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Osage Orange Trees
(Maclura pomifera)

Commonly known as Hedge Apple or Horse Apple

Encountering a hedgeapple tree is a memorable 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 trees.
  

WINDBREAKS
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.

Hedgeapple
Once you see a green hedgeapple or horse apple you will never forget the Osage Orange tree!

Osage 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 this 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 pseudoacacia).
  

Orange bark of a HedgeApple tree

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 fall.

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.
  

Osage Orange tree

Hedge apple trees in early November. Only the female trees bear the "brain-looking fruits" known as hedgeapples or horseapples.

OBSERVATIONS

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 -- 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 (see photo at top of page). 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 spider infestation. Check back later for my follow-up results!
     

My 3rd test covered 4 months (Nov 12 - Mar 12)

Dried out hedge apples after being inside for 4 months over the winter.I found that small aluminum loaf pans worked well for holding the hedge apples indoors. One hedge apple was 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 inside for 4 months. Our spiders are gone!  I only recall seeing one spider after the hedge apples were brought in the house late last fall, sometime during month 1 or 2. 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.
   

Elaborate treehouses!

 

  


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