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osage-orange (Maclura pomifera)




















bois d'arc


SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS:There are no scientific synonyms for
Maclura pomifera.




TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for osage-orange
is Maclura pomifera (Raf.) Schneid. There are no currently accepted

varieties or subspecies.


NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States. Introduced; Canada.


small, native, deciduous tree that averages 30 feet (9 m) in height. It has
a short trunk and rounded crown. Shade-killed lower branches remain on
the tree for years, forming a dense thicket. Branches growing in full sun
have sharp, stout thorns 0.5 to 1 inch (1.3-2.5 cm) long. Osage-orange
has a large, round multiple fruit composed of many fleshy calyces, each
containing one seed. Osage-orange generally has a well-developed taproot;
a tree in Oklahoma had roots more than 27 feet (8.2 m) deep. On shallow
soils, roots spread laterally.


REGENERATION PROCESSES: Osage-orange reproduces vegetatively
and by seed. It is dioecious. Female trees begin producing seeds at age 10
but are most productive from age 25 to 65. Good seed crops are produced
nearly every year. Seeds are disseminated by animals, gravity, and water.
Seeds have a slight dormancy which is overcome by soaking in water for 2
days or stratifying in sand or peat for 30 days. Seed germination requires
exposed mineral soil and full light. At 7 years of age, osage-orange is about
8 feet (2.4 m) tall with a crown spread of about 6 feet (1.8 m). Seed
collection, cleaning, storage, and planting techniques are described. Osage-
orange sprouts vigorously from the stump and possibly from the roots.


SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Osage-orange grows best in areas that
receive 25 to 40 inches (640-1,020 mm) precipitation a year but tolerates
a minimum of 15 inches (380 mm). It is sensitive to cold and succumbs to
winter-kill in the northern Great Plains. Osage-orange grows on a variety
of soils but does best on rich, moist, well-drained bottomlands. It occurs

on alkaline soils, shallow soils overlaying limestone, clayey soils, and

sandy soils. It can occur on bottomlands which are seasonally flooded.


SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: The shade tolerance of osage-orange is not
well defined. It has been listed as intermediate in tolerance and intolerant.
Osage-orange grows in the subcanopy of bottomland forests, but it also
invades overgrazed pastures and other open, disturbed sites with eroding
soil. Osage-orange regenerates naturally on sunny sites but grows when
planted in dense hedges. Osage-orange in remnant bottomland hardwood
forests is negatively associated with fragment size. In other words, the
smaller the area of remnant forest, the more likely that osage-orange will
occur there. Forest fragmentation may promote and accelerate the
establishment of pioneer species and species adapted to disturbance.


SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Osage-orange generally flowers from

April to June and the fruit ripens from September to October. It flowers in

mid-May in Kansas and Nebraska.


GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Osage-orange is native to a narrow belt
in eastern Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas, and the
extreme northwest corner of Louisiana. This belt includes portions of the
Blackland Prairies, Chiso Mountains, and the Red River drainage. Osage-
orange has been introduced into most of the conterminous United States
and has become naturalized throughout much of the eastern United States
and the central Great Plains.




Tree specimens can be found on trails marked in red.


       Bleak House
       Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
       South Ridge/North Ridge
       Gap Run
       Woodpecker Lane

       Sherman's Mill
       Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain
       Fish Pond


The specific distribution for osage orange has not been determined.


naturalized populations of osage-orange occur in rich bottomland forests
and on sandy terraces. On the Trinity River floodplain in Texas, mostly
small (less than 8-inch [20 cm] diameter) osage-orange occurs in
bottomland forests dominated by cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia),
sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), and
western soapberry (Sapindus soponaria var. drummondii). In Iowa,
osage-orange occurs in a honey-locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) - black
locust (Robinia psuedoacacia)-boxelder (Acer negundo) - elm (Ulmus
spp.) forest. On lower terraces of Salt Creek in Illinois, osage-orange
occurs in a bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) - hackberrry (Celtis
) forest. Osage-orange is also associated with white oak
(Quercus alba), white ash (Fraxinus americana), and red mulberry
(Morus rubra). In Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama, osage-orange
occurs with eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), black walnut
(Juglans nigra), hickory (Carya spp.), and elm. Osage-orange that has
escaped cultivation often occurs as thickets along fencerows and ditches,
in ravines, and in overgrazed pastures. It commonly occurs with honey-
locust in disturbed areas.


IMPORTANCE AND USES: Osage-orange provides shelter and cover
for wildlife. Small mammals and birds use the thorny tree for cover. The
bitter-tasting, fleshy fruit is generally not eaten, but some animals including
squirrel, fox, red crossbill, and northern bobwhite occasionally eat the seeds.
Seedlings and sprouts are browsed occasionally. Downy woodpeckers use
osage-orange as forage sites.


Osage-orange is used for soil stabilization and strip mine reclamation. It is
adapted to most surface mine conditions but does better in less acidic, well
-drained mine soils. Osage-orange is sensitive to soil compaction.


Osage-orange wood is hard, durable, and resistant to decay. It is primarily
used for fence posts.


Osage-orange is used for soil stabilization and strip mine reclamation. It is
adapted to most surface mine conditions but does better in less acidic, well-
drained mine soils. Osage-orange is sensitive to soil compaction.


Osage-orange is planted in shelterbelts and hedgerows of the Great Plains.
Early settlers of the Great Plains used osage-orange for hedgerows. The
diffuse, thorny branches form impenetrable hedges which were used to
fence in livestock. It is planted alone or in a row adjacent to a row of
evergreens or taller hardwoods. Osage-orange hedges are maintained as
fences by pruning. While a favorite of the past, osage-orange hedgerows
are now replaced with species that provide more benefit to wildlife. Osage-
orange is recommended for planting on deep, moist, permeable soils and
medium to shallow upland silty-clayey loams, sandy loams, and loamy
sands. It is not recommended for sandhills or wet, poorly drained soils.

Osage-orange wood extractives are used for food processing, pesticide
manufacturing, and dye making. The Osage Indians used the wood for
dye and bows. The strong-smelling fruit repels cockroaches.


Osage-orange is planted as an ornamental. There is an unusual thornless
male form which is clonally propagated.



Back to Inventory of Tree Families and Species

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