According to the University of Illinois Extension website, hedge apples are produced by the Osage-orange tree (Maclura pomifera) and are native to that area. They are also native to my area in South Central Kentucky and have an interesting history. Settlers found these trees which are short, dense and covered in thorns, to make a sturdy and safe living fence or “hedge” to protect animals and crops. They aren’t kidding about the thorns…here is a photo from one that grows in the woods behind our house:
The tree itself is pretty non-descript and, if I didn’t just see the fruit growing on it, I would have passed it right by.
What are these good for, you ask? Well, they are not good for eating, that’s for sure, but they do have a very useful purpose. The hedge apple fruit can be a wonderful natural spider repellant for your home. Every fall, Chad and I pick up the fruit and put them around our house, in our garage and in our basement. Neither one of us likes the idea of using chemical sprays inside (or outside for that matter), so we use these every year to help ward off unwanted creepy-crawlies.
They may not be 100% effective, but they do seem to make a big difference and it takes so little time and effort to do it. If you have one of these little trees growing near you, give it a try and see if it works for you, too.