Osage Orange Tree: How To Grow Osage Oranges, Uses, Planting, Care

Woman looks at a Osage orange tree to decide on a fast growing orange tree (horse apple) growing guide for monkey brain fruit, osage orange wood (bois d’arc) also known as mock orange tree.

The Osage orange tree is best known for its fruits that look like brains, which is probably why it is also called the tree with the ‘green brains.’

It can be particularly creepy to see the odd-shaped fruits growing all over the tree.

Some people are of the opinion that it gives off a haunted feel, which is made worse when the fruits are squished on the ground, but there is much more to the ‘bodark’ or horse apple. Past the weird-looking fruits, did you know that the Osage orange is one of the fast growing trees?

It can grow up to three feet a year, and interestingly, instead of having soft wood synonymous with fast growers, the tree’s wood is exceptionally strong. This means that not only is it ideal for shade trees, but you can also make good use of the timber.

Overlook the inedible fruits and see other great qualities of the Osage Orange Tree, and use this guide to plant, grow, and care for your own.

Best Growing Conditions for Osage Orange Tree

The exquisite high-quality wood is not the only reason why the osage orange tree is a homeowners’ favorite.

There is also the upside of it being one of the most resilient low-maintenance trees out there, so you won’t have to show extra TLC or risk killing it.

Graphics with images and texts that shows how to identify osage orange tree.

(Flower Image: H. Zell14, Leaves Image: H. Zell15, Bark Image: H. Zell16 and Seeds Image: Gmihail17)

The osage orange can brave practically anything, be it drought, chill, strong winds, and other harsh conditions.7 For instance, when it comes to watering a tree, you know that you should never neglect it.

But luckily, the watering needs for osage orange trees are pretty much relaxed. You can do it just once a week when the tree is already established, and it will still survive.

To keep it extra safe in the sweltering summer months, you can also consider mulching around trees to help at least preserve the water levels. You may also ask how much sunlight does osage orange tree need each day.

Well, it will live under indirect sun, but not to the fullest. Without at least 6 hours of direct sun, it will grow rather slower than usual.

Tips To Grow Bois D’arc

The osage orange tree may seem complicated to plant, but it really isn’t, all thanks to its resilience and easy maintenance. The following are a few planting tips for osage orange tree that you may need if this is your very first time planting it.

  • How far apart to plant osage orange tree

Maybe you need to grow a couple of them around your house to form a hedge for privacy or security; in this case, leaving a 3-4 foot distance between each planting will suffice. Thankfully, the leaves tend to grow dense and will soon serve the purpose.

  • When to plant osage orange tree for the best yield

Of course, you want nothing but the highest yield from your newly planted trees, and it starts with knowing the best time to plant. Even though the tree will withstand various conditions, it is best to plant in spring when the air and the ground are warmer.2

This way, the tree will have a lot of time to establish itself.

Osage Orange Tree Growing Zone

A tree’s planting zones go a long way to help you decide whether it will be a good idea to grow it or not. You have to find the perfect balance where the plant is comfortable; otherwise, it will only cause one problem after another.

In this case, the growing zones for osage orange tree (where to grow it effortlessly) are in between USDA zones 4-9. This should tell you quite a lot about the tree, the fact that it grows within a pretty wide range of conditions and will survive no matter what.

Osage Orange Tree Growth Rate

Do you want a shade or a privacy tree? Then you must be very keen on how long does it take for a tree to grow. The last thing you want is to wait decades before your planted tree reaches its full potential, which is why you want to know how long it takes to grow osage orange tree.

It is exciting that this tree is also known for its exceptionally fast growth rate. While typical fast growers reach 2 feet a year, the osage orange can attain 3 feet, sometimes even a record 7 feet annually!

You are in luck if that is the main quality that you go for.

Companion Plants For Growing Osage Orange Tree

You shouldn’t let your osage orange tree grow sad and lonely in your yard.9 Why don’t you plant its favorite companions next to it for mutual benefit?

There are so many plants and trees out there that blend so well with the tree. For instance, other fruit trees like apples and cherries make great pairings for various reasons.

They offer mulching and shading for the soil, and at the same time, you can use the osage orange as the sacrifice to keep other fruit trees safe from wildlife. Apart from fruit trees, you may also want to consider ground-cover plants like the strawberry and nasturtium.

These will protect the ground from excessive evaporation giving the tree better chances of growth. Alliums like garlic and onions also have the ability to repel pests that would attack your tree.

Common Monkey Ball Tree Uses/ Monkey Brain Fruit Uses

Like many other types of trees, the osage orange also has its upsides.

