Osage Orange

Walking along the path in the Botanic Garden that runs more or less parallel to Trumpington Road, we came across dozens and dozens of what looked like yellow-green balls beneath two trees. They looked like versions of yellow tennis balls, only much bigger. The biggest we probably about 20cm (8inches) in diameter.

How hadn’t we seen them before when they were on the trees? How could we have failed to see them?

Mark pulled one apart and we could see they didn’t have a peel or a shell. Rather they were self-contained versions of something like a cauliflower, with the stalks reaching into the middle of the ball, and the surface tightly packed.

Maclura pomifera, commonly known as the Osage orange, horse apple, hedge, or hedge apple tree, is a small deciduous tree with these fruiting bodies. The fruit are inedible to humans and more or less inedible to animals save for black-tailed deer in Texas and fox squirrels in the Midwest. The belief is that they were once the food of a species of animal that is now long extinct.

Their range is in a fairly narrow area of the South West United States.