Trees in History! Osage Orange in Kentucky?
Osage Can You See !
The osage-orange (Maclura pomifera) is native to Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas, yet the unofficial national champion osage-orange can be found in Kentucky.
There are many debates as to how this tree even ended up in Kentucky, let alone how it grew as large as it is. This magnificent osage-orange can be found at Old Fort Harrod, in Harrodsburg Kentucky which was originally built in 1774. The tree is America’s unofficial national champion for the species. The national champion can be found at Red Hill Patrick Henry’s National Memorial in Virginia. The tree in Kentucky is taller and broader than the osage-orange in Virginia, but it cannot be dubbed as “the national champion” because of its split-trunk.
The fruit of an osage-orange is green and fleshy. They’re about the same size as a large grapefruit you might buy at a grocery store. They have dark ridges that make the surface of the orange easy to compare with the surface of a human brain. This fruit attracts a lot of squirrels and small mammals and is said to detract spiders when stored in a crawlspace. Early uses for osage-orange trees were for Native American bows (thus the name Bois D’Arc, or Bodark), pioneer fences (thus the name hedge apple) and for pesticides and dyes.
Was this tree brought to Fort Harrod in the late 1700-1800’s by a pioneer, did Lewis and Clark bring it back during their travels or was it planted by Indians because of its good bow making properties? No one seems to know who planted this tree but it is a sight to be seen if you are in the Harrodsburg area.
Trees in History, series provided by Jud Scott, who is a lover of trees and history. If you need help preserving a tree or resolving a tree conflict, Jud can be reached at 317-815-8733
or by email at Treeconsultant@aol.com.