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.

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