What are hedge apples used for?

Osage Orange
Osage Orange

I, like many of you I’m sure, have seen what we refer to as hedge apples appearing in grocery stores, farmers markets, and garden centers recently. Have you wondered where they come from and if they’re good for anything? I have!

The yellow-green fruit, commonly called hedge apples, is produced by the Osage-orange tree. The female trees produce 3-to-5 inch-diameter fruit which ripens in September and October and falls to the ground. Other cultivated members of the Osage-orange family include the mulberry and fig.

I have heard many people say hedge apples are great for pest control. They put them around the foundation of their homes or in the basement to deter cockroaches, spiders, boxelder bugs and crickets. This however seems to be folklore. There is no scientific research to support hedge apples are an effective insect repellent.

Hedge apple, or Osage-orange, trees are not related to apples or oranges and their fruit is inedible. The milky juice present in the stems and juice may cause irritation to the skin so be cautious if you are handling them.

The most common use for hedge apples that I could find in my research was found with the wood. It is extremely hard, heavy, tough, and durable. Many archers consider the wood to be the finest wood for bows. It is also used for fence posts and furniture.

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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73 thoughts on “What are hedge apples used for?

  1. Spears used for decorating in the home are expensive if purchased at decorating shops. I use them in a bowl for decorating. They dry just like they look on the tree. I love the bright green color.
    Hedge apple-Osage-orange trees grow abundantly in Central Kentucky. I live in Eastern Kentucky and found these on my brothers cattle farm in Lancaster, Kentucky.

  2. Can anyone tell me if they really repel insects, and mice. I have a problem with spiders and mice. I would appreciate if anyone can, or could answer for me. My email is m.p.shaner62@gmail.com . Thanks for replying.

  3. Hi Mark,
    there is no scientific evidence that hedge apples repel insects. However, there is no harm in trying. The fruit of the Osage-orange is a nuisance in the home landscape and has little value even to wildlife as the fruit is unpalatable. The belief about the use of hedge apples for insect control is widespread and persistent. It is claimed that placing hedge apples around the foundation or inside the basement will repel or control insects. A few years ago, Iowa State University toxicologists extracted compounds from hedge apples. When concentrated, these compounds were found to repel insects. However, scientists also found that natural concentrations of these compounds in the fruit were too low to be an effective repellent. If you decide to pick hedge apples to check out the repellency yourself or to use the fruit as a fall decoration, it would be wise to wear gloves. The milky juice present in the stems and fruit of the Osage-orange can irritate the skin. Check out these two resources for more information:

  4. Doesn’t matter much what the scientific research has said. Been using them for years and they definitely keep spiders out of the basement! Don’t know what else because I rarely see anything in my basement.

  5. I used to have a problem with mice in my boat during winter storage the last couple of years i have put a few hedge apples in there along with a few moth balls before covering and have had no field mice living in there since, i place them on plastic trays because they do rot over the season

  6. We had a tree beside our house.Every year their we’re 100s of apples in our yard.We would spend hrs. & hrs. throwing them in the woods because they messed up the lawnmower. One year I told the grandkids I’d give them a dime for every one they could throw in the woods.Lesson learned. Cost me 20 dollars each.

  7. I managed to wedge out a peace of hedge Apple once because an elderly man told me they would keep all manner of unwanted pest away and me being me thought how much more effective it might be if opened up. lol… the smell kept getting stronger and stronger and within an hour we had to get rid of it. The fumes made our eyes tear. Also the knife I used was an old hickory butcher knife and the blade had blackened with time. After cutting into the hedge Apple the blade now was all shiny and new. Evidently they can clean away tarnish.

  8. I have had people tell me that they are good for repelling malls. Is this true?

  9. We have quite a few hedge apples still on the tree. I’m thinking I’m going to gather a few, place them on some tinfoil and spread them inside our 5th wheel camper. We live in the country and I’m hoping they might help keep the mice out. I’ll be curious to see how or if it works!

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