The Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) fruit is neither an orange, nor does it belong to the orange family. It is a member of the mulberry family and was named so, because it looks like an orange from a distance. The flowers are green in color and bloom from April to June, followed by the formation of fruits that turn yellow-green on ripening, before falling off in the months of October and November. The seeds are the only edible parts of this fruit.
Classified as a deciduous tree, the Osage orange tree is a native of the eastern parts of Oklahoma and some parts of Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri. It sheds its leaves and flowers during fall. The tree is dioecious in nature, meaning separate male and female plants. It grows to about 40 to 60 feet in height, whereas the circumference of the bark is about 4- to 7-feet wide.
The lifespan of this shrub is about 75 years, and they can produce fruit after 8 to 12 years. The bark of the tree is thick, scaly, and brownish orange in color with deep furrows. Juvenile branches are green in color and slowly turn pale orange-brown as the tree matures. The wood and bark of the tree is hard and strong, and can be shaped easily.
The leaves are 3-6 inches long and taper towards the end. They turn golden-yellow in the winter, which gives the tree a beautiful look. The flowers are pale green in color and are small in size. After pollination, they form fruits which bear the seeds. The fruits are commonly called 'multiple fruits' as they are filled with numerous tiny seeds. The tree can be grown in any kind of soil, preferably fertile. They should be pruned regularly, as they overgrow very fast. The shrub has insect repellent properties; it's a good idea to plant these around the house.
The tree itself gives out a slight smell of the fruit. The inner part of the wood is light yellow in color. This wood is famous for its multiple uses, for which these trees are cultivated on a large-scale in the Midwest. Because the tree has thorns on it, they are mainly used for making fence posts. Due to its strength and durability, the wood is used to make bows and arrows, too. This property of the Osage orange wood has been exploited for a very long time by the Native Americans. The wood can also be used to make furniture like tables, chairs, and cupboards.
The Fruits and Seeds
The fruits are round and green, and filled with a milky latex fluid. Once the flowers pollinate and the fruits ripen, they turn golden-yellow in color. Pollen is carried by birds and insects to other areas. In this way, the natural cultivation of the tree is carried out.
Every part of the tree is useful in some way or the other. The Native Americans used the branches and the stem of this tree to make war clubs and bows, for a very long time. The bark is used to make furniture. Because the ripe fruit is bright orange in color, it can be used to make dyes.
The roots of this tree grow very fast, and are rich in nutritive sources, as well. They have medicinal properties that can be used to relieve eye irritation. Moreover, the trees neither get infected by fungus or pests, nor do they rot. So, it's absolutely safe to have them around the house. The male tree can be used as an ornamental plant, as the leaves are smooth and have a glazed coating.