Having grown up in the urban north, Osage oranges were not part of the landscape. Here in the South, where they are native to Arkansas and Texas, they provide something completely different from the usual oaks and pines I saw growing up. The tree itself has a shape that, when devoid of leaves, would not be out of place a gothic horror movie. More fascinating are the brain-textured, softball-sized fruits in their wonderfully garish and decidedly un-wintry chartreuse.

This tree stood tall between two parking lots on the University of Arkansas-Little Rock campus. Osage oranges go by many names, including bois d’arc and horse apple. I’ve also heard them called “fungoes.” Etymological guesses anyone?  The osage orange is the subject of a nice piece by retired extension horticulturist Gerald Klingaman, who is now director of operations at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks.

BIG AND GREEN -- An "osage orange" fruit up close.
AIR BALLS -- Three of the osage orange's fruit are still aloft on a bright, clear January day.

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