Osage-orange (or a dozen other common names – see the Wikipedia entry on Maclura pomifera) is presently native to Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas in the USA, but is also thought by some to have been extirpated from Missouri and Louisiana. Due to cultivation, though, it is widely naturalized throughout the US and southern Canada.
A few of its common names, hedge-apple and hedge ball, reflect its main traditional economic use. Prior to the invention of barbed-wire, hedges of osage-orange were used as fencing for cattle. After barbed-wire was developed, though, osage-orange still had a role to play; posts for barbed-wire fences due to its wood properties. From the Silvics of North America entry on Maclura pomifera: “Osage-orange heartwood is the most decay-resistant of all North American timbers and is immune to termites. The outer layer of sapwood is very thin; consequently, even small-diameter stems give long service as stakes and posts. About 3 million posts were sold annually in Kansas during the early 1970’s [sic]. The branch wood was used by the Osage Indians for making bows and is still recommended by some archers today.”
The Plants for a Future database details some of the other economic uses of osage-orange, including shelterbelt plantings, dyes, fuel and (potentially) insect repellents (for the latter, see this factsheet from Iowa State University Horticulture).
On a different topic, Botany Photo of the Day will be publishing its one-thousandth entry sometime next month. This is one of those good news / bad news things. The good news is that it is quite the achievement by the community of folks who have built up around BPotD: those who share their images (and sometimes words), those who comment, and those who visit and enjoy. You’ve helped keep BPotD going far beyond the original predictions for its success.
The bad news, though, is that I’m finding it more difficult to meet the daily responsibility of researching and posting. The work required to create entries in advance before trying to leave town for a few days or weeks has often meant delays while the work gets done (cutting in on photography time!). Next year, I am looking forward to more sleep, more freedom and more spontaneity.
So where does that leave BPotD? We’ve had some casual discussions at the garden about it, so I have some investigations to make about options. My long-term preferred option is to have a science writing / photography intern share in the duties, but we need to determine if this will be possible. In the short-term, though, it is likely that BPotD will go on a brief hiatus after the thousandth entry or so, since it will occur during the last week of December.