February 27, 2013 08:32 AM Category: Trees & Wild Plants
First, the name.
Bodark, or bois d’arc, or Osage orange, or hedge apple, or horse apple, or bowwood; take your pick. If you want to be fancy, call it Maclura pomifera. I’ll refer to it as my folks always did: bodark.
One of the main uses for wood on the traditional farm was (and still is for many of us) for fencing. Bodark is perhaps the hardest of hardwoods in North America (real tough on a chainsaw), and for lots of people who find it growing on the property it’s a main choice for fence posts. Those who understand its value love it, that is if they don’t absolutely hate it for its thorns which can wreak havoc on tires. It does have at least a couple things going for it: Bodark doesn’t rot easily when in contact with the ground, and it spreads from its seed and grows like a weed…a BIG weed…but kind of a small tree. It doesn’t get much bigger than about 20 feet tall, and usually has really arched looking branches and/or trunks.
In the fall of the year these trees are easily identified (the female trees, anyway) as bearing a large brain-looking, pale green fruit that has a peculiar smell. Actually kind of a pleasant smell that I find difficult to describe. Smell one if you have the opportunity, and see what you think.
The bodark tree was sought by early European explorers of the New World who valued it for the making of archery bows. In America, settlers and homesteaders used it for "living" fences to keep livestock either in or out of areas. I’ll be trying my hand at growing a stretch of this “fence” at some point in the future (got some seeds going right now) and will demonstrate the results down the road.
Bodark “apples” (or Osage “oranges”) being left in a just a bit of water to freeze and thaw all winter, in order to prepare the seeds for spring germination.
To make a living fence with bodark, the numerous seeds from inside its fruit (osage "oranges") are planted closely in long rows and heavily pruned for the succeeding years. The resulting intertwined and thorny branches yield great resistance against both man and beast.
Post and photographs, copyright Pa Mac, 2013
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