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Maclura pomifera - (Raf.)C.K.Schneid.

Common Name Osage Orange, Bois D'Arc
Family Moraceae
USDA hardiness 4-9
Known Hazards The milky sap can cause dermatitis in some people[200]. An extract and the juice of the fruit is toxic, though a 10% aqueous infusion and extract diluted 1:1 are not toxic[240].
Habitats Woods, fields and thickets in rich bottom lands[73, 83].
Range Southeastern N. America - Arkansas to Texas.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Maclura pomifera Osage Orange, Bois D

Maclura pomifera Osage Orange, Bois D


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Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Rounded, Spreading or horizontal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Maclura pomifera is a deciduous Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 12 m (39ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from September to December. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). . The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


M. aurantiaca. Toxylon pommifera.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Canopy; Secondary; Sunny Edge; Hedge;

Edible Uses

One report suggests that the fruit is edible[74] but this is surely a mistake - although very large, the fruit is harsh, hard, dry and astringent. The fruit does, however, contain an anti-oxidant which can be used as a food preservative, especially for oils[61]. The heartwood and the root yield a non-toxic antibiotic that is useful as a food preservative[240].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Cardiac  Ophthalmic

A tea made from the roots has been used as a wash for sore eyes[222, 257]. The inedible fruits contain antioxidant and fungicidal compounds[222]. A 10% aqueous infusion and an extract diluted 1:1 have cardiovascular potentialities[240].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Fodder  Fuel  Hedge  Hedge  Preservative  Repellent  Shelterbelt  Tannin  Wood

A yellow dye is obtained from the bark of the root and the wood[46, 57, 95, 149, 169, 257]. Green and orange can also be obtained from it[168]. The sap of the fruit is used as an insect repellent[95]. It is said to be effective against cockroaches[222]. The bark is a source of tannin[82, 149]. The plant is often grown as a hedge in N. America and Europe[1, 20, 50], it is very tolerant of severe pruning[200], makes an effective stock-proof barrier[200] and succeeds in maritime exposure[K]. A hedge in a very exposed position at Rosewarne in N. Cornwall has grown well (1989), though it is very bare in winter[K]. This species is also used in shelterbelt plantings[200]. Wood - coarse-grained, exceedingly hard, heavy, flexible, very strong, very durable, silky, lustrous. It weighs 48lb per cubic foot. One of the most durable woods in N. America, it is seldom used commercially, but is used locally for fence posts,piers, bows etc and makes an excellent fuel[46, 82, 95, 171, 200, 227, 229, 274].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Hedge  Hedge

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Living fence  Fodder: Insect  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Industrial Crop: Dye  Industrial Crop: Starch  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Protein-oil

Landscape Uses:Firewood, Pest tolerant, Aggressive surface roots possible. Prefers a well-drained soil in full sun[200]. Succeeds in poor soils and also in dry ones[20]. Plants are fairly tolerant of maritime exposure[K]. They dislike waterlogged soils[188]. Dormant mature plants are hardy to about -20°c though the young growth in spring can be cut back by late frosts[200] and young plants can be damaged in cold winters[188]. Plants require hot summers to fully ripen their wood if they are to thrive in areas with cold winters[188]. Plants are tolerant of severe pruning[200]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Special Features:North American native, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Living fence  Simply managed rows of shrubs and trees.
  • Fodder: Insect  Plants grown for useful fodder insects.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Industrial Crop: Dye  Botanical dyes replacing synthetic dyes (known as heavy polluters).
  • Industrial Crop: Starch  Materials and chemicals include bioplastics, paper, cardboard, solvents, paints, glues etc. Plants are usually pods, starchy fruits, nuts & seeds, starchy trunks.
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Protein-oil  (16+ percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Annuals include soybeans, peanuts, sunflower seeds. Perennials include seeds, beans, nuts, and fruits such as almond, Brazil nut, pistachio, walnut, hazel, and safou.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in pots in a cold frame. Pre-soak stored seed for 48 hours in warm water and stratify for 2 months at 4°c then sow in a cold frame[113, 200]. Germination is normally good. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seed stores for 3 years[113]. If growing larger quantities of plants, it is probably best to sow the seed in an open seed bed[200]. Grow the plants on for a couple of years in the seed bed before planting them out into their permanent positions. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame[200]. Cuttings of mature wood, November to January in a frame[113]. Layering in summer[200]. Root cuttings 4cm long in December. Plant horizontally in pots in a greenhouse and plant out as soon as possible. Good percentage[78].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Maclura cochinchinensisCockspur Thorn, Thorny CockspurShrub10.0 10-12 SLMHN 224
Maclura tinctoriaFustic TreeTree20.0 10-12 MLMHNDM224

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

Donna Kolwaite   Wed Nov 20 22:38:06 2002

I have just discovered the osage orange in my back yard a week ago. I live in Upstate New York (Utica). So I am finding this "hedge" very interesting. I have lived here for 8 years and this is the first time I have seen the osage orange. I'm amazed that it is growing in my area. Why is that?

