The Story of the Tree

 

“It’s hideous.” I said, the first time I ever saw it. This tree is tangled and bent, and doesn’t seem to have more than 3 feet of straight length in its entirety. The bark is rough and grey and scaly, and the limbs, covered with scraggly leaves, are completely unapproachable as they are armed with thorns 1 to 2 inches long.

  

  The tree was used in the hedge rows of cattle farmers prior to the advent of steel, barbed wire fencing. They would have been planted them a few feet apart, in straight rows and the limbs would have entangled themselves together making an impenetrable hedgerow, by cattle or man.

This usage of the tree led to one of its names; Hedge Apple.  It primarily grows in the South Central States of the US. However, the Hedge Apple can still be found throughout the Farm lands all over, especially in old fence-rows where the seeds have resisted modern farming and planting and all efforts to eradicate the nasty tree.

  

 The word “apple” is quite misleading. The tree yields a fruit unlike many; a bumpy, green, 4-5 inch ball that resembles a green brain. In Louisiana, the kids referred to the fruit as “monkey brains”. A very fitting description, actually; I am told they throw them at one another.  This fruit is completely inedible, as it has, inside of it, a liquid that has the texture of latex paint, a rather unpleasant odor, that will irritate your skin if it gets on you.

  

 The older generation would use the fruit, cut in half, laid around the foundation of their homes, to repel insects naturally. These would eventually break down into a soft, slimy mess and rot. Simply repulsive is the only description I can come up with for the entire affair.


This is not the tree you want to plant in your yard.

By all standards of the outside world, the tree is useless. Repulsive. Completely un-inviting. With the advent of barbed wire and fence posts, modern day insecticide, the tree was rendered useless. The thorns are even laced with a sap that will leave a terribly painful sore if one is pricked by their needle sharp tip and the wood is so hard and dense and resistant to rot, the best use for it was to cut it down and saw it into fence posts, which was the end result for thousands of the trees around the end of the 1800’s.  Some of those fence posts are still found and used today, as they have weathered the harsh conditions for more than a century.


The modern day arborist would advise you to stay away from the very idea of this tree when considering what you might plant on your property as its reputation is horrible. It drops its seedlings everywhere, which thrive in almost any condition, and are virtually impossible to kill out.  It is the epitome of the nightmare tree.

 

 

 

 In other states, it is called Podunk, Horse Apple, Hedge,

Bois d’Arc,  Bodark, and Monkey Ball. Scientifically, its name is Maclura Pomifera and it is correctly named, Osage Orange.  One source of info about Osage Orange has this to say, “This plant may become weedy or invasive in some regions or habitats and may displace desirable vegetation if not properly managed.”  Another source says, “It is not a suitable tree for the home landscape because of its large fruit and sharp thorns.

 

 

Attempts have been made by horticulturists to identify and select male, thornless cultivars. Unfortunately, no cultivar has proven to be completely thornless. Until a true thornless cultivar is found, the Osage Orange is probably best suited for wildlife plantings in rural areas.” Furthermore, “ in the hands of a child, the fruit can become a dangerous weapon. They are a nuisance in the home landscape. The “hedge apples” are not an important source of food for wildlife as most birds and animals find the fruit unpalatable.”

If you’re paying attention, you will have come to the conclusion that no one really likes this tree. “Unpalatable, unsuited, nuisance, dangerous, useless, invasive, undesirable, not important”… words like these are reserved for only the most disliked things in our world. This tree should be cut down and burned. Ohh yeah, you shouldn’t burn it inside your house, by the way, it has the highest BTU rating of any American natural wood, which means it burns the hottest of any woods we use here, and it pops terribly bad, sending super-hot embers into your living room floor, the tree is not even a safe source of fire.

            I am sure, by now, you are wondering, “What is the point of all of this?”

The name Bois d’arc came from the French settlers when they realized the Osage and Comanche Indians used this tree, almost exclusively, for making their bows. The grains run very straight on short sections, and the wood is flexible and very hard and resistant to cracking. It is extremely strong and will last for years under the pressures of bending as a bow. In fact, the popularity of the wood for bows was so great that many Native American tribes would travel hundreds of miles to acquire the wood to make their bows. “Bois d’arc” means “bow wood” in French.

So, on the inside, behind all of that bad, nasty tree, there is a particular strength and heartiness to the wood that cannot be found in any other wood on this continent. Wait! There’s more. The density of this wood makes it very good to carve and turn into bowls and handles for tools such as hammers, axes, and hatchets.

 

 Many call makers, such as I, turn calls from Osage because of its sound quality and density and resistance to inclement weather.

 

 

 

 

The wood has a beautiful yellow hue to it and a natural Chatoyancy (perceived depth) when it is polished.

 

You see, in the hands of a master, the Osage Orange tree can be a beautiful, useful, treasured item. I am sure at this point, you may understand where I am going with this, but let me make it clearer.

            Our society, whether it is the people in our family, at our job, or even more specifically at your school, they may see us as useless, undesirable, not important, detestable, unpalatable, nuisances in their lives. They may even tell you that you are one, or all, of these things. I believe, if we hear something enough about ourselves, we begin to believe it.

 

Yet, in the hands of The Master, The Creator, The God of the Universe, in His hands, we are something very special; Something very useful, very beautiful, with a particular strength and resilience, with greatly desired value. We may be the Osage Orange, the Hedge Apple, to the outside world but we are Bois d’arc in God’s hands. We are hand turned, crafted, and polished to a finish with Chatoyance. He can see our depth, and in His hands, the rest of the world will see our depth as well.  Do not forget, because you may be acting like the outside world to someone else. They may seem, to you, as a nuisance, useless, twisted, thorny, unpalatable piece of trash not worth even throwing on the fire… But to HIM…. They are a beautiful, priceless, useful, work of Art full of depth and strength.


Do not forget!  He loves them just like He loves you.

 Don’t tear down your brother or sister; Love them and help them to see their particular value in God’s eyes and hands.

 In Psalm 139 the writer speaks of how God loved him and saw him, and knew him, even in the womb,

 

  how He crafted him “…fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works…”

 

 God did not make you, or anyone within your reach, to be a pile of thorny, useless, not important, branches or sappy, rotting, globs of undesired flesh. He made you wonderful. He made you special. He made you because He wants to know you.

           

   

That is the story of the Osage Orange Tree. Today, you can decide, what you want the world to see. You can decide what you will listen to about yourself. You can decide if you want to continue to show the world your thorns or your Chatoyance.

 

                                        

                              Shine. We are wonderful.