Leaf Type: Deciduous
Mature Height: 8-15 m (~30-50 ft)
Fall Color: Yellow
Native Range: Historically, osage oranges have a limited range, but since have been commonly cultivated throughout the Midwest and east toward the Atlantic.
Osage orange trees are members of the mulberry family; one characteristic of this family is the milky sap found inside the leaf stems. The leaves of the osage-orange are long and pointed ovals with smooth edges. They are dark green and glossy on top with a paler underleaf. The branches of this tree have short thorns that are about one inch long. Osage orange trees are most recognized by their fruit, which is a large, hard, green ball that can weigh over a pound. Inside, there are several seeds. If the fruit is damaged or cut, a milky substance will ooze out. We recommend not sampling the fruits & nuts of the trees and plants here at Adventure Science Center. The bark of an osage orange is thick and deeply furrowed with dark orange within the furrows. The bark will sometimes peel in strips. This tree is in the Artifact ecozone of the arboretum, which means it has been through the various stages of change on this land including when it was a bustling African-American neighborhood, the creation of the highway you see before you, and the construction of Adventure Science Center!
● Thorns along the branches and near the leaves and hard, rot-resistant wood, make osage-orange trees a great choice for a natural fence.
● Branches and wood from the osage-orange tree were used by Native Americans to make bows for hunting. This gave the tree its other common name, bois d’arc (pronounced “bwoh-dark”), which is French for “bow wood”.
“If Trees Could Sing” is a project of The Nature Conservancy that highlights several recording artists and demonstrates the importance of trees. Check out what Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show has to say about the osage orange.
Did you know that trees provide homes for animals, keep us cool and clean our air? Click here to learn more about the benefits that trees provide to us and our world.
This site has a rich human history, including the story of the Bass Street Community, one of the first Free Black neighborhoods in Nashville. Click here to learn more about St. Cloud Hill and its many inhabitants over the years.