Trees of Greenville - Osage Orange Tree

Have you ever seen an Osage Orange tree?
I had not - until this one - a stately specimen standing along side a major road in Greenville.

You aren’t likely to find an Osage Orange tree at your local nursery, but it is thought that they were once quite prolific, as fossils exist from previous geologic eras. Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera) is the sole survivor of the genus Maclura. Close relatives exist in the family (Moraceae), which includes figs, mulberries, and a large number of tropical and semi-tropical trees.

Native to eastern Texas, Oklahoma, and western Arkansas, French settlers dubbed the tree bois d’arc (“wood of the bow”) when they encountered Osage Indians using wood from the tree to make superior weapons and hunting implements. The hard wood of Osage Orange is resistant to decay, and there is little shrink/swell compared to most other trees which means the wood is still considered ideal for archery bows, and is sometimes used for making furniture and fence posts. The tree was once widely planted as a living fence. It’s thorns and gnarly character make it an impenetrable barrier to livestock.

Next time you are driving along Dickinson Avenue (at Spring Forest Road), take notice of this majestic old tree. In late Fall you will notice it’s large green fruit. This tree is a female - males do not produce fruit. If you decide to pick one up, it would be wise to wear gloves as the milky juice in the fruit can irritate skin.