately identifiable as an Osage Orange.
            An Osage Orange is not an orange. It’s actually a member of the mulberry family. It’s not much good for anything. You (human) can’t eat it. The rind is very tough. It’s got a white latex-y kind of sap and thick flesh. Livestock will eat it.

Turns out it’s native to eastern Oklahoma and northern Texas but it spread across the Great Plains because settlers used them for hedgerows. I have no idea how this one lone Osage Orange came to be growing by the side of the Newville Road. Don’t you wish every thing could speak and tell its history? I’ve never seen another like it. Maybe someone came out here and they were from Oklahoma. Maybe they thought it would be a good idea to start a hedgerow there. Or maybe they thought this is good wood. We can do something with it someday. So they planted it.
Turns out if you prune it you can make a thick, tight hedge. But watch out for the nasty thorns. Maybe it’s not worth it. The best thing about an Osage Orange is the wood. It’s very strong and resistant to rot so it’s really good for fence posts. Native Americans prized it for making bows.
So there ya go. Learn something new every day.


  1. Ny aunt in Bowden, GA had this tree in her yard, & every year at the family Thanksgiving feast, she had these in an old wooden bowl in the center of the table. It was pretty. Glad to finally know the name. I enjoy your writing. Mary Ann

    1. How cool! It definitely would be a good thing to put in a bowl as a centerpiece. They certainly are different! Thanks for sharing your personal story. Also I'm glad you enjoy reading my little tidbits. I enjoy writing them, too!

  2. They (or a variant of) are also known simply as hedge apples. My uncle in Kansas used to come to visit his daughter who also lives here in Nashville, and gather up boxes of them to take back to KS to sell for a couple of bucks each. Their value comes from a popular belief that if you put them in closets they will help keep moths etc. away

  3. I wonder if they do? Wouldn't that be great? I love hearing about folklore and old timey ways! Some of the old timey ways are still very valuable. Now I'm thinking of planting some on purpose. They seem to be very hardy for a semi-arid land. Thanks for the comment!