  1. It was fronted as one of the trees that would help in preventing soil erosion in the year 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt through the “Great Plains Shelterbelt” project.
  2. All thanks to the sharp thorns and how dense they grow, the monkey ball trees make great livestock hedges.
  3. Natives found a way to make concoctions with the roots and use them for eye sore treatments.
  4. The weird and gory brain-like look of the fruits makes them ideal for use as Halloween decorations.
  5. Crafters also use the fruits as decor and centerpieces.
  6. The osage orange tree wood is a great way to earn income as a farmer if you plan to plant it on a large scale.

Why Is Osage Orange Wood Special? Osage Wood Uses

Perhaps the most invaluable part of the osage orange wood is its timber/ wood. It may be one of the reasons why you would want to plant it in the first place.

  1. The Native Americans used the wood from the tree to make handles, tannins, and ropes.5
  2. The wood that comes from the tree is one of the most durable ones, which explains why it is used in the making of fence posts.
  3. Because it is decay-resistant, the timber is an excellent material for woodwork projects like railway ties.
  4. Its sturdy nature enables its use in the making of archery bows.
  5. Did you know that the osage orange tree wood has one of the highest BTU levels? Even higher than that of black locust timber? So, this automatically means that it is perfect for firewood.
  6. Do you see the yellowish hue on the wood? That can be used to make golden dye.

Osage Orange, Hedge Apple, Horse Apple, Bois d’Arc, Bodark

(Maclura pomifera)

Photo of the Osage Orange Tree in an oval frame on green background.
  • Family: Moraceae
  • Genus: Maclura
  • Leaf: green or yellow in fall, glossy, ovate, arranged in an alternate pattern
  • Bark: orange/ light brown in color, with straight or curved ridges
  • Seed: small, flattened, dark or light grey in color
  • Blossom: yellow or green but not significant, separate male and female
  • Fruit: showy drupe that is green or golden in color, measuring 4-6 inches wide
  • Nativa Habitat: Southern USA
  • Height: 25-70 feet tall
  • Canopy: 20- 60 feet wide
  • Type: Deciduous
  • Native Growing Zone: USDA zones 4-9

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Least Concern


Image Credit: Daderot13

The Osage Orange Tree (Maclura Pomifera)

You will likely bump into so many names when you look up the osage orange tree, depending on the region. It is also referred to as the hedge apple, horse apple, Bois d’arc, bodark, or monkey ball tree.

Being a member of the family of Moraceae, it is closely related to the mulberry tree, jackfruit, and figs.1 It is native to the southern part of the US and has, over the centuries, established itself in various parts of the country.

You can guess from the name that the tree bears fruits that look just like oranges, although they are a little bit more unique, with a surface that seems wrinkled up, kind of like brains. Homeowners particularly love the osage orange tree, not because of its fruits but its unique features that make it a top choice for privacy trees.

It tends to grow nasty spines, and the leaves take a rather dense pattern, perfect for creating a security barrier around your home. In addition to that, the tree grows fast and reaches an impressive height of as much as 60 feet.

There is so much that you can do with this tree. It can be shade, a privacy hedge, a security tree, or a windbreak, whatever you want it to be.

Origin of the Tree With Green Balls

You will find the osage orange tree facts pretty interesting. People bump into it if they live in states like Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and other places in the central southern US.

To begin with, the scientific name Maclura pomifera is derived from the name William Maclure who was an American geologist.6 As for the name ‘osage orange,’ many believe that it comes from the Osage Indian Nation, who practically discovered the timber and started using it for making bows in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Photo of a horse apple.

(Image: Katya12)

The hardwood also came in handy for settlers in the US, who used it for their posts and wagon wheels. Its tough nature goes a long way to explain the osage orange tree symbolism, which is endurance/ resilience, and as for how it grows several fruits, it is also known widely as a symbol of prosperity.

How To Identify Osage Orange Tree

Looking at the osage orange tree, you can tell that it is unique in so many ways; here’s how to tell it apart from the rest.

Osage Orange Leaves

Although the leaves are just like many other trees when it comes to the dark green color, ovate shape, and alternate arrangement, there is a difference in how hairy they get and how they tend to ooze a milky liquid when broken.

Osage Orange Flower

Osage orange tree pollination is vital because how else will it produce its fruits?8 This is only possible with the flowers, regardless of how insignificant and tiny they are.

Being a dioecious plant, expect the male and female parts to be on separate trees. Their hairy look means that they are mostly pollinated by the wind.

Osage Orange Seeds

No one is a fan of the osage orange fruits, not even birds and mammals. They have a weird bitter taste, but interestingly, animals can’t get enough of the seeds.

They will find a way to dig into the thick flesh to reveal small flattened light brown colored seeds and devour them, leaving behind the fruit pulp.

Osage Orange Tree Bark

You can spot the osage orange from a distance through its deep furrowed bark, which is light brown or sometimes orange in color. The ridges may be curved or straight, depending on the tree.

