Bois D’arc Trees

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on July 27, 2010

bois d'arc treeThis is a huge old Bois D’arc tree at the Dallas Arboretum.  These trees are also referred to as Osage orange trees.  They were used by Indians to make bows out of.  Early settlers used them as living fences.  There are trees all over the East Texas landscape that form old fence lines.  They have wicked thorns along the new growth.  The settlers kept them pruned to form long hedges.  The scientific name is Maclura pomifera. Growing up, I called these trees horse apple trees.

These are tough trees.  They have thorns up to one inch long and grow like weeds.  The native range is uncertain because they were so widely planted, but is thought to be southwest Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma, and Texas.  This tree likes open areas such as pastures, prairies, the edges of woodlands, and fence rows.  Bois D’Arc trees do not require a lot of water, but they do need lots of sunlight.  They seed readily from the fruit, an inedible round sphere about the size of a grapefruit.  Livestock will eat it, and squirrels love it, but not much else seems to touch it.

I was at an event where I was selling some of my woodworking and was sitting under a big Bois D’Arc tree.  I kept having bits of green rain down on me.  I could not figure out what it was.  Finally, a half eaten horse apple thumped on the table where my stuff was.  A squirrel had been eating it and lost his grip.  The bits of green where crumbs he dropped when he knawed off sections of the fruit.  The squirrel looked very embarrassed and slunk off to another tree after he dropped his dinner.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Insulation July 27, 2010 at 8:48 am

We don’t have the bois d’arc tree in the UK, but my grandfather used to use brambles and blackberries as a living fence, so I remember many summers walking around the perimeter of the land picking blackberries and making sure ‘the fence is secure!’

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Stephanie Suesan Smith July 28, 2010 at 6:22 pm

I had heard of Hawthorne being used that way. I was at my parent’s house this week and nearly walked into the blackberry hedge when trying to reach the peaches! The Johnson grass was very tall because it had just been raining.

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Florida Traffic Violation July 29, 2010 at 12:13 am

Is it possible for this tree to be used as a Bonsai Tree?… I love how the branches and the leaves scattered evenly and the trunk resembles like a bonsai tree. I think this would be a great project for me.
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Stephanie Suesan Smith July 29, 2010 at 6:11 am

This type of tree would not make a good bonsai. It grows too fast and the trunk would become too thick in relation to the rest of the plant.

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Florida Traffic Violation July 29, 2010 at 7:44 pm

I’m still gonna give it a try. I think this would be a great bonsai tree project. I have Acacia and rubber tree as bonsai’s.

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Metal Garden Shed August 26, 2010 at 5:29 am

I didnt realise they had thorns, they just don’t look like that type of tree from a distance.

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Stephanie Suesan Smith August 26, 2010 at 6:48 am

They have wicked thorns and will tear you up if you are trying to prune them or cut them down.

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Ron Callen October 9, 2011 at 9:01 pm

I would like to know what I need to do in order to start Bois D` Arc from the apple. I read somewhere years ago, that you needed to crush, then dry the apple. Once dried, then you could plant it. I tried this some 20 years ago, but never got any to grow. Would appreciate any help along this line. Thank You…..Ron

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Stephanie Suesan Smith October 10, 2011 at 5:28 am

I just drop an apple on the ground where I want it to grow, and it will sprout. That is how it spreads in nature and crushing the apple will damage the seeds. You may have some trouble with squirrels carrying the apples off, so I would cover them with chicken wire or something similar to anchor them until they sprout. Bois d’arc is one of those trees where the seeds need to sit on the surface of the ground in good contact with the soil and be subjected to the winter weather to prepare the seeds for germination.

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jc November 4, 2011 at 1:59 pm

As an experiment, I collected a few apples with the intent of planting some seeds. The apples kept disappearing due to squrrels and stuff. When I finally was able to keep a few apples, I dried them and then soaked them in water for a few days, then broke each apple into smaller pieces. Each piece contained several seeds. Each piece was planted just below the ground surface in a pot of soil. Many of the seeds germinated and came up as seedlings after a few weeks.

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