Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hedge Apples or Osage Oranges?

Growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania,
these wonderful green cranium-patterned orbs   
  were always a part of our fall displays.

My talented mother still uses them 
in wreaths and cornucopias,
in urns and bowls with other fresh
fall produce and foliage. Often times they
made it into our holiday decorations as well.

I love these little green balls!

They seem to get harder and harder 
to find as the years go by. 

At least in Illinois, it seems that old farms
are disappearing and being developed 
into neighborhood housing areas 
and the old "bodark" (or osage orange) 
 trees and hedges that they come from
are torn down and destroyed. 

You have to drive pretty far
out into the countryside 
to find them now.

The French first found it and called it the "Bois D'Arc" plant, now known as a Bodark.

There are many names 
for these inedible fruits,
to include osage oranges, 
 hedge apples, hedge balls, 
green brains, mock orange balls,
monkey balls, and horse apples.

They come from a small deciduous tree 
or large shrub that grows between 26-50 feet tall. 
They have a slightly orange citrus smell to them 
but they are not a part of the orange family, 
but are part of the mulberry family.

Their fruit's size ranges from 3 - 6" in diameter.

On my grandfather's farm,
there were hedge apples growing 
along some of the fence lines. 

My grandfather had told me 
they were planted there before 
he owned the farm --- before
 barbed wire fences were invented
 to keep the livestock 
on the property since they have dense
thorny branches and the animals 
stayed away from them.

Some believe they naturally 
ward off insects like spiders,
cockroaches, grasshoppers, fleas, 
crickets and other arthropods.

When you cut them open 
they have seeds inside and
 a milky latex liquid that's sticky. 

Nature's version of Elmer's Glue!

The bodark trees were originally found 
in the Osage-Red River valley 
extending between Oklahoma and northern Texas.

 But in the mid-1930's and 40's over
220 million hedges and trees 
were planted in 48 states for use 
as fencing and erosion prevention during the 
Franklin D. Roosevelt administration
as part of the WPA.

So there you go, 
a little history on this native American 
inedible but decorative fruit!

Do they grow in your area?

Do you love them too?

Sunlight hitting the still life this evening!


Kim @ Savvy Southern Style said...

They were being sold at Scott's and I didn't know what they were, but Babs did. I love the look of them. Very strange fruit indeed. said...

Yep! I know them as horse apples, and they still grow wild in here in north Texas, I never thought of using them as decoration... how clever!

Kelly said...

I have a bunch of fake ones that I bought at a home interiors store several years ago. I love their texture and of course that beautiful apple green color! It was interesting to see what the real ones look like on the inside! I've never seen one before.

Savvy Seasons said...

Alison, I have never heard of those before. Funny, huh? Thanks for the history behind them, interesting! I love the way they look in your bowl, very pretty! XO ~Liz =)

Priscilla said...

I remember driving past miles and miles of them on the prairies on the way to visit my aunt in Wichita Kansas. My mother called them Osage Oranges. They are beautiful.

Debra @ Common Ground said...

Can't imagine people selling them, they're in every ditch here in Missouri. Not a very pretty tree. Last year I saw a squirrel trying to carry one in it's mouth, hysterical!! I DO like seeing them in your gorgeous urn! love their color, and we call them "Hedge apples" here. xoxo

Karen said...

I have never seen these before, anywhere. They are so interesting looking. I really love their texture and the color. Thank you for the intro and the info!

Designs By Pinky said...

Yes! We do have them in this area but everytime I see them they are on the road and have been squished underneath tires:( I will have to go see if I can pull over and gather some, I do love the look of them. We used to use them in arrangements at the florist where I worked. XO, Pinky

1 Funky Woman said...

I haven't seen any this year and I'm so sad. Hedge balls is what they are referred to in Iowa. People buy them to keep spiders away. I love what they look like in a big bowl with fake spiders crawiling around them. I guess I'm close in using them they way they are intended. Just not live spiders.


Linda said...

This was a really interesting post, Alison! I love how they look in the urn!

The enchanted home said...

I must confess I would have assumed these were man made and fabulous looking of course. The color is so pretty and love it next to the black! Absolutely beautiful.....

Hartwood Roses said...

I gather a bowl of them every autumn to display on the dining table. The color is beautiful, I love the way they look. The branches of the really old Osage Orange trees are gnarly and fascinating. My husband thinks I'm nuts for picking them off the side of the road ... but that's okay.

Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions said...

I had never heard of these before last year, when another blogger spoke of them, Alison. Now that I'm in Ohio, I'll have to look and see if they are around here.

Janette - The2Seasons said...

We had them when we had our little farm here in horse country. I always used them as a colorful centerpiece on our dining room table.

Amy @MaisonDecor said...