Growing an Osage Orange Tree From a Seed, Cutting, or Seedling

Are you looking to grow a tree that will be valuable in the long run without requiring too much from you? Then you should try the osage orange tree.


Starting with fresh seeds that you have just picked from a dropped fruit, you will clean and place them in a moist paper towel, which will go in the fridge for about 15-20 days.4 When ready, you will get to the planting part, where you will sow the seeds ⅜ inches deep in nursery pots filled with potting soil and maybe coarse sand.

Photo of a dried up bois d'arc tree.

(Image: romana klee11)

Two seeds in each pot will do, and you can place them in a warm, well-lit spot; with proper care, the seedling should show up in less than 30 days.


What if you don’t have a green thumb and would rather cut straight to the best part, after germination, that is. You can opt to go for germinated seeds or, better yet, find nursery trees that are 2-3 years old.

The latter seems to be the most preferred because you will have an easier time transplanting from the pot to the final spot. Dig a hole that can accommodate the seedling’s root ball, gently place the seedling, then backfill, watering and caring for it as usual.


Did you spot a vibrant, healthy osage orange tree somewhere, and were unsure of how to have its offspring? This is possible by planting the cuttings. All you need to do is take leafy snips in the summer and dip the ends in rooting hormone, then plant them instead of seeds or seedlings.

Just make sure that the conditions are well-controlled, such that they will find it easy to start rooting.

Common Pests of the Osage Orange Tree

Keeping an eye out for common pests is crucial when caring for osage orange trees.

Graphics with images and texts that shows the common osage orange tree pests.

Be vigilant against these pests to ensure the tree’s health and vitality, here are the pests to watch out for.

  1. Osage orange borer: This is a nasty beetle species that seems to particularly target the tree, leading to the drying up of leaves and slow dieback.
  2. Spider mites: These bugs find the sap on the trees too tasty and end up digging into the cells to suck the liquid out. This causes chlorosis and a slow growth rate.
  3. Bagworms: The leaves of the osage orange are not safe when the bagworms are around. They start falling off, and you know that means interference with photosynthesis (starving of the tree).
  4. Scale: These pests can’t stop themselves from sucking the osage orange tree parts until what’s left behind are dead branches and dying trees.3
  5. Fall webworms: These caterpillars, which are white moths in their larva stage, make the leaves their home and food source, and you know what that means for the tree.

Stopping Hedge Apple Pests

Pests could be the end of your tree, which is why you have to be extra careful the second you spot them on your tree. First of all, prevention.

One of the hardest things is for a healthy hedge apple to get infested, so you have to make sure that you provide everything that your tree needs in terms of food, water, and sunlight. But even so, in case your tree does get attacked, there is natural pest control for osage orange trees, which you can make use of.

Consider using a mixture of neem oil, dish soap, and garlic to repel the insects. You can also introduce the natural predators of the insects to the tree to keep them away.

But if it gets worse, you can also consider using insecticides, although at regulated levels and concentrations.

Common Horse Apple Tree Diseases

Apart from pests, there is one more thing that is even deadlier to your osage orange tree, diseases, especially the fungal, viral, and bacterial ones that don’t usually have a cure.

Graphics with texts and images that shows the common osage orange tree diseases to know how to stop osage orange tree disease.

Here are the common ones and how to identify them.

  1. Osage orange rust: Speaking of fungal diseases, rust is one of the deadliest. What starts as yellow marks on the leaves and branches turns into rust that produces spores, defoliating the tree and reducing the production of its fruits.
  2. Leaf spot: Another killer fungal infection to look out for is leaf spot.10 It progresses from tiny dark spots to more massive ones that cause the leaves to fall off.
  3. Root rot: You must have already heard of root rot by now and how gardeners dread the day that their plants get affected. It is even worse, given that you cannot really see it unless you see that something is off with the tree’s development.
    When the roots are affected, there is no way for the tree to take in nutrients, which causes wilting discolorations and poor growth.
  4. Verticillium wilt: Nothing kills a tree faster than a disease than fungal diseases like wilt. All you see is the leaves changing their shape gradually; unless you do something, the osage orange will be losing its leaves and on the brink of death.

How To Stop Osage Orange Tree Disease

You already know that contracting a disease puts your osage orange tree in danger. It goes without saying that you need to find various remedies to osage orange tree disease prevention and remedies in case of attacks.

It is even way worse now that fungal and viral diseases are air and water-borne. So, there is no way to see them coming, and it is even harder to stop them.

Prevention and control may be the only way to go, that is after fungicides and other chemicals don’t seem to get the job done. To prevent such diseases, you have to practice the highest level of hygiene, care, and maintenance.

Avoid using dirty tools when gardening, and properly feed and water your tree. If, unfortunately, your tree does show signs of infections, the best thing to do is to sever the affected parts and dispose of them, preferably in a fire, to make sure that the pathogens don’t travel again to other plants.

