by Texas Homesteader ~
We have many Bois d’Arc trees (aka: Osage Orange trees) on our Northeast Texas property. I guess I’ve always just assumed people throughout the U.S. had them on their property too.
They grow wild here and we have several trees scattered throughout our property.
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. Enjoying the same food, seeing the same plants and birds?
But here on my website I’ve been surprised to hear readers say they’ve never seen nor heard of the Bois d’Arc tree. (pronounced bō-ˌdä(r)k).
Bois d’Arc Tree – 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.
PK Kirkpatrick, Master Naturalist
Bois D’Arc Wood For Rot-Resistant Building Material!
Our old barn was built in the 1880’s and the heavy posts that still hold it up today are made of Bois d’Arc.
When we bought this property the exterior boards of the barn were 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 140 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!
Why Is Bois d’Arc Wood Rot Resistant?
The reason Bois d’Arc is so long-lasting and rot resistant is 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. It was in a bad location & our daughter needed Bois d’Arc wood to make her own handmade save-the-date notices for her wedding. Just look at that sap!
And I know that settlers purposely 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 Bois d’Arc fenceline is still evident. Isn’t that old Bois d’Arc wood gorgeous??
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.
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 the landscaping around our home.
Bois D’Arc Post 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 inside! Fascinating. This is some dense wood for sure!
Bois d’Arc Tree Fruit – 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, but they’re not edible. (Although some animals do nibble on them).
These crazy-looking horse apples almost look like they belong in outer space do they not??
Some Say Horse Apples Are A Bug Deterrent
The fruit from the Bois d’Arc tree is very heavy & dense with a milky inside. Many old-timers swear by its 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’ve never tried it but I’ve heard it all my life and as I said, many old-timers still practice it.
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-themed Christmas Tree ornaments. Personally I like to harvest them and display them in a pretty footed bowl just because I think they look so cool!
Bois d’Arc Wood Makes Excellent Firewood
RancherMan & I use our vintage cast-iron fireplace to supplement the heat in our home. We have a highly energy efficient dual-fuel heat pump so it’s not our sole source of heat.
But of course living out here we have lots of wood at our disposal too. And c’mon, for me at least nothing beats the comfort of a warm fire on a cold day.
So we try to keep our wood rack full during the cold winter months. And according to the Forestry Dept’s Report of wood types used for firewood, the Bois d’Arc tree (also known as Osage Orange) is rated as excellent firewood.
It offers a whopping 32.9 million BTUs of heat per chord! (We also heat with Honey Locust wood when we can.)
Keeping that fireplace going means less paid for purchased fuel to heat our home. And it also keeps any dead trees cleaned up from our property.
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!
Read About Bois d’Arc
- Bois d’Arc – Beautiful & Functional Tree
- Solar Light Feature Using Bois d’Arc
- Bois d’Arc Beauty
- Horse Apple Triplets
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