Bois d’Arc Trees are Beautiful & Functional Trees In Texas

by Tammy Taylor~

Isn’t it funny when you’ve lived somewhere all your life you just naturally assume others across the country enjoy all the same stuff you do.  Our daughter was shocked with she moved from Texas to North Carolina & found out they had no Braum’s Ice Cream Stores.  (gasp!)  Or Whataburger.  WHAT?  She soon moved back to Texas, thank goodness.  North Carolina was too far for her to live from her beloved Texas with all its fineries!  LOL

But here on the blog I’ve been surprised that readers say they’ve never seen nor heard of the Bois d’Arc tree.  (pronounced bō-ˌdä(r)k).  They pretty much grow wild here and we have these trees scattered throughout our property.  I love ’em, so I thought I’d write a little about these magnificent trees and how they’re used.

We have several Bois d'Arc trees on our property. Although they're beautiful, they're incredibly functional as well. And how about those crazy-looking horse apples? #TxHomesteader

Useful Wood With a Rich History

When I was growing up we called them Horse-Apple Trees, but they’re also known as Osage Orange or Hedge Apple.

I asked a Master Naturalist about this tree and she shared:

The Bois D’arc tree has many common names including Osage Orange, horse apple, hedge apple and more. This is the tree that native Americans, especially the Osage Indians, preferred for their bows and arrows. This tree was described by French explorers as “Bois D’arc” which means bow wood. Different parts of this tree are used as insect repellent, leather tannin, fence posts, wheel rims, tool handles, etc. The list goes on and on, but the old barns and fences built using this wood are so sturdy, practical and lovely.

Bois D’Arc Is Rock-Solid Building Material!

All I know is that I love these trees.  Our old barn was built in the 1880’s and the heavy posts that hold it up are made of Bois d’Arc.

We have several Bois d'Arc trees on our property. Although they're beautiful, they're incredibly functional as well. And how about those crazy-looking horse apples? #TxHomesteader

When we bought this property the barn was in sad shape.  So we hired a contractor to repair it.  We had them leave the interior intact and only rebuild the outer skeleton & replace the rotting exterior boards.  But even though the barn is over 100 years old the contractors could not nail through the Bois d’Arc posts because they were so dense.  They had to first drill them, and then nail or screw the boards to them.  Fascinating!

I think that’s because in addition to being a very dense wood, Bois d’arc is also saturated with lots of sap.  We cut a smaller tree recently because it was in a bad location & our daughter needed one for her handmade save-the-date notices for her wedding.  Just look at that sap!

We have several Bois d'Arc trees on our property. Although they're beautiful, they're incredibly functional as well. And how about those crazy-looking horse apples? #TxHomesteader

And I know that settlers used the living trees as part of their fence lines because of their strength and longevity.  There’s a place on the back of our property where this is still evident.  Isn’t that old Bois d’Arc wood gorgeous??

We have several Bois d'Arc trees on our property. Although they're beautiful, they're incredibly functional as well. And how about those crazy-looking horse apples? #TxHomesteader

Ranchers around here still love to use Bois d’Arc trunks & limbs in their barbed-wire fences.  Whether built into sturdy anchoring corners or used as natural t-posts, you’ll see Bois d’Arc in many local fences around here. That wood is so dense & rot resistant that it’ll do a fine job holding up that fence for decades.  You can’t beat that!

Bois d’Arc Wood Beauty

And I love how beautiful the wood itself is, especially as it ages.  Such a gorgeous texture & patina.

We have several Bois d'Arc trees on our property. Although they're beautiful, they're incredibly functional as well. And how about those crazy-looking horse apples? #TxHomesteader

I enjoy using some of the smaller pieces decoratively.  I’ve got several pieces of very old Bois d’Arc wood that are used as decorative pieces in my landscaping.

Bois D’Arc Solar Light

And when we needed a personalized gift for our daughter, we made a Solar Light Feature out of a very old, weathered Bois d’Arc post.  It turned out perfectly and our daughter loved it!  And even though this post was decades old, when we cut into the wood it was STILL yellow!  Fascinating.  This is some dense wood for sure!

Solar Light Feature. We have several Bois d'Arc trees on our property. Although they're beautiful, they're incredibly functional as well. And how about those crazy-looking horse apples? #TxHomesteader

Horse Apples

But to me, one of the most fascinating features of the Bois d’Arc tree are these odd orbs that the trees produce.  As I mentioned, when we were kids we called ’em Horse Apples.  They almost look like they belong in outer space do they not??

We have several Bois d'Arc trees on our property. Although they're beautiful, they're incredibly functional as well. And how about those crazy-looking horse apples? #TxHomesteader

Some Say Horse Apples Are A Bug Deterrent

They’re very heavy & dense with a milky inside.  Many old-timers swear by their bug-deterrent abilities.  Back in the day they would toss them beneath the boards of their outhouses to keep spiders at bay.  Many still toss them beneath their pier-n-beam houses or beneath sheds as a natural bug repellent.  I’m not sure how effective it really is but I’ve heard it all my life and as I said, many old-timers still practice it.

