Saturday, November 20, 2010
Blog Intermission no. 6 (entr’acte) – An Osage Orange
While we were in Nashville last month visiting our daughter’s family, we walked to the playground near their house subdivision. Our two grandsons showed us the way as we had never been there. It was mid-morning during the week so few people were around. Our eldest grandson (soon to be 4 years old) was eager to get to the playground.
We were following the children and at the same time looking at all the surrounding vegetation.
As we were approaching the pine trees on the left of the path in the picture below
I could see some large green round things below the trees – which I took for tennis balls. But coming closer, I saw they were not tennis balls.
I wanted to examine these weird looking balls but I was falling behind – after all, it was our mission to get to the playground quickly.
No other children were using the playground so our little grandsons had a great time going up and down the slides.
After the little kiddies had climbed the playground gym many times, we had to go back for lunch. They were also a little tired.
While they rested I went ahead to take a better look at those bright green balls. It’s a little bit hard to distinguish them on the picture below. They can be seen on the ground below the pine trees and hanging on the tree on the left.
They are quite heavy and large as you can see below. They look like a brainy orange. My husband told me they were called “Osage Orange.”
So we walked back home…..well, some of us did…
When we were back in Georgia I looked up information on the Osage Orange. It is actually a Maclura pomifera, commonly known as Osage Orange but also as Hedgeapple, Green Brains, Mock Orange and Bodarck. The common name comes from the American Indian Osage tribe because they lived near the home range of the trees bearing these fruits. They do have a pleasant citrus smell.
I found out that the American explorer Meriwether Lewis wrote to Thomas Jefferson from St. Louis on 26 March 1804 (before his travel west now called The Lewis and Clark Expedition) "I send you herewith enclosed, some slips of the Osages Plums, and Apples. I fear the season is too far advanced for their success." He had obtained the cuttings "from the garden of Mr. Peter Choteau, who resided the greater portion of his time for many years with the Osage nation." Jean-Pierre Chouteau (1758-1849) was an early settler. With his brother Auguste, he fostered good relations between the US government and the Osage Indians. He negotiated the Osage Treaty of 1808.
Jean- Pierre Chouteau had introduced these species of Maclura pomifera (Oranger des Osages de la famille des Moraceae) to gardens in and around the village of St. Louis at the end of the 1790s. He said that he had received them from an Osage Indian and so they became known as Osage Oranges. They are not edible apart from the seeds which are prized by squirrels.
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