It’s nearing the end of the year, so it’s time for what’s becoming an annual tradition — an image of osage-orange. For previous entries on this species from BPotD (along with many additional links), see: Maclura pomifera in 2007 and Maclura pomifera in 2008.
Lindsay B. wrote the rest of today’s entry:
The species producing this unusual-looking fruit is native to southeastern North America, from Arkansas to Texas along the Red River watershed. Another common name for osage-orange is hedge-orange, referring to its use as a barbed hedge before the advent of barbed wire.
Pollen samples have indicated that Maclura pomifera had a much wider range during earlier ice-free phases of Cenozoic history. Although the fruit is large, it is mostly inedible to humans–the fruit is harsh, hard, dry and astringent. Plants for a Future lists the juice extract as toxic. These are curious features, because large fleshy fruits tend to be associated with seed dispersal by animals. This has led some researchers to investigate if seed dispersal of osage-orange previously occurred via animals that are now extinct. Connie Barlow discusses this possibility in the article Anachronistic Fruits and the Ghosts Who Haunt Them (PDF), published in the Arnold Arboretum’s journal, Arnoldia.