Home School Life Journal

Home School Life Journal
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales
painting by Katie Bergenholtz

Nature Study: The Osage Orange

The fruit of the Osage Orange tree are falling.
It is part of the yearly rhythm that I look forward to. It, like leaves changing color, signals fall to me. It always makes me happy. 
The Osage Orange is a simple, average looking tree.

It's rough bark is interesting...
but the most spectacular part of the tree is it's fruit. It is a large, dense, green wrinkled ball up to 6" in diameter.

The name of the tree comes from the Osage tribe and the aroma of the fruit after it is ripe, which is the orange-peel smell of the skin. It is also called by other names, notably Hedgeapple.

Chop one in half and you will see a pithy core surrounded by up to 200 small seeds that are much sought-after by squirrels. The seeds are edible by people, but one must do like the squirrels and pick them out of the slimy pulp.  This is the only part of the fruit that people can eat.  I personally, however, have never even attempted to eat it.
Can you see the milky fluid that comes out of it?

After slicing it open, we gathered around to make a journal page.
We had watercolors, colored pencils and pastels to use for our journal pages.
Katie's, age 19

Alex's, age 16

Quentin's, age 6

Phyllis'


James', age 9





And, since this week we are looking at leaves, the Osage Orange leaf  is has an oval shape that tapers to a pointed tip and has a smooth leaf margin. The twigs that hold the leaves has thorns where the leaf attaches. They are a pretty medium green in the summer and turn a golden color in the fall.

Another interesting feature of this tree is its honey-orange colored wood.  With its crooked curved growth, the wood looks almost deformed compared to arrow-straight hardwoods such as oak. But it resists rot well, and its natural crooks make it ideal for shaping into a  ship's hull's curved ribs. It is so dense and resilient that the Osage tribe fashioned their famously powerful bows from the wood , the pioneers cut it into axles for their Conestoga wagons and Midwestern settlers sometimes used it for home foundations.

The wood has a particular fondness for my heart because of the Sultana Shipbuilding project. The First Sultana was a small Royal Navy schooner that patrolled the American coast from 1768 through 1772, preventing smuggling and collecting duties. She was retired when unrest in Britain's American colonies required larger, better armed patrol craft.





A replica of the Sultana, was crafted in 2000 in Chestertown and I accompanied Katie, along with other homeschoolers, at its shipyard one afternoon sanding down the wood on the deck. The ribs, made of Osage Orange wood so beautifully orange-honey colored, were something I will always remember.

6 comments:

  1. Speaking of really great nature posts! Re-Read yours! You'll be impressed! I love the Autumn pictures on your banner :)

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  2. I grew up in Western Kansas where Osage Orange was common. It was often used for fence-posts by the settlers because it was so resistant to rot.

    I was always fascinated by how the fruit looked like green brains.

    There is a old wive's tale that says if you place Osage oranges around your home they will deter spiders and other pests.

    I have to buy them in a grocery store in order to share them with my girls. :(

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  3. This is so interesting to me because I have never seen these trees or their fruit before. Do they make a big mess when they fall? I would love to see a squirrel eating the seeds. :)

    Your journals are lovely and I enjoyed reading about how the wood was used for ships.

    Thanks so much for sharing your link.

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  4. I've never even heard of these trees - very interesting!

    And, I love that you included a painting by Phyllis :)

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  5. My parents' farm in northeast Ohio is bordered by a hundred year old osage orange lane that we ride our horses on.

    I'm homesick for Ohio after riding this, I don't like living in the city and I miss the woods.

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  6. Barbara, No, they don't really make much of a mess. They stay good for a long time and the animals tend to take them away. As they rot, they tend just to smell like orange rinds.

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