Perfect fall weather, perfect day.
And the perfect time for a special treasure hunt.
There’s nothing like discovering an Osage orange tree, or the bright green, strangely textured balls underneath one.
Imagine stumbling on something about the size of a really wrinkled softball. It’s also reminiscent of an orange or brain.
Unique, pretty or ugly?
Beauty is definitely in the eyes of the beholder.
After admiring the deeply-furrowed flesh, and it’s easy to see why this is also known as monkey brains or monkey balls.
For the record, it’s not edible despite a somewhat citrusy aroma.
Some folks are even allergic to the milky, sticky sap it contains and develop a skin rash from it.
Ironic since it is in the same family that includes mulberries and figs.
But that’s only the beginning of the story behind this fascinating species.
The name comes from the Native American Osage tribe and their legendary bow-making skills, courtesy of this tree’s strength and durability.
Settlers learned its value and used it for covered wagon wheel rims. It could be bent in the desired shape, and resisted rotting.
Large stands of it in south-central states, including Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, were soon harvested to be made into fence posts.
It was also planted as hedgerows, primarily because it grew fast and wasn’t picky about soil conditions.
Beware about coming too close.
Any space between it and another shrub was occupied by branches lined with large, thick thorns.
This kind of living fence was virtually impenetrable, and kept everything from livestock to neighbors at bay.
Not planted much for this purpose anymore, the trees can still be found in the Midwest, East and South.
Some folks swear they help repel insects, and set them inside to chase away insects.
Midwestern grocery stores and flea markets reportedly still sell them for as much as $2 apiece.