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Monday, September 12, 2011

Apple Gourd, Indian Cigar, Osage Orange

apple gourd
Sunday was full of surprise offerings from nature. A friend had been growing these apple gourds tied onto his porch and offered me one when I drove by and stopped to look at a tree in his yard.

Since I have looked longingly at these in the local gourd show and despaired over the high price, this was a really good surprise.

It is one of those things I saw I will grow someday. No need now, for I have the one I want. However, I will dry this and maybe harvest the seeds. I do hate to cut a hole in it.

Apple gourd uses
At the gourd show, coming soon, people make all sorts of containers and ornaments from these.

Indian Cigar Tree

longest (right) is over 14 inches long
Friday, as I was driving my car and exbf was a passenger, he exclaimed, "Oh, an Indian Cigar Tree!" He had turned quickly and craned his neck as we passed the house where the guy with the apple gourds lives. I am telling you, I have only seen him get this excited over Dr. Who and Auburn football.  He actually shocked me. This called for circling the block while he explained that he and his friends played with the seed pods as children.

The guy with the tree was on the front porch on his cell phone and saw me trying to reach a seed pod when I returned later to try to reach one. On Sunday, I stopped and talked while he was walking somewhere. He had picked some pods for me by pulling the limb down with a rake. All I had to do was get them off the porch. He offered me the apple gourd while I retrieved the seed pods.

On Sunday night, I told exbf about getting the seed pods. He was very interested, and I supposed pleased that I cared. As usual, I wonder what utilitarian uses these might have beyond propagating more trees. When I wondered aloud their uses, he sounded even more excited. "Oh, they've got lots of uses...swords..."

I laughed aloud. The little boy was speaking. It was cute. I explained that I meant as people or animal food or something like scrubbing the dishes. He had told me they peeled them and the inside was solid, not like separate beans/seeds.

Yes, Indians did smoke them. They are hallucenogenic! Exbf said that if they had had a match, they might have lit one, but they were not allowed to play with matches.

Indian Cigar Tree facts
This tree is called a Catalpa tree, produces large, showy flowers and messy seed pods. It is the home of worms used in the South for fishing. Daves Garden has plenty of facts. Surprisingly, ehow has a good article about the tree and history. Oh, it is garden ehow.

Osage Orange
Osage Orange
Zombie Brains
Since I had these two unusual pieces of nature, I remembered that I wanted to check on the Osage Orange tree. I found few in the yard and in the street. Like the Indian Cigar Tree, this sits within feet of the curb.

For several years, I have used one of these at Halloween on a table I set up near the road for Trick or Treaters. A sign in front of the plated Osage Orange says "Zombie Brains." Now, if this were in a large jar of colored water, it would be even more creepy.

The wood of the tree is excellent for fence posts and firewood. A fence can be made by letting the "brains" rot in a bucket of water. Add water. Mash. Dig a trench where you want the fence to be and pour the slurry from the bucket. The fence grows to be thick and impenetrable. Before barbed wire, this was the fence of choice.

No, they do not keep pests away. It seems the best the Osage Orange does is keep them from the immediate vicinity but not from the home.
This article is contradictory in the use of the timber, but go all the way down to special uses and see the amazing special properties of the tree. Some people think these are messy. But most people like the marvelous shade. It seems that planting on the west side of the house, a bit away would provide late afternoon shade for people indoors and out.

Chicken food?
I read about the Osage Orange or Hedge Apple and considered I might just have a source of food for my three hens. So, I offered them some, placing it before them. Initially, the ran from it and returned to investigate.
Osage Orange to right in grass
Yes, It is strange food. Here is a bit of interest, but this is as close as they ventured.

No way

All three hens turned their backs and walked away, pecking at bugs unseen by me. The experts have spoken.  I am going to see if the hens find these more palatable when rotten. I really don't want volunteers from the Osage Orange or Catalpa aka Indian Cigar Tree. So, maybe it all for the best.

Your turn
Who is growing apple gourds? What do you do with them? Do you have these last two specimens in your yard or area?


  1. How big do osage orange get? I've heard people putting them in the four corners of a room to ward off spiders but you said this wasn't true. I'd be happy with a living barbed wire fence to ward off hyenas on the west side! LOL!

  2. The tree? About 30-40 feet high, I think. Maybe higher. Look in the links. Or the fruit? About 6 inches across. If you want some, I can mail them to you for the cost of the postage. There are dozens every day that fall. The spiders won't go in the corners, but they will get under the bed, couch, table and lay eggs or build nests. Under the kitchen sink? Maybe. I

  3. What a great postLinda, and 'The Girls' are BEAUTIFUL!!

  4. Thanks, Patty. I love them. Some days, it seems I cannot get the focus right. Today seemed perfect for me taking pictures.

  5. My horses LOVE Osage orange fruit. I have seen them come to a screeching stop to get one. I was telling my sister this, adding that they were supposed to be inedible. Well I tried to say inedible. instead I accidentally said they are inevitable. which is also true.

  6. Trish, I may tell my horse-owning friends this. The malapropism is funny and true,too. I read somewhere that they were inedible, but that it was just too much work, not that they will kill anyone. Thanks for the comment. I love comments.


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