Skip to main content
osage orange

Q: Do you know of anyplace where I can get some osage oranges?

Q:  Do you know of anyplace where I can get some osage oranges?  It is supposedly also referred to as monkey balls. I read online somewhere that they are an excellent deterrent to spiders and ants.

A: You can purchase Osage Orange, Maclura pomifera, at any local garden nursery; if they do not have it they should be willing to order it for you.  I could not find any educational reference to its ability to deter spiders or ants.  This deciduous North American native tree rapidly grows 30 to 40 feet tall with a spread of 20 to 40 feet and creates a dense canopy, making it useful as a windbreak. Young trees can develop an upright, pyramidal habit. The large, three to six-inch long by two to three-inch-wide, shiny, dark green leaves turn bright yellow in fall before dropping, although this color change is not quite as noticeable on trees grown in the southeastern United States. The bark is deeply furrowed and has an orange tinge to it, and the strong, durable wood is bright orange in color.  Osage oranges are considered reclamation plants that have been successfully grown in urban areas where air pollution, poor drainage, compacted soil, and/or drought are common.It is reported that the Osage Indians made their hunting bows from this beautiful and hard wood, and it is also used to make furniture. From April to June, Osage-Orange puts out its inconspicuous green flowers but these are followed by the very conspicuous fruits.  The fruits are four to five-inch-diameter, rough textured, heavy green balls which ripen to yellow-green and fall in October and November. These fruits are not edible, the juice acid and milky, but squirrels relish the small seeds buried inside the pulp. When the fruits drop, they can be very messy and, for this reason, male, fruitless trees should be selected if you plant this tree. Osage-Orange is thorny, just like true citrus trees, and forms thickets if left to grow on its own. However, there are thornless cultivars available.  Osage-Orange should be grown in full sun on well-drained soil. This tough, native plant can withstand almost anything once established – heat, cold, wind, drought, poor soil, ice storms, and even some vandalism.  It appreciates regular watering when young until it is established, which generally takes about 4 months.  The thornless, fruitless cultivars include ‘Witchita’, ‘White Shield’, and ‘Park’.  Propagation is by seed, cuttings, and root-cuttings. Young trees are easily transplanted. It has no pests or diseases of major concern.