Ruth is again responsible for today’s write-up:
Thank you to my good friend Jo Ann Kolman for these “wall paper worthy” photos. She took them in October near Antietam Battlefield in northern Maryland.
My first thought upon seeing this picture was, “Cherimoyas grow in Maryland?”, but as it turns out, I was thinking of the wrong family. Today’s plant is a member of the Moraceae or fig family. Cherimoyas, Annona cherimola, are an edible fruit of the tropical family Annonaceae. We grew them in the rare fruit collection at Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas, California.
The osage orange, Maclura pomifera, is a well-loved species originally from the southern United States, specifically western Arkansas, southern Oklahoma and Texas. Apparently, explorers found it and traded the wood for tools and weapon making. The Shawnee, Blackfoot and Wyandotte used the wood to make bow and arrows as well as tomahawk handles for hunting and battle. Later, the wood was used for infrastructure, such as railroad ties, bridge pilings and telephone poles. Because of its usefullness, it is now found throughout the USA (and Ontario) with the exception of a few arid and northern states. Read more about the history of osage orange via the Missouri Conservationist Online.
The small but dangerous thorn that accompanies each leaf was recognized as an asset in using osage orange as a hedge tree or bush. It was the “original barb wire fencing”. Although the fruit is undesirable, the seeds can be pried out of the pithy core and rinsed of their slimy husk to be eaten. Squirrels love them and will shred and destroy the fruits from the tree canopy, so watch your hair when walking under one! The fruits tend to persist on the branches of the female trees well after the leaves have fallen.