James K. Radke

Photographs © 2017 James Radke, All Rights Reserved

Hedge Apple, the fruit of the Osage Orange tree

Hedge Apple, the fruit of the Osage Orange tree

Hedge Apple, the fruit of the Osage Orange tree

JKRadke©2016 All Rights Reserved

History (wikipedia)

The earliest account of the tree in the English language was given by William Dunbar, a Scottish explorer, in his narrative of a journey made in 1804 from St. Catherine’s Landing on the Mississippi River to the Ouachita River. It was a curiosity when Meriwether Lewis sent some slips and cuttings to President Jefferson in March 1804. According to Lewis’s letter, the samples were donated by “Mr. Peter Choteau, who resided the greater portion of his time for many years with the Osage Nation.” Those cuttings didn’t survive, but later the thorny Osage orange tree was widely naturalized throughout the United States. In 1810, Bradbury relates that he found two trees growing in the garden of Pierre Chouteau, one of the first settlers of St. Louis, apparently the same person.

The trees acquired the name bois d’arc, or “bow-wood”, from early French settlers who observed the wood being used for war clubs and bow-making by Native Americans. Meriwether Lewis was told that the people of the Osage Nation, “So much … esteem the wood of this tree for the purpose of making their bows, that they travel many hundreds of miles in quest of it.”Many modern archers assert the wood of the Osage orange is superior even to English Yew for this purpose, though this opinion is by no means unanimous.The trees are also known as “bodark” or “bodarc” trees, most likely originating from a corruption of “bois d’arc.” The Comanches also used this wood for their bows. It was popular with them because it was strong, flexible and durable, and was common along river bottoms of the Comanchería. Some historians believe that the high value this wood had to Native Americans throughout North America for the making of bows, along with its small natural range, contributed to the great wealth of the Spiroan Mississippian culture that controlled all the land in which these trees grew.

 

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July 16, 2016 - Posted by | Trees | , , , , , , , ,

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