Osage Oranges

Right now the osage orange or bois d'arc (bodark) trees are dropping their fruit.

The horses love these bumpy, ugly things and fight over them. The biggest ones barely fit in the horses' mouths. P-O-P go the "horse apples" as the horses crunch them into fibrous pieces and drool as they eat them.

The fruits fall into the hayfield, so I toss one for each horse over the fence into their pasture after morning feeding time. I'm careful to move any of the fruits that may have fallen too near the fence, so the horses won't attempt to reach them through the fence. They really like these things and the fence shows it.

And of course, moderation is key in everything, so I do limit how many each horse can have: no more than one, and not every day. I know horses that have foundered on osage oranges.

When we first moved to Oak Hill I asked our neighbor what those things in the trees were. "Cows'll eat 'em" he told me. (To a cattle rancher, that's what matters: whether or not cows can eat something.)

One of our farriers, who had moved here from the Midwest not long before, asked us "what are those things?" Out came the hoof knife and he cut into one to see what it looked like inside.

When I go out to feed the horses I can smell the osage oranges, a sweet floral scent on the evening air.

There was another osage orange tree in the horses' pasture when we moved here, but one winter they stripped the bark off it and it died. That didn't upset me, since I don't like them having unrestricted access to the fruit.

The wood of the bois d'arc tree is excellent for carving and for making bows. The trees can be very thorny and are often included in "living fences". The fruit are said to repel spiders and other bugs in your home, but honestly, they get stinky pretty quickly and then attract fruit flies. Don't ask me how I know that.

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  1. We have those here in Ohio too! They're everywhere! I've heard that they repel spiders, but I've never tested that theory out. I know them as "hedge apples" here.

  2. We have them here in Kansas too! Hedge trees make wonderful firewood. They burn hot and leave very little ash behind. Make sure there isn't much moisture in them though, they like to throw sparks. Not just one or two here and there. It's like a sparkler got thrown into the fireplace!

  3. Mary, I hadn't noticed them when we lived in Michigan and Indiana. A Michigan friend was the one who told me she orders them online every year to put in her basement to repel spiders.

  4. McAndrewFarms, I've been told they make good firewood but did not know about the sparks! Good to know!

  5. I love Osage Orange (otherwise known as Bois D'Arc trees) The trees are beautiful and in the spring their blooms have an amazing scent. The wood is highly valued for it's resistance to rot. This year we had a heifer bloat and since we're going through a drought we wondered how in the world she could bloat on the hay she was eating. We tried to tube her with no success and finally had to call out the vet (ranch visit + weekend = $$$$$) He couldn't tube her either & as it turns out she was bloating because the drought made the horse apples fall from the tree earlier & smaller, she tried to eat one & it was so small it lodged in her throat. Wow! That was a first for us! LOL

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

  6. Oh my! I know well those weekend vet visits. I hope you were able to save her.

    I've heard of horses foundering on osage oranges so I severely limit their access. The one tree in their pasture died and I've decided that's a good thing. The others are along the fenceline in the hayfield. Before I let the horses out there for the winter I'll have to go pick up all the dropped fruit, just to be safe. The horses LOVE them.

  7. How cool! I've never heard of these before. They do look really funky and I'm surprised at what's inside. I love the photo of the horses eating them - too cute!

  8. Thank you, Tammy. They are such funny-looking things and can be quite large. My son used to call them gum-gum fruits (Pokemon? Digimon? I don't remember!)

  9. The attraction makes sense for any herbivore/ruminant, they're just a few thousand years too late for the Holocene! I mean, these things were meant to be eaten by mastodons, right?

  10. Anonymous4:02 PM

    I remember as just a young brad we had several trees growing in out fence line (incidentally the trees if cut up, makes awesome fence post) we tried to climb one. My younger brother got into one about 6-8 feet off the ground and got one of their thorns in his arm and had to be rushed to the hospital because it cut him very deeply and he was bleeding very badly. Do not allow your children to try climb one (LOL)

  11. I am looking to buy two Osage oranges (hedge apple) not seeds or tree, the actual fruit. My mother in law was diagnosed with lung cancer and my sister-in-law is trying to get me to help her find some. Where can I buy two?

    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your mom's diagnosis. Unfortunately, osage oranges won't be in season again until September or so. I'm not aware of anyone who might have some this time of year.


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