The species is dioeceous, with male and female flowers on different plants. It is a small deciduous tree or large shrub, typically growing to 8-15 m tall. The fruit, a multiple fruit, is roughly spherical, but bumpy, and 7-15 cm in diameter, and it is filled with a sticky white latex sap. In fall, its color turns a bright yellow-green and it has a faint odor similar to that of oranges.
Maclura is closely related to the genus Cudrania, and hybrids between the two genera have been produced. In fact, some botanists recognize a more broadly defined Maclura that includes species previously included in Cudrania and other genera of Moraceae.
Recent research suggests that elemol, one of the major components of oil extracted from fruit of Osage orange, shows promise as a mosquito repellent with similar activity to DEET in contact and residual repellency.
The leaves are arranged alternately on a slender growing shoot three or four feet long, varying from dark to pale tender green. In form they are very simple, a long oval terminating in a slender point. In the axil of every growing leaf is found a growing spine which when mature is about an inch long, and rather formidable. The pistillate and staminate flowers are on different trees; both are inconspicuous; but the fruit is very much in evidence. This in size and general appearance resembles a large, yellow green orange, only its surface is roughened and tuberculated. It is, in fact, a compound fruit such as the botanists call a syncarp, where the carpels, that is, the ovaries have grown together and that the great orange-like ball is not one fruit but many. It is heavily charged with milky juice which oozes out at the slightest wounding of the surface. Although the flowering is diœcious, the pistillate tree even when isolated will bear large oranges, perfect to the sight but lacking the seeds.
The fruits have a pleasant and mild odor, but are inedible for the most part. Although not strongly poisonous, eating it may cause vomiting. The fruits are sometimes torn apart by squirrels to get at the seeds, but few other native animals make use of it as a food source. This is unusual, as most large fleshy fruits serve the function of seed dispersal, accomplished by their consumption by large animals. One recent hypothesis is that the Osage-orange fruit was eaten by a giant ground sloth that became extinct shortly after the first human settlement of North America. Other extinct Pleistocene megafauna, like the mammoth, mastodon and gomphothere may have fed on the fruit and aided in seed dispersal. An equine species that went extinct at the same time also has been suggested as the plant's original dispersal mechanism because modern horses and other livestock will sometimes eat the fruit.
The heavy, close-grained yellow-orange wood is very dense and is prized for tool handles, tree nails, fence posts, electrical insulators, and other applications requiring a strong dimensionally stable wood that withstands rot. Straight-grained osage timber (most is knotty and twisted) makes very good bows. In Arkansas, in the early 19th century, a good Osage bow was worth a horse and a blanket. Additionally, a yellow-orange dye can be extracted from the wood, which can be used as a substitute for fustic and aniline dyes. When dried, the wood also makes excellent fire wood that burns long and hot.
Today, the fruit is sometimes used to deter spiders, cockroaches, boxelder bugs, crickets, fleas, and other arthropods. An article posted by the Burke Museum in Washington State claims that this usage, in the case of spiders, has no evidence to support it.
The trees acquired the name bois d'arc, or "bow-wood", from early French settlers who observed the wood being used for war clubs and bow-making by Native Americans. The people of the Osage Nation "esteem the wood of this tree for the making of their bows, that they travel many hundred miles in quest of it," Meriwether Lewis was told in 1804. Many modern bowyers assert that the wood of the Osage Orange is superior even to English Yew for this purpose, although this opinion is by no means unanimous.
Evaluating species limits and hybridization in the Carex complanata complex using morphology, amplified fragment length polymorphisms, and restriction fragment analysis.
Aug 01, 2008; Introduction Carex complanata Torr. & Hook. is a common, widespread species of open habitats in the southeastern United States....