The osage orange tree is one fascinating member of the mulberry family. The most interesting part is its fruit, which grows into a wrinkled brain-looking yellow or green ball, and inside is an inedible pulp apart from the seeds, which are a wildlife favorite.

But it is not useless at all, wait till you come across its stunning wood. The tree comes in a yellowish shade, and the best part is just how it makes the most durable wooden materials: bows, clubs, fence posts, and so many other things.

You may decide to solely grow it for its wood, not necessarily the fruits, unlike with other fruiting trees. You will particularly appreciate how resilient it is in the face of adversity and how low-maintenance it really is.

There is nothing as fun as planting an effortless tree, so go ahead and give the Osage orange tree a shot and see how rewarding it can be.

Frequently Asked Questions About Planting Osage Orange Tree

Can You Eat the Green Fruit of Osage Orange Tree?

The osage orange tree, despite its name, is not related to orange trees, so don’t expect the same juicy goodness. The green fruit from the tree is actually terrible, which is why humans and animals alike don’t like it at all, although, animals only love the seeds and usually dig through the fleshy fruits to access the tasty seeds that are enclosed.

How Much Is an Osage Orange Tree Worth?

Bearing in mind the fact that the osage orange tree’s wood is of high quality, it fetches a really good price in the market. In perspective, you can expect anything around $50- $200, depending on the size and condition of the tree itself.

Is the Osage Orange Tree a Mock Orange Variety?

Despite the obvious similarity in the name, the orange and osage orange are worlds apart in the Plantae kingdom. They are two distinct trees from different families: mock orange from the Rutaceae and osage orange from the Moraceae group, the same as the mulberry and jackfruit.


1Angelo. (2021, April 1). What is Osage Orange, and is it Edible? – Deep Green Permaculture. Deep Green Permaculture. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from <https://deepgreenpermaculture.com/2021/04/01/what-is-osage-orange-and-is-it-edible/>

2D, C. (2023, August 19). How to Grow And Care For Osage Orange. Plantly. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from <https://plantly.io/plant-care/osage-orange/>

3Damask, T. (2013, March 29). Pest Control for Osage Oranges. Weekand. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from <https://www.weekand.com/home-garden/article/pest-control-osage-oranges-18052867.php>

4How to Grow Osage Orange Trees From Seeds. (2022, October 12). Sacred Plant Co. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from <https://sacredplantco.com/blogs/growing-guides/how-to-grow-osage-orange-trees-from-seeds>

5Kumar, D. (n.d.). Friend or Foe: What to Know About Osage Orange Trees. Baumann Tree. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from <https://www.baumanntree.com/friend-or-foe-what-to-know-about-osage-orange-trees>

6NC Cooperative Extension. (2023). Maclura pomifera. NC State Extension. Retrieved December 16, 2023, from <https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/maclura-pomifera/>

7Regents of the University of Minnesota. (2023). OSAGE-ORANGE – MACLURA POMIFERA. University of Minnesota. Retrieved December 16, 2023, from <https://trees.umn.edu/osage-orange-maclura-pomifera>

8Sedar, L. (2023, July 5). The Osage Orange: Useless or Useful. Penn State Extension. Retrieved December 16, 2023, from <https://extension.psu.edu/the-osage-orange-useless-or-useful>

9Browning, S. (2021, October 10). Hedge Apples & Osage-orange Trees. University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Retrieved December 16, 2023, from <https://lancaster.unl.edu/osage-orange-tree>

10Agriculture.Gov.Capital. (2023, October 7). What pests or diseases affect Osage orange trees? Agriculture.Gov.Capital. Retrieved December 16, 2023, from <https://agriculture.gov.capital/what-pests-or-diseases-affect-osage-orange-trees/>

11Bois Darc Photo by romana klee. CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Cropped and Resized. Flickr. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://flickr.com/photos/nauright/6692996893/>

12Horse-Apple Photo by Katya. CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Cropped and Resized. Flickr. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://flickr.com/photos/katunchik/22485537976/>

13Species Information Image: Lasdon Arboretum – Maclura pomifera – IMG 1420.jpg Photo by Daderot. (2009, November 1) / Public domain. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lasdon_Arboretum_-_Maclura_pomifera_-_IMG_1420.jpg>

14Maclura pomifera 003 Photo by H. Zell / Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0). Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maclura_pomifera_003.JPG>

15Maclura pomifera 002 Photo by H. Zell / Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0). Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maclura_pomifera_002.JPG>

16Maclura pomifera 008 Photo by H. Zell / Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0). Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maclura_pomifera_008.jpg>

17Maclura pomifera seeds Photo by Gmihail / Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Serbia. Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maclura_pomifera_seeds.jpg>