Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bois d'arc Trees

The Bois d'arc tree is facinating. Also known as an Osage Orange, Horse Apple, and Hedgeapple, the wood of the Bois d'arc was highly prized by the Osage Indians of Arkansas and Missouri for bows. In fact, Bois d'arc wood is stronger than oak and is considered by archers to be one of the finest native North American woods for bows. It was (and is still) also used as a yellow-orange dye and insect repellent.

Before the invention of barbed wire, farmers hedged the trees for fencing as the bark contains thorns.

Commerce, Texas (the only "wet" city within a hundred mile radius of the area - for you non-Texans, that means they sell alcohol)claims to be the Bois d'arc Capital of Texas and holds an annual festival, as does Bonham, Texas and a few other locations throughout the country.

The wood is supposed to last a lifetime and for that reason it has historically been used as fence posts. Although the tree is not common in this part of the state (Hill Country) it is prevelant in North East Texas.

Last year, I decided to grow some of these trees from the seeds of the apples. It worked. I now have at least 10 one- gallon-sized trees.

I have a Bois d'arc bench that is awesome. The wood was initially a beautiful autumn orange color but is now a gray color. It sits out under an oak tree taking abuse from Longhorns and is no worse for the wear.

My brother has carved several walking sticks that have retained that beautiful fall color.

An August, 1995 edition of Texas Highways published an article about the Bois d'arc. There was a picture of sliced apples that were reddish in color. The article stated that the apples would turn "colorful" when dried in a warm oven but did not go into detail. I could not get the slices to turn red but they did dry a neat green.

I gave some of the apples to a friend that managed a local florist and they used them in wreaths. The fruit is great for decorations but has a very sticky white sap when cut. During a search, I discovered that Martha Stewart recommended them for decorating, as well. (Martha I ain't).

Texas A&M is studing the role of the Bois d'arc in treatment of Alzheimers and other diseases.
This site has pictures of the tree and fruit and here is a plethora of info.


Hammer said...

Very interesting. I'm surprised I've never heard of it.

Are the apples edible?

NoMas said...

Not for human consumption. I believe only livestock and squirrels eat them.

Now that you know what they look like, you may see one around.

I only know of 3 in the Austin area. Of course there may be more....

Anonymous said...

This is a great tree, in my opinion, although it does have thorns. For the longest, I wanted to find Bois d'arc posts to make my fence, but I couldn't find the wood as fence posts anywhere. Supposedly, there are fence posts made from this wood 100 years ago that are still in good shape today. We have a Bois d'arc at my work place.

NoMas said...

A Bois d'arc at your work - guess the Austin area count is now at 4 trees! They just doen't seem to be prevalent here.

You might could have gotten posts around the Dallas area in one of the little towns. Of course the farmers do not advertise. They just cut them down and burn them.

My dad had to cut down some huge dead pecan trees and bois d'arc trees on his ranch. Of course he burnt the huge pile as I begged him not to do so. Oh well....
P.S. We did get some pecan wood for bbque.