The Valley’s Fireplace Fruit

osage orange

Now’s the time to spot one of the most unusual fruits found in the Hudson Valley: the Osage orange. FYI, it’s not edible and it’s not an orange. It’s actually a member of the mulberry family.

Originally native to a strip of land in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, the tree was naturalized throughout the U.S. in the 19th century for use as a livestock enclosure — its thorny juvenile stems offered a natural precursor to barbed wire — and an ornamental hedge. When not trimmed, it grows quickly and eventually yields an icky-green, softball-sized fruit covered with nodules. (The tree gets its name from the color of its bark.)

osage orange
An Osage orange. (Photo: Tina Casagrand)

The wood of Osage orange trees is very hard and resistant to rot. Indigenous peoples used it for bows, while later settlers fashioned axe handles and fence posts out of it. It also has the highest BTU of any North American tree. That means it grows long and hot, making it great for burning in your fireplace.