Osage orange trees are a common sight on the Great Plains today although they were not a widespread member of the prairie community originally. Before the invention of barbed wire in the 1880’s, they were planted as living fences – or hedges – along the boundaries of farms.
The name of the tree comes from the Osage Indian tribe and the pleasant ‘orange-peel’ smell of the skin. The wood of the osage orange tree is strong and so dense that it will neither rot nor succumb to the attacks of termites or other insects for decades. Its strong yet limber branches were prized for the construction of bows by the Native Americans. Many people believe that the fruit of the Osage orange will keep insects out of the house!
This time of year, when the ‘fruit’ ripens, I like to place a few of the bumpy- skinned osage oranges in a wood bowl on my kitchen table and enjoy the sweet scent.