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

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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27 thoughts on “What are hedge apples used for?

  1. Have always wondered about pickled eggs, you use to see them kept on bars in taverns, they seem to be there for months? Just how long can you keep picked eggs and is there a certain rato of vinegar/ water?

  2. One year, I attempted to drill a hole through the center of a hedge apple for the purpose of making Christmas ornaments to hang in our trees. An I-bolt would have been used and the hedge apple painted, but the hedge apples split.

  3. Interesting, did you try sealing the exterior of the hedge apples and letting dry before drilling or?

  4. I was not able to find places to sell hedge apples, but have seen them in local grocery stores in the past few years. That might be a market for you.

  5. Please tell me what the purpose of a Hedge Apple is? They’re in edible and they serve no purpose from what I can find, maybe I haven’t looked hard enough.

  6. As a young lad in the ’50 s. Grandma would hang the carpets on the clothes line and us boys would throw hedge apples at the carpets to clean them

  7. I gather these every year and put them in my basement and garage. Every place I put them in I find dead bugs. I have been doing this for years

  8. Lawnstarter, you might want to begin by reading information from Colorado State University: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/insect-control-soaps-and-detergents-5-547/
    Further, it seems that insects are repelled by some essential oils. Supposedly spiders are repelled by peppermint and citrus. A few drops of essential oils can be added to a water and dish soap mixture or any soap mixture. I have no evidence that this works but poses no danger to try.

  9. Hedge apples are good at keeping mice away. My friend had trouble every year with mice coming in her enclosed porch every Fall. Ever since she started using the hedgs apples no mice, around 5 years now.

  10. Mary Jane, anything that works to keep mice out of our living areas is definitely a plus! Thanks for sharing.

  11. My friend and I have been finding these in a spot we hang out in. There are several of the thorny trees around, so we decided to cut one open. The inside of it has an unpleasant smell, but neither of us felt or saw any irritation. Is the irritation from the sap dangerous or just an inconvenience?

  12. Jack, The milky juice present in the stems and fruit (hedge apples) of the Osage-orange may cause irritation to the skin.

  13. I remember seeing these(baseball sized & larger), “fruits,” in my Grandma’s basement and back porch areas of her northern Iowa farmhouse in my earlier years. Upon inquiring, I was told they were to repel, reduce, prevent, etc. the intrusion of spiders during the winter season. Recently(October 7th, 2020), I was able to acquire 5 of these rough-skinned spheres while traveling in Michigan with intentions of employing them for spider-repelling properties at my house in Minnesota. Now that I see some comments that they may also work on/against/for mice, I am even more enthusiastic about having finally found some to try.
    I will be sure to offer my results here as they become available, and am hopeful to have some useful data to add to the collection.

  14. How could I get some hedge apples sent to me in Arizona? Do u know any place I could call to have them sent to me? Even the name of a grocery store in Osage Iowa that I could call to ask if they can send me some? Please let me know?

  15. Cathy, what an interesting question! There appear to be a number of sites, including Etsy, that are selling hedge apples. Try Google, “where to buy hedge apples,” and you should get many options. Via Google, there appear to be two grocery stores in Osage, IA. I see them in the fall at the Fareway Grocery; Fareway is located throughout Iowa.

  16. Holy cow, we have an abundance of them here in Middle TN. I never even considered people in other states would be interested in buying them. They are heavy, but several will fit in a large flat rate priority box. I might give it a go on my eBay, TY

  17. Barbara, thank you for sharing. I hope that others who are looking for them will see your comment and contact you.

  18. I had lots of them. My tree over produces. There are still a few left. I heard the same bout purpose of them. If u want these few. Just pay postage (ie Flat rate box). I will mail to you let me know.

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