Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera)
Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera)

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Common Name(s): Osage Orange, Horse Apple, Hedge Apple, Bois d’arc

Scientific Name: Maclura pomifera

Distribution: South-central United States

Tree Size: 50-60 ft (15-18 m) tall, 1-2 ft (.3-.6 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 54 lbs/ft3 (855 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .76, .86

Janka Hardness: 2,620 lbf (11,640 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 18,650 lbf/in2 (128.6 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,689,000 lbf/in2 (11.64 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 9,380 lbf/in2 (64.7 MPa)*

*Estimated crushing strength from data of green wood at: 5,810 lbf/in2 (40.1 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 3.8%, Tangential: 5.6%, Volumetric: 9.2%, T/R Ratio: 1.5

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is golden to bright yellow, which inevitably ages to a darker medium brown with time: primarily due to exposure to ultraviolet light. See the article Preventing Color Changes in Exotic Woods for more details.

Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a fine to medium texture. High natural luster.

Endgrain: Ring-porous; large to very large earlywood pores 2-3 pores wide, small latewood pores in clusters and tangential bands; tyloses extremely abundant; growth rings distinct; narrow to medium rays visible without lens, spacing normal; parenchyma vasicentric, lozenge, and confluent.

Rot Resistance: Osage Orange is extremely durable and is considered to be one of the most decay resistant woods in North America.

Workability: Working this Osage Orange can be difficult due to its hardness and density, though it is reported to have little dulling effect on cutting edges. It turns well, and also takes stains, glues and finishes well.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Sap has been reported to cause dermatitis. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Having typically small, crooked, and knotty trunks, Osage Orange isn’t usually harvested for lumber, but can occasionally be found for sale in either board or small turning block form. Due to its domesticity and adequate supply, the price should be moderate, though likely to be higher than most other native lumbers on account of its “specialty” status.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Fence posts, dye, archery bows, musical instruments, turnings, and other small specialty wood items.

Comments: Osage Orange has a relatively low modulus of elasticity compared to its weight and modulus of rupture  which helps explain why it is sometimes used for archery bows. It’s sometimes called Bois d’arc, which literally means “bow wood” in American French.The wood is also very stable, with little seasonal/environmental movement.

One helpful characteristic that can help separate it from lookalikes such as Mulberry or Black Locust (besides being heavier) is that Osage Orange contains a water-soluble yellow dye, so putting shavings into water will turn the water yellow.

Commonly, the wood of a related South-American species—Maclura tinctoria—is imported as Argentine Osage Orange. This imported wood has the advantage of being available in larger sizes, with boards having less knots and defects than the smaller domestic species, Maclura pomifera. (Though it appears, at least on paper, that Maclura pomifera has a lower modulus of elasticity, making it more flexible—which may be good or bad depending upon the intended application.)

Osage Orange has been shown in studies to produce more BTUs when burned than any other domestic hardwood, and is accordingly sometimes used as fuelwood.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the turned photo of this wood species.

Osage Orange (sanded)
Osage Orange (sanded)
Osage Orange (sealed)
Osage Orange (sealed)
Osage Orange (endgrain)
Osage Orange (endgrain)
Osage Orange (endgrain 10x)
Osage Orange (endgrain 10x)
Osage Orange (turned)
Osage Orange (turned)
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Randall

Reading through the comments and noticed a couple of comments talking about the osage orange fruit, or hedge apples, as we call them in Kentucky, being poisonous. I can tell you for sure they are not poisonous. They taste awful, but are not poisonous. Supposedly the fruit have anti cancer properties, and a lot of people claim to have been cured of cancer by ingesting the fruit. Google it, there is a ton of information about it on the internet.

Jeff

Texas people use the name bodark which is an obvious version of the Bois- Darc. Just learned that today when looking at some wood for sale in San Marcos Texas.

Hubert

I use Osage for walking canes but have trouble keeping it from checking. More than any other wood. Any advice?

michael

It is probably not thoroughly dried/cured before you start using it. Osage will let go of its water slowly. My advice would be to put a latex paint/glue or something to seal the ends. Let it dry for a couple months until the moisture content reaches equilibrium. Then clean up the ends and you should be good to go. Also, I will buy your Osage wood. It is ideal for my purposes but I do not have access:)

Morris Graham

Does anyone know the maximum MC per day loss in a kiln that Osage Orange will stand without splitting or checking?

