Mutant Tree

By | 29 Aug 2014
Our mutant fruit

Our mutant fruit

I have finally found out what our largest, most dominating tree is – a Maclura Pomifera.

It seems it is a common tree in the US, known as Osage Orange or Hedgeapple, but this is not something we’ve personally come across before in Europe, although it does exist.  None of our neighbours knew its name, nor our workmen (who asked me what is was), nor other visitors.

We call it our mutant tree because it is very tall (about 18m), has a beautiful veiny trunk and mostly because it produces enormous, ugly, heavy fruit that  are about min 10-15cm wide.  It is definitely not a place to park one’s car under for shade: those ‘fruit’ will cause some serious dents.

I tried searching online for the tree before but didn’t get the right answers.  This time I googled ‘tree with huge green balls’ and it worked.  Main info I got was from these 2 entries:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maclura_pomifera

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Maclura+pomifera

They are supposed to have thorns, but I haven’t noticed any on ours.

One neighbour told us how the tree has given them much amusement as the former owner, when he’d quarrelled with his wife, had bought a caravan and put it in the shade under the tree (either him or his sister obviously not wanting him inside the house).  The neighbours would be sitting in their garden and every so often would hear the sound of a heavy fruit loosened from its branch, whistling through the air as it descended, followed by the clunk of it hitting the caravan; as if it was being dive bombed.  They wondered how he got any sleep in it.

Known colloquially in the US as ‘monkey balls’, the fruit has no nut, the interior is sticky and it seems that even wild animals find the flavour of the fruit disgusting.  It can’t reproduce from its fruit alone (if one wanted it to) so it’s rather a useless product.  However, a further look down the search results and apparently the fruit can be used to deter spiders!  Now that’s something highly interesting to me, especially in this house that’s been an uncleaned spider nirvana for the last 50 years – it’s going to take a lot to convince the spiders that them to move out.  I will be bringing some of the fruit inside the house immediately after finishing this post.

If that doesn’t work, we may do as one of our workers suggested and try playing pétanque with them.

So today’s lesson was that one should always look a bit further – some things which initially look useless or a pain, can have valuable hidden talents.

ADDENDUM:  From a photo, a horticulturist friend of a friend thought the tree might be a bread tree, but it is too far from the tropics here and the bark isn’t the same.  But that prompted me to look up whether this Osage Orange fruit is edible and apparently the seeds of it are.  Details from this website: http://www.eattheweeds.com/maclura-pomifera-the-edible-inedible-2/  although as they state, it does seem a lot of effort for little harvest.

 

 

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