Montrose: Weird, wild stuff

Halloween may be over, but the appeal of Osage orange fruit endures.

Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) fruit

The fruit of Maclura pomifera, Osage orange.

On my recent tour of Montrose, we found some unusual looking objects lying about on the ground in the woods. Nancy Goodwin informed us that these are the fruits of Maclura pomifera, also known as Osage orange.

This relative of the mulberry grows as a small tree, between 20-50 feet tall. The fruits, which contain a milky, latex-like juice, are not poisonous to humans, but they don’t taste good. The fruits will float in water. The plant adapts to a wide variety of growing conditions, grows rapidly, and is mostly pest- and disease-free. 

maclura pomifera fruit

The wood is attractive, dense, and extremely strong. Native Americans used the wood for bows. The tree was also planted heavily by the WPA in its Great Plains Shelterbelt program.

Maclura pomifera wood

The wood of Maclura pomifera is strong, dense, stable, and beautiful. It is said to repel cockroaches.

But the plant’s best feature, arguably (though that fruit is quite compelling), is that it repels cockroaches, mosquitoes, and other insects. Studies have found that extracts from the plant perform as well as DEET in repelling mosquitoes.

Want one?


The view in the soup

Venturing down into the backyard swamp, though, I can get a good look at Hyacinthoides hispanica, Spanish bluebells, that are just starting to bloom.

They look great next to the unknown euphorbia my neighbor Martha gave me when I had little more than mud and weeds to cope with (I thought for a long time it might be the variety commonly known as “graveyard spurge,” which is an invasive species, but to my relief, it’s not. It will spread like the dickens, though.)







And Iris ‘Eco Easter’ is starting to unfurl. Its petite, pale blue flowers are sweet looking even when weatherbeaten by the recent heavy rains.

It grows about 12 inches high for me and spreads rapidly in the loose soil of this bed, but is quite manageable. I’m glad to have plenty of it to play with. I do hope to manage it effectively this year, and create clusters rather than long, thin ribbons of plants. I have many such tasks on the to-do list, though, and I am better at rearranging the furniture later on than avoiding the mess in the first place.

Still no sign of Arisaema triphyllum, jack in the pulpit. But Halesia carolina, Carolina silverbell, is leafing out charmingly. I’m looking forward to watching this beauty grow.