Donna Bethke

My horses are stripping the bark off of my 2 younger trees. The first one is already dead. Any clues why they do this. I’ve had horses in this pasture for years With no problem. I thought it might be a mineral deficiency. I feed a daily mineral supplement plus round bales of jay.

Charles Mc2

In spite of the thorns, the leaves of bois d’arc are a huge favorite of our donkeys. Do you think they may be going for the sap? I do not observe them eating the bark, but my animals have a good bit of freedom to roam. Bored?

James

They call em horse apples too…?

Ben Carlson

I make end-grain cutting boards and am wondering how it would be for that purpose.

Greg

Should be good! Highly decay resistant and the hardness wears well against the onslaught of sharp blades.

Ed Davidson

Osage is my absolute favorite locally sourced, inexpensive turning wood. Fine grain is great fro ornamental turning as well.

john

Hi Ed,
Do you still have this vase turning?? If you want to sell it, please get in touch.
osagemann at yahoo dot com I must say,,,you are a very talented wood turner…
I make wooden kitchen utensils out of it and have since 2005

John

lee fury

Osage Orange: 60#/Cu Ft; 4792#/cord; ~7000 Btu/lbs; 33,500,000 Btu/cord
Black Locust: 52#/Cu Ft; 4200#/cord; ~7000 Btu/lbs; 29,000,000 Btu/cord
Shagbark Hickory: 51#/Cu Ft; 4100#/cord; ~7000Btu/lbs; 28,400,000 Btu/cord
Ironwood
Dogwood
Honey Locust
White Oak: 47#/Cu Ft; 3800#/cord; ~7000 Btu/lbs; 26,400,00 Btu/cord
Blue Beech
Red Oak
Beech
White Ash
Hard Maple
Walnut
Black Cherry

lee fury

This is a “sparkling” wood. NEVER burn it in an open fireplace or even campfire. Similar to burning acorns, it will “spit” embers out which can start furniture/rug fires. There should be no combustibles within 5 or more feet of an open fire.

lee fury

I cut and burnt osage for years. Took out a fence line with one tree over 4 in diameter. Extremely old. Heaviest of all American woods. It should NOT be burnt in a fireplace but only in a coal rated stove. It doesn’t burn with the characteristic yellow flame but more like coal or gas with small blue flame. It will burn so hot that it will turn a black cast iron stove glowing red. Not recommended. Cutting a split should be done while green or freshly cut. Once it dries, especially after several years (this wood does NOT rot… Read more »

Sonny Wayne

Why is Osage Orange (or Bois D’Arc as we call them in Oklahoma), always listed on the Janka Hardness test as being tested green?
It’s the only wood I’ve seen done this way.

Scott

For building or fencing applications it is so hard when dried, that it will not accept staples and it will bend nails, so fence with it when green and expect it to get harder as it ages.

alexandra decker

i have a tree service in upstate New York and i have a lot of Osage orange if anyone is interested contact me at (585)721-5407 call or text

steve

I burn boddock (osage) for heat and it burns longer and hotter than anything i’ve used. But not so good for a fireplace because it does a lot of popping.

Leslie Allen

I am new to this site, but i live in an area where there are a lot of these trees. I have also heard how people put these in their basements to ward off spiders. My dog recently died of canine dysautonomia (aka disautonomia) and I think somehow it has something to do with the toxicity of these hedge apples that are all over our property. This is just a theory of course and I have no way to prove it.

Kristina

I know you posted the comment about your dog a few years ago but I wonder if it isn’t from mice rather than hedge balls. The mice that carry a terrible disease that can kill people just from the smell of their urine were found in the Midwest mostly. Dogs with the disease yours died of typically spend over 50% of their time outdoors and are located in the Midwest mostly. Hedge is in all of the US. I don’t want to doubt your hypothesis, just try to help give peace if you still live around these trees.