We don't have any of those around here, but I have heard of mock orange...maybe they are just all gone. They make a nice arrangement~a modern version of the old artichoke!

ℳartina @ Northern Nesting said...

Alison they grow here in NY too, and I usually add them to a bowl or jar but I didn't pick any this year. Loved hearing the history behind them. Have a great week, Martina

Rebecca said...

Yes, I DO like them and haven't stopped to think about it....but I agree that they are getting harder and harder to find.

About 7 years ago we lived in MI and had a source. I DID collect some to ward off crickets. (Can't really remember if it worked or not...but they DO make a simple & beautiful arrangement in a wooden bowl, etc.)

Gillian Layne said...

I've always loved the color! The thought of using these as decoration would crack up my dad (a farmer).

Babs said...

Alison, You know I love hedge apples. They remind me of my grandfather's farm in TN. I really enjoyed reading the history of them. Unfortunately, they don't grow this far south. Yours are wonderful in the black urn. Nice post.

Linda McMullan said...

Oh, my! You just transported me back to childhood! I haven't seen Horse Apples in ages and had forgotten about them. They were everywhere in rural Alabama; I was always certain that the silly adults who dismissed them were simply too lazy to figure out what to do with them. What a lovely post; I am vindicated. They WERE beautiful!

Linda said...

Hi Alison, Yes they are fruit that I have only seen at nurseries at Holiday Season. I used to decorate with them on my mantle at our other home. They go bad quickly. If I recall they were also expensive.

Janet said...

They don't grow in my area ( New England) but last year I got some in a park in Ohio on a visit with SuzyQ at Rabbit Run Cottage and transported them home in my carry-on. I love the uniqueness of them here.

Sue said...

You have to hunt for them here in the 'burbs, but I pick them off the ground in a city park. I used them in one of my displays here. We even had them in New Mexico,our small midwest-style town since it was settled by so many merchants and their families from OH, IL, and MO. Guess they wanted to see a touch of home! :-)

Pamela Gordon said...

I have heard of these before and seen them in magazines I guess but they aren't common here in Eastern Canada (that I know of). They certainly are pretty and make a lovely addition to fall and winter decor. Thanks for the informative post! Pamela


I've never seen this fruit before but I like the looks of it. I love the way we used them for decorating, you're good Alyson. I'm at MM with my new redo also.
Have a terrific week pretty lady.

Anonymous said...

Have always enjoyed and gathered the hedge apples here in central Il. There's a huge old tree that has probably seen it's last year since we are getting a new high school football field. Don't know where friends and I will find them in the future. Have lots of pinecones, large acorns and winter wheat for decorating.

Becca said...

Sorry to say that I didn't know what they were, but love the color! And, they're perfectly displayed in the urn! Thanks for the cool lesson, too!

Ricki Jill Treleaven said...

This is the first time I have ever seen them. They do look like green brains. ;P You could paint them gray for your Halloween decor, LOL!

❀ⒹⒺⒺ❀@ A Lapin Life said...

Oh wow! I've never heard of them before. They are a really pretty green. I love the urns.


Karen said...

What an interesting post! I always buy a few to decorate with in the fall, but I have never seen any of them growing here (N. NE--Zone 4). I didn't know the WPA planted them! Mine don't seem to last too long in the house--they start getting black spots and shrinking. But I love the look of them while they last. I may have to see if they will grow here. Thanks for the info!

Anonymous said...

I'm lucky to live near quite a few of these old trees. Most of the trees near me seem to be surrounding old farms or orchards. I decorate with them every fall. My mom always called these "cow apples." Now my boys help my go on "cow apple hunts" every fall!


Sarah said...

Alison, just today I commented to my husband that the Bois D'Arc tree on our street didn't have any horse apples this year. Yes, I do love these funny green balls. I've written several posts about them myself and like to use them in fall decorating. Interestingly enough, I saw some in a park in France. I took some photos and plan to share them. There were hundreds of them. Wish we had a supply here. ;-)
~ Sarah

Lowe Ann said...

I want to buy some of the fake ones. Kelly said she had some. Where can I get some?

Alison @ The Polohouse said...

Hi Lowe Ann!

I found mine at a local gift shop last year and they were sold separately.
Here is the only online link I could find for you to buy them!

Hope that helps!!

D. Wolak said...

Neato mosquito! Just found a tree in Humboldt Park in Chicago, Illinois and hadn't a clue what they might be; thanks for the insight! They are so unique!

Reggie said...

I really enjoyed the article on the "Osage Orange" fruit on the Blog some while back.

I've not only fallen for the fruit but the tree's as well! lol

Where can I find some those tree's in Alabama...I live in Athens and my wife works on the Arsenal, a local Botanist said there were some on Redstone Arsenal!

So far I've run into a locating them.

Any assistance would be appreciated & applauded.

Blessings 2 you

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