Content Detail

Commonly called Osage-orange or hedge apple, this medium-sized tree has a short trunk and rounded crown with large globular fruit produced by female trees. Osage-orange produces large fruit, tends to have an aggressive nature, and is considered invasive in some areas of the United States. Osage-orange suckers freely and with its thorns can quickly become an impenetrable hedge row. 

  • Family (English) Mulberry
  • Family (botanic) Moraceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale North America
  • Size range Small tree (15-25 feet), Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Mature height 20-40 feet
  • Mature width 20-40 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought, Occasional flooding, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Arching, Irregular, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Aggressive, Dangerous thorns, May be difficult to find in nurseries
  • Wildlife Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

Size and form:

Osage-orange mature height and width is 20 to 40 feet with thorns that are especially ferocious on new growth.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to the southern United States.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

Small mammals are attracted to it.

Bark color and texture:

The gray-brown to orange-brown bark is distinctly furrowed into an irregular criss-cross pattern. The bark has a somewhat fibrous appearance. It has thorns which can be particularly prickly on new shoots.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color:

The simple, alternate leaves are egg-shaped and 2 to 5 inches long with the margin being untoothed. Leaves are medium green in summer and change to yellow-green or yellow in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Male and female flowers are on separate trees (dioecious) in round clusters, but are ornamentally unimportant.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The fruits are large, 4 to 6 inch diameter, ball-like structures. They are yellow-green in color and have a surface pattern that resembles that of a brain.

Plant care:

This is a very tough species that can withstand many different soils and environments once established. Female trees need a male tree pollinator in order to produce fruit. Osage-orange suckers freely and with its thorns can quickly form an impenetrable barrier.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

No serious pest problems. The stems can be thorny.

White Shield osage-orange (Maclura pomifera ‘White Shield’):

A fruitless cultivar that has few to no thorns. It grows 35 feet high and wide, is fast-growing, and produces yellow fall color.


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