SixStringSensei

I live near the lake in southwest Michigan and we have a good deal of Osage growing locally. It’s one of, if not the, hardest woods in the area, and my favorite to work with. My dad and I use it for all sorts of stuff. I carve a lot of tobacco pipes out of it as it’s a great hardwood for that. My dad is fond of using it on the lathe, making bowls, plates, and various thin-stemmed cups from it. The trees are rather gnarly and ugly as are the bumpy-green “oranges” that grow on them. My dad… Read more »

robert(bob) to keep us appart

have built quite a few peaces of furniture with osage and find it good to wotk with but must caution that a moderate feed rate is needed or it will burn then you have fun sanding it out. the darkening dose not take that long and will occuse in or outside. sands nice and finishes very good with lacquer. try it when you find some you may just like the wood.

bob

Robert

Hello Jeremy: We sawed a couple of very green logs into lumber with a chainsaw lumber mill and had no trouble at all. Though, I would say that chain saws are in a different category. They are a law unto themselves. Once the planks were cut we ripped all “waste wood” off of the planks on a table saw. Again, we had no problems and it was easy going. I have also ripped, crosscut, and milled dried Osage and have had no trouble with power tools. One thing though,,,,,if you linger while cutting or milling as with a router, it… Read more »

Darin Kel J

Osage is not too hard to cut or work, cutting might be a little harder though but rasp, and sanding is a breez, I’ve been able to get glass like polishes on it. It’s one of my favorites, definitely my favorites to work.

Jeremy

Is Osage orange easier to cut green or dried? I’m carving a sign and its taking three times as long as it normally would.

Rustic

I have been making rustic furniture with Osage for about 12 years. I use wood that has been dead for about 30 to 40 years. At that stage it is VERY hard. Work it green if you can. I clean the branches with a knotted wire brush with a flexible shaft and electric motor. It wears out the wire wheels. When the loose dead sapwood comes off the heartwood just starts to polish, the wheel won’t touch it.

Robert

Hi: I just wanted to answer and/or comment on some things mentioned above about Osage Orange. I have worked with it as turnery, and as cabinet wood, I have also used it after air-drying it for couple of years. It does warp if the log has much reaction wood in it. Unfortunately, most of these trees contain a lot of reaction wood! (The wood grown as the tree tries to compensate for a load, as in bending loads on a branch, for example.) However, once it has dried, it is quite stable (Even some reaction wood can be acceptably stable… Read more »

SixStringSensei

I live near the lake in southwest Michigan and we have a good deal of Osage growing locally. It’s one of, if not the, hardest woods in the area, and my favorite to work with. My dad and I use it for all sorts of stuff. I carve a lot of tobacco pipes out of it as it’s a great hardwood for that. My dad is fond of using it on the lathe, making bowls, plates, and various thin-stemmed cups from it. The trees are rather gnarly and ugly as are the bumpy-green “oranges” that grow on them. My dad… Read more »

stephen knives

we live in kentucky we call the tree’s hedge apple tree’s we use the fruit that fall’s from the tree to repel spider’s and other insects from our home and garage just put the fruit on reynolds wrap the more it rot’s the better it repel’s bugs it will last about six months the spyders will be gone.

Cindy

Has anyone tried making bowls and such on a wood lathe from osage orange wood? It’s such a pretty wood… I wondered about the sealing of a bowl after it’s made…does polyeurthane work or should one use like a sealing spray? My boyfriend and I are working on making spoons to start with to see how they look. It does seem like a hard wood. I wonder how rare osage orange trees have become?

Vince Lee

I have sevral very large hedge trees that i think that I am going to saw into lumber what is the best way to dry this type of lumber to keep it so that it can be used.

Susan

We call them hedgeapples as the trees are commonly known as hedge trees because they were planted in rows or hedges to stop wind erosion. They grow in low twisted branches but some do grow very tall. The hedge apples are not poisonous. The squirrels eat the seeds in the middle but most animals do not like them. There are supposed to repel insects like spiders, crickets, and roaches by placing in an area.

Peggy Driscoll

I picked a couple of the fruit from a tree that had fell from this tree which we always called Horse Apples and that they were poisonius and to not ever touch them. Why would our parents who went thru’the great depression in the 30’s tell us this and just what are they?

Bill

Help. . . .
Can anyone please tell me what the glueing properities of Osage Orange are?
Thanks, Bill

Siemers, Siegmar

I am desperately in search for the compressive strength of osage orange. Can anybody give me the number(s) ? Thank´s
Siegmar Siemers

Duane

I can also get small to medium pieces for turning. I also have access to a limited amount of 100 +year old fence posts that have been removed. Hedge when cut green into boards tends to twist and split as it dries. The old stuff will be dark brown the green a glorious flaming yellow. I have never seen logs already dried cut into boards as you will see sparks from your saw blade when cutting it. I have worked with several exotic woods famed for their hardness and hedge is at least as hard as them esp. that raised… Read more »