Horse Apples. We have several Bois d'Arc trees on our property. Although they're beautiful, they're incredibly functional as well. And how about those crazy-looking horse apples? #TxHomesteader

Horse Apples Can Be Decorative

Others like to use the heavy orbs decoratively.  Some will make them into a pomander and others will cut and dry them for various decorative purposes.  I’ve seen some cut into slices and dried to make cute southern Christmas-Tree ornaments. Personally I like to harvest them and place them in a footed bowl just because I think they look so cool!

(Note, if you’d like to have some of these fresh horse apples for yourself, I carry them in my Online Store when they’re in season!)

So for those of you who have never heard of a Bois d’Arc tree, there ya go.  It’s one of my favorite trees here on the Homestead.  Heck, a beautiful tree sporting hard-as-iron wood and outer-space looking orbs – so many delights!

~TxH~C’mon by & sit a spell!  Come hang out at our ~TMH~ Facebook Page. It’s like sitting in a front porch rocker with a glass of cold iced tea.  There are lots of good folks sharing! 

And you can also follow along on  Pinterest,  Twitter,  Instagram  or  GooglePlus.

 

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16 thoughts on “Bois d’Arc Trees are Beautiful & Functional Trees In Texas

  1. Amanda

    We have osage orange trees here in south central illinois; i haven’t seen many of them naturalized in the forested areas around our local rivers, but they grow like weeds in the windbreaks and around the edges of the old farms. I always try to spend a couple of fall days hunting down a few horse apples for my fall decor!

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I love to use those horse apples in my fall decor as well Amanda. They’re so alien looking! ~TxH~

      Reply
  2. Jack

    I enjoyed your story on the Bois D’arc trees I have never heard of these trees until I started following your blog.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I’m so glad you did, Jack. As I mentioned, I forget that not everyone has the same fauna & flora in their area that we do and was surprised when a reader commented about not knowing about the Bois D’Arc. I love those trees! ~TxH~

      Reply
  3. Nancy

    That honey locust must be the one with the gnarly inch or two inch long thorns. I wouldn’t want to run into those on an innocent hike.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Oh no, Nancy. Honey locust thorns are much, MUCH longer than that. They grow up to a foot long and the length of the trunk and the branches and crammed with them. Those thorns will go right through a shoe, flatten a tractor tire or render a cow temporarily lame. We’d never seen a Honey Locust until we bought this property, and it was covered in them. We’ve spent the first 18 years (so far) eliminating them, whether chainsaw, bulldozer or use of chemicals. There are still hundreds of Honey Locust here, but it beats the many thousands that were here when we first came! ~TxH~

      Reply
  4. Cindy

    You make me miss Texas. I have had a fondness for horse Apple trees since I was a kid. I didn’t learn their real name until I was grown. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed the memories.

    Reply
  5. Nancy

    I never heard of these until we moved to Texas. If you look under a lot of the old houses, you’ll find they are built on Bois d’arc log pieces. When I asked someone (a NE Texas native) I was told that when the cut end of it touches land it reacts in such a way that it becomes hard and won’t rot. There must be some truth to it because one of the houses we lived in, in Commerce was built on them and it will be 100 years old in the next decade and they are still holding that house up. I was reading a history of Ladonia, when we lived there, and before barbed wire was invented the seeds of the Bois d’arc were shipped North. They were planted and formed fencing, to keep animals in or out, as the case may be. (Have you seen the thorns?)

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Yes, Nancy. So many old homes (and my old barn) are still held up by Bois D’Arc posts. I love ’em. And they do have small thorns, but nothing like the mammoth thorns we’re tormented with from the Honey Locust trees! ~TxH~

      Reply
  6. candace Ford

    When ever we were in Ohio visiting the Birdman’s parents we always stopped at a home/garden/bookstore place that was a heritage site (I think) I had to have a couple of new/used paperback books for the trip back. One year there was a pile of the Osage Oranges free to take so I brought one home and had it on the kitchen window sill for a long time. It shriveled and was a dark color and hard as a rock. It’s off the sill now but in a bowl elsewhere in the house. So many interesting things that exist in this world.

    Reply
  7. Patsy

    I grew up in SE Texas and don’t remember ever seeing these trees, but went to visit my sister(she lives east of Dallas) and saw them. I was very intrigued by them. So, I did some research. I love the varied names of the tree, the crazy “apples” and that the wood is so wonderful. Thanks for sharing this and reminding me of that wonderful tree.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I just love ’em Patsy and I’m thankful there are so many on our property. ~TxH~

      Reply

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