Daily Archives: December 21, 2013

Osage Orange

sketch of live oak and osage orange

“Osage Orange & Live Oak”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I find myself here in the Great State of Texas for the holidays.  Walking along a golf course in Allen, Texas (near Dallas), we came across these bizarre fruits, scattered along the golf cart path.  We had seen them in October in Ohio and Kentucky, but only from a moving car, so we didn’t get the full impact until I picked one up here.  Whoa – they look and feel like they were jettisoned by some alien spacecraft that needed to get rid of some excess weight… or maybe leaving behind eggs to hatch a new population of space creatures.

Maclura pomifera, is commonly called Osage orange, hedge apple, horse apple, monkey ball, bois d’arc, bodark, or bodock.  My sister-in-law Bonnie says the “correct pronunciation” is boys-dark, but she’s from Kentucky…   They are hard and bumpy, like an experiment in genetic modification gone wrong.  According to Google sources, they have a long and colorful history in the Southeastern U.S., including using the shrubs for pre-barbed-wire thorny fences; using the sticky, itchy white sap to make glue; putting them under the bed to ward off bugs; and to make archery bows from the wood.  Squirrels are about the only animals determined enough to actually eat the seeds, because apparently they taste yukky.

December in this part of the world is an odd mix of Oregon winter and Georgia summer as near as I can tell – it can go either way on any given day.  Yesterday was 70 degrees and I spent the whole day in a full-on sweat; today, it’s pouring rain and 48 degrees.  One thing is for sure, whatever you have in your suitcase is either too heavy or too light!  Next stop: Austin.