Bill Allen   Tue Sep 23 03:49:48 2003

There is a good stand of Osage Orange trees in Shreveport, LA, along the "Kings Highway Bayou". Most sources give the original range of the Osage Orange as "East Texas and Southwestern Arkansas and southern Oklahoma", but I was wondering if these trees could be original, as Shreveport is near the texas border. Another factor that makes me wonder is that this bayou (I believe) was at one time the bed of the Red River, and although the Osage Indians are credited with making bows from the wood, could not the Caddo Indians also have used the tree? I would welcome information on this from anyone, my e-mail is [email protected]

   Tue Oct 21 00:04:37 2003

I don't have a comment, but I do have a question I have recently bought a home that we have found out has bugs roaches to be exact and some one had told me that the osage orange is a good repellent I would like some one to tell me how to use them so that I canget rid of these things as quicky and as cheaply as possible if any one has any idea please let me know by e-mailing me at [email protected]

James Easter   Sun Feb 29 07:34:45 2004

Link: Building the Osage Bow Good site for Osage Orange information and Osage Staves.

Marty Roberts   Sun Oct 10 02:42:42 2004

I'm in Western Kansas and just found out about Osage Oranges as bug repellent. The instructions I received were to take each carefully picked ball, treat gently and place on a small (foam) plate[to catch any 'sap' that might leak out] and place in the corners of rooms. So far this has worked beautifully against the usual fall invasion of crickets - they are all gone! Dunno about against roaches, don't have any of those; but it would seem worth a try.

It is dry and fairly alkaline here. Zone 5, almost 4. Very hot in summer and can be quite cold in winter.

K. Troxel   Wed Oct 13 20:22:51 2004

My family has lived in Kansas for 7 generations and Osage orange wood (hedge) was used a great deal on the old farmsteads. Besides the windbreaks the tree provides, the wood was used for posts, heating the house, cooking and for making wagon parts. My grandfather made many wagon tongues and single trees from hedge. Hedge should only be used in a wood burning or coal burning stove..not a fireplace. After hedge has burned down to a bed of coals, it can produce a shower of sparks like a fireworks display. Many a home has burned down from using hedge to heat.

Hedge posts can last over a hundred years in the Kansas sod. I have collected barbed wire patented in the 1800's still attached to their hedge post.

D. Dunn   Mon Sep 11 2006

On a recent September trip to the University of Arkansas, I was amazed to see the huge lime green fruit on the trees. When I asked some people on campus what there were, I was told they were calles "horse apples". Two people told me that horse apples could be used as a bug repellant and that they put them in their attic. My curiosity about this strange fruit (and tree) brought me to the internet to learn more. I was suprised to find out that Maclura pomifera has both male and female trees. Some websites that were helpful in my search to learn more about Osage Oranges (Horse Apples) are the following: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=MAPO and http://hort.ufl.edu/trees/MACPOMA.pdf#search=%22Maclura%20pomifera%22

USDA Plant Profiles taxonomy, pictures, and range

michele monson   Wed Oct 25 2006

Where can I buy one?

Ajna Fern   Mon Oct 30 2006

For british sources of this plant see http://www.rhs.org.uk/RHSPlantFinder/plantfinder.asp

Joe Jones   Fri Jun 8 2007

The seeds of Maclura pomifers contain a carbohydrate recognizing lectin that has been the subject of numerous reports in journals and books regarding immunological properties.

Elsabe van der Mescht   Fri Feb 29 2008

I have just discovered the osage orange in the north west of south africa, near the botswana border. I find it a very interesting fruit and would like to know if any body ever tried to dry these fruits for use in dry arrangements.elsabe van der mescht.Johannesburg,South Africa.

Storm   Mon Jul 7 2008

They are quite excellent as a bug repellent when placed under cabinets and such. However, here in Northeastern Oklahoma we call them "hedge apples" (D. Dunn, are you sure they said 'horse' and not 'hedge'? Because horse apples are a term for horse dung...)

Judy Mullins   Sat Dec 27 2008

Mullins Log Cabin Country Getaway Medicinal information about "Hedgeapples"

prue robertson   Wed Jun 3 2009

Planted as hedges for stock control in early european settlement in Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia. They have not been cut for probably 50 years but still thrive on the farm. I grew up with visitors fascinated by the strange inedible fruits. I have since found a good market for the fruits with adventurous florists in Sydney. The fruits look great piled up in bowls or urns and last for ages.

colin forwood   Thu Dec 3 2009

a REPORT of EDIBLE SEEDS, can be found at the 'proffesional page' linked on this link. i have not corroborated, but am cooking a fruit and it smells delicious! ps: also claimed to be the highest BTU generating feulwood.

hedgeapple.com links to report on http://www.gpnc.org/osage.htm

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