You’ve problem seen them while on a country drive this time of year and wondered what they are — and what good they are. Those bright yellow green, bumpy, round fruit balls lying under a low growing densely covered tree. While properly known as the Osage Orange, most people simply know them as hedge apples.
During the early 1900’s, farmers found this tree to have several popular qualities. For one, it was an easily transplanted tree while being very drought tolerant. And because its branches were so tight-knit, they were planted close and used as a fence of sorts for livestock.
Early American Indians had more of an everyday use for the hardwood branches. Cambridge resident Tanya Dostall said her grandmother, Juanita Dickerson, was a Cherokee Indian and told her that she could remember using the wood from that tree for making tomahawk handles. That was long ago on a reservation in the midwest. There are other notations from people making archery bows.
Perhaps the best known use for the hedge apple is placing them in the house to keep insects away.
"I’ve put them in my house to keep spiders out but all they did was rot so they were quick to go," Dostall said.
She added that she heard the tree was named for the Osage Indians, a tribe developed in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys around 700 BC.
Tanya added that she heard stories that this tree was the first to be planted at George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon.
Even though they grow to the size of a grapefruit, hedge apples are generally considered inedible. This is largely due to the unpalatable taste of its fruit despite its orange-like smell. However, hedge apples are non-poisonous according to reports.
One thing is for sure, the hedge apple is a nice addition to a fall decoration and for children, it can make for a great time throwing them at targets.