Encountering a hedgeapple tree is a memorable Fall experience
My memory of green hedgeapples
dates back to childhood visits to my cousin's farm. A large Osage
Orange tree grew at the intersection of two roads near their
farmhouse. The ripe, green 'monkey balls' (as we called them) fell
to the roadway in the fall, and always captured our attention as we
walked by. At that age, we were mostly interested in throwing them
at targets, like pitchers lobbing large softballs. And who can
forget their sticky, milky-white sap!
Other roads near the farm were lined with more osage orange trees.
Back in the early days of farming, before barbed wire was developed,
farmers planted closely spaced rows of these thorny trees in order to form
a natural fenceline or hedgerow. Many of these old hedgerows were
never removed and continue to grow on as unkempt rows of tall Osage
During the 1930's a 'dust bowl' developed in Oklahoma due to
unimpeded winds blowing across open land. Osage orange was one of
the main trees used as a windbreak in these shelterbelt plantings.
Once you see a green
hedgeapple or horse apple you will never forget the Osage Orange tree!
orange wood is hard enough to make a chain saw spark!
The above statement might sound like an
old wives' tale unless I'd seen it happen with my own eyes. I was
cutting some dry osage orange wood from a fencerow back in the
1970's when my chainsaw actually threw sparks, not once, but several
times. Considering the cost of sharpening chains, I decided to focus
on other woods to cut for cordwood sales!
That being said, osage orange is slow burning firewood with
excellent heat value. Early settlers also prized the dense wood for
their bows. The orange-colored wood is resistant to decay, making it
a prime choice for fence posts, right up there with Black Locust (Robinia
The rough bark of a
large hedgeapple tree. Dried osage orange wood is so
hard it can make a chainsaw throw sparks!
Hedgeapples vs Spiders
Flash forward to the present day.
Yes, we have a bunch of spiders in our basement, so while reading a
book with natural remedies, I took special note of the statement
that hedgeapples will repel or kill spiders. Wow! OK,
let's give it a try, so the book went on to say....
For hedge apples to work against spiders, they have to ripen
naturally and be collected from the ground beneath the tree in the
You need to use one horseapple per room (two for larger rooms) for
them to be effective.
Place the green hedge apples in pie plates or something similar to
keep them from marking furniture or upholstery.
You need to let them lose most of their green coloration since it is
this decay process that makes them work. They may last up to three
months under the right conditions.
Research shows horse-apples contain ELEMOL, similar to insect
repellents in DEET.
Hedge apple trees in
early November. Only the female trees bear the
"brain-looking fruits" known as hedgeapples or
The first year we tried
using hedgeapples to get rid of spiders there was a noticeable drop
in our spider population. The second year we tried it, after taking
a year off, the collected horseapples were too old to be able to
keep around very long -- gnats clustered on them -- so they had to be disposed
of. This third test year should be a charm! The hedgeapples we
collected were freshly fallen and haven't shown any signs of
gathering fungus gnats or showing soft spots. Now it's just a matter of locating some aluminum pie plates
so they can be distributed throughout the basement, since this is
the main area of our spider infestation.
My 3rd test
covered 4 months (November 2012 - March 2012)
found that small aluminum loaf pans worked well for holding the
hedge apples indoors. One or two hedge apples were placed in each pan, and
two pans were placed on opposite ends of each floor of our house.
The photo shows what the hedge apples looked like after being indoors
for 4 months. Our spiders are gone! I only recall seeing one
spider after the hedge apples were brought in the house in late
fall, sometime during the first or second month. Now we'll see if and when the
spiders return. There's not much of an odor to these dried-out hedge
apples, just a faint smell similar to when they were fresh. No
problem with gnats this time either.
Book Review: What Tree Is That?