Grazing Oklahoma: Bois d’arc

Bois d’arc plants have thorny branches and pointed, ovate leaves. (Photo courtesy of the Noble Research Institute)
The tree is also known as osage orange, bow wood, bodark or horse apple.(Photo by Rob Mattson/Noble Research Institute)

By Josh Gaskamp

Characteristics: Bois d’arc, also called Osage orange or horse-apple, is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree. Before Christopher Columbus, its range was largely restricted to the Southern Great Plains of Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.

It has since been planted and become naturalized throughout the United States. Bois d’arc is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers occur on separate trees. The trees that bear the large, green, round fruits are female. Both male and female plants have thorny branches, pointed, ovate leaves, very hard wood, and white, milky sap.

When cut, bois d’arc wood has a bright orange or yellow interior that turns brown or maroon when exposed to air. Like most trees in the Southern Great Plains, bois d’arc will sprout from the roots when cut down or mowed. Bois d’arc flowers during April and May, and fruits mature in the fall.

Pick up the November issue to learn more!