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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63 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.

  19. Hi Wayne, you will have to look for a hedge apple supplier in your area. In Iowa, the Fareway grocery chain often has them in the fall. Thanks for your interest.

  20. There used to be lots of hedge apple trees around here but farmers have cleaned out fence rows and such so there aren’t as many now but there’s still a few around. We gather them every fall and put them under and around the house to control spiders and mice. It seems to work for us.

  21. We recently moved and have a grove of Osage orange trees. The squirrels chew on the hedge apples, leaving shreds of the outer layer on the ground. We
    Think there must be some food source in them for the squirrels.

  22. Hi Judi, interesting that something is attacking the hedge apples. In general, hedge apples are not an important food source for wildlife as most birds and animals find the fruit unpalatable.

  23. I have a massive hedge apple / Osage orange tree. Someone told me they repel against snakes as well.

  24. Hi Julia, there is no scientific evidence that hedge apples repel snakes. However, there is no harm in trying. The fruit of the Osage-orange is a nuisance in the home landscape and has little value. Hedge apples are not an important source of food for wildlife as most birds and animals find the fruit unpalatable. The thorny trees do provide nesting and cover for wildlife. 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.

  25. I am in Indiana. My boyfriend’s mom told me a few years ago that she puts them in her basement to keep spiders out. I have started doing it every Autumn since and I think it helps.

  26. I have used them as well for insects .and mice they do work..and we have them by the abundance around here in potosi mo

  27. My sister and I just got a bunch of these in Ottumwa, Ia, at a local park. I am going to put them in my basement & garage to see if they keep the spiders away.

  28. My mom would spray paint hedge apples silver and gold at Christmas and use for decorations along with pine cones. We thought they were beautiful. We didn’t know it was just an inexpensive way mom would make Christmas special for us. That was over 60 years ago and it still brings smiles to my face.

  29. FYI – We have hedge apples all over our ranch. The wildlife and our livestock appear to use them as dormant season forage fodder, after they have bletted, fermented and oxidized a bit.

    Otherwise Osage wood has similar uses to black locust.

  30. Watching an episode of GUNSMOKE from circa 1963, 1880 Kansas, Doc finds country orphan Mariette Hartley in perfect health – she claims she eats rabbits and fish, sometimes cooked – and hedge apples…..perfect teeth, perfect health….from what I read here, sounds like a Hollywood Fairy Tale!
    (though now that I think about it, Doc didn’t mention how she had no insects nor mice nor snakes!)

  31. Hi, very amusing comments! And yes, likely a Hollywood Fairy Tale! Only squirrels enjoy hedge apple seeds. For the most part, hedge apples are considered a junk fruit. (https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/1997/10-10-1997/hedgeapple.html) However, an Iowa Chemist has found a way to extract the oil from the seeds for use in the cosmetic industry: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/local/kyle-munson/2015/10/27/hedge-balls-todd-johnson-osage-oranges-bloomfield-alcone-cosmetics-walter-white/74272426/

  32. Oh my goodness. We moved to a farm and have an abundance of hedge apples and they are a nuisance. We have been battling brown recluse in the house. We are sealing up cracks and spraying, we also have black snakes but they stay on the cellar. When the fruit drops, I will be gathering them up and place around the house and cellar (basement). At this point with the recluses, I’ll try anything

  33. some of the old timers testify that hedge apples can be dried and then made into a powder form, and took for medical reasons.a lot of the older folks claim to be healed from cancer after they took hedge apple capsules,or eat hedge apple raw a spoonful at a time.personaly i can neither conform nor can i deny that to be true.

  34. Hi Herman, The use of hedge apples for medicinal purposes started hundreds of years ago by Native Americans who found them growing wild along their tribes’ hunting grounds. Supposedly Hedge Apples have long been used as a natural remedy to detoxify the body as it is said that they are a good source of antioxidants to boost the immune system; however, there is little scientific evidence of such. The fruit is edible but not palatable, so those using if for “medicinal” purposes grind it as you suggest. Some individuals claim the fruit controls insects in the home. Placement of “hedge apples” around the foundation or inside the basement is claimed to provide relief from cockroaches, spiders, boxelder bugs, and other pests. While research at Iowa State University has found compounds (d-limonene, a powerful insect repellent) within the Osage-orange fruit that repel cockroaches, whole fruit have not been proven to repel or control insects in the home. Large concentrations of the compound are needed to repel insects effectively.

  35. Hi Lea, I am sorry for your problem. I am providing you with two pieces of information on Brown Recluse Spiders; both recommend that you work with a professional to eliminate the spiders as likely the hedge apples will not repel them. Hedge apples do contain a compound (d-limonene), a powerful insect repellent; however, it takes large amounts of the concentration to repel insects effectively. The use of hedge apples for insect control is one of the most enduring pest management home remedies. Claims abound that hedge apples around the foundation or inside the basement will repel boxelder bugs, crickets, spiders and other pests. Research conducted at Iowa State University has demonstrated that chemicals extracted from the fruit can be repellant to tested insects (German cockroaches, mosquitoes and houseflies). In addition, sliced hedge apples placed in enclosed, small spaces did repel insects. However, there is still no evidence that putting whole fruit around the house or in the basement will have any effect on insect pests. In large or open spaces there is so much air movement that whatever small amount of repellant chemical may be present it quickly dissipated. In addition the chemicals may not be repellant to all insects or to non-insects like spider, millipedes and centipedes.

    If you choose to try hedge apples, be aware that the milky juice present in the stems and fruit of the Osage-orange may cause irritation to the skin. Equal measures of skepticism and caution are advised!

    Please read these to pieces on Brown Recluse Spiders:
    1) https://extension.psu.edu/brown-recluse-spiders
    2) https://bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/mf3133.pdf

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