Herb: Osage Orange
Latin name: Maclura pomifera
Synonyms: Maclura aurantiaca, Toxylon pomifera
Family: Moraceae (Mulberry Family)
Medicinal use of Osage Orange:A tea made from the roots has been used as a wash for sore eyes. The inedible fruits contain antioxidant and fungicidal compounds. A 10% aqueous infusion and an extract diluted 1:1 have cardiovascular potentialities.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Woods, fields and thickets in rich bottom lands.
Edible parts of Osage Orange:One report suggests that the fruit is edible but this is surely a mistake - although very large, the fruit is harsh, hard, dry and astringent. The fruit does, however, contain an anti-oxidant which can be used as a food preservative, especially for oils. The heartwood and the root yield a non-toxic antibiotic that is useful as a food preservative.
Other uses of the herb:A yellow dye is obtained from the bark of the root and the wood. Green and orange can also be obtained from it. The sap of the fruit is used as an insect repellent. It is said to be effective against cockroaches. The bark is a source of tannin. The plant is often grown as a hedge in N. America and Europe, it is very tolerant of severe pruning, makes an effective stock-proof barrier and succeeds in maritime exposure. A hedge in a very exposed position at Rosewarne in N. Cornwall has grown well (1989), though it is very bare in winter. This species is also used in shelterbelt plantings. Wood - coarse-grained, exceedingly hard, heavy, flexible, very strong, very durable, silky, lustrous. It weighs 48lb per cubic foot. One of the most durable woods in N. America, it is seldom used commercially, but is used locally for fence posts,piers, bows etc and makes an excellent fuel.
Propagation of Osage Orange:Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in pots in a cold frame. Pre-soak stored seed for 48 hours in warm water and stratify for 2 months at 4°C then sow in a cold frame. Germination is normally good. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seed stores for 3 years. If growing larger quantities of plants, it is probably best to sow the seed in an open seed bed. Grow the plants on for a couple of years in the seed bed before planting them out into their permanent positions. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood, November to January in a frame. Layering in summer. Root cuttings 4cm long in December. Plant horizontally in pots in a greenhouse and plant out as soon as possible. Good percentage.
Cultivation of the herb:Woods, fields and thickets in rich bottom lands.
Known hazards of Maclura pomifera:The milky sap can cause dermatitis in some people. An extract and the juice of the fruit is toxic, though a 10% aqueous infusion and extract diluted 1:1 are not toxic.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.