removal of osage orange in Illinois

union2045(IL)February 9, 2006

I grew up on the edge of a field and woods and a beautiful hedge row. We even had tree houses in these hedge trees. We played in this wonderful woods of mainly hedge trees edging open fields and creeks. We had hedgeapple fights. The knarley beauty of these trees will always be special to me, I love the smell and the way the trees become a tunnel over a path. We called one path "the old bus" and everyone believed a bus rotted there because of the shape. Hedge trees will even grow sideways, it's amazing and so beautiful. Now the "nativists" (too much school and not enough time in the woods I'd say) want to remove them and make prairies and savannas. They are calling them invasive and exotic!!! I have a different opinion as to who is invasive. Our conservation district is cutting down hedge trees, using my tax money!! I am just sick over this and it has ruined my walks in the woods with God because I am too angry to find the peace I used to find when I see these beautiful areas being torn up. They are killing the very things I love most about Illinois woodlands. Please help stop this!!

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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Do you know why the conservaton district is removing those trees...? Perhaps you could explain that more clearly.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 8:38PM
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Let me say that I've never been to Illinois and know nothing about Illinois woodlands. In my area, I've only seen Osage Orange grown in old fencerows where it was planted years ago. I've never seen it growing in woodlands.
Nothing spreads the seed because nothing eats the seed.
My understanding is that the Conservation Districts are non-governmental however they do work with the Soil Conservation Svce occasionally to distribute literature and trees.
Are the trees being removed from parkland or what? Why not get a few more facts together and get back with us.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 8:46PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I know why the conservation district is removing those trees. I was just wondering if union understood the problem. It does seem odd for conservationists to be removing trees.

However Illinois is covered in Loess type soils. These are unconsolidated glacial deposits that were moved around by the wind, created and held in place over millions of years by grasslands. These soils are some of the most productive farmland in the country.

Loess soil that lacks vegetation is extremely susceptible to massive erosion, particularly along stream banks and swales. The weedy trees like osage orange (autumn olive, buckthorn and sugar maples) thrive in areas where the farmers do not plow. Unplowed areas like fencelines, streambanks and swales. The trees shade out the underlying vegetation and essentially create a condition of bare soil underneath of them.

In order to protect farmland from erosion, (acres and acres are being lost to erosion each year) the trees that have sprung up along creek banks and swales are being removed to allow for grasses and other deep fibrous rooted vegetation to re-establish themselves to help hold the soil in place.

If they don't conserve the soil, eventually the trees fall over and wash away too. This is primarily happening along the swales and streambanks. The trees on the fencerows are being removed to minimize the spreading of the trees back into the drainage areas that have been cleared.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 8:42AM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

(too much school and not enough time in the woods I'd say)

I really feel I must address this comment. As someone who has spent a LOT of time in the woods, and would desperately like to attend school so I can get a degree so I can get a job in a field I love....I'd say that neither too much school or time in the woods means you know everything.

I'm sure the trees aren't being cut down just for the fun of it. April

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 12:14PM
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nyssaman(Z6 ON)

Although there could be an evil plot perpetuated by the lords of the underworld to rid illinois of all those osage orange trees....its

Im in the same boat "ahughes" would like to be a field biologist.

Wow that joe pye weed knows his stuff - I know who to ask the real tough questions to

    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 4:04PM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

Osage oranges were previously held until they started to rot. They were then mashed in a barrel and poured into trenches where they sprouted thick enough to be used as a fence.

My understanding is that they were carried to IL from more Southwestern locations by farmers for this purpose. Trees drop apples that roll a few feet and sprout there. I think they float and are found in drainages and along streams where the apples get carried.

I have made several bows from osage- your description of the treest growing sideways etc. is funny as friends in osage country tell me it takes all day to find a tree straight enough to make good bows from. I have bows that snake back and forth- and are backed with a rattlesnake skin. Extremely dense, beautiful wood. Starts as yellow or orange and ends up dark brown after several years of aging.

I even have a couple of small trees that I've planted here in NH (and a couple I left in MA where I lived). They'll grow slowly compared to IL, I would guess.

Anyway- this sort of gets to the question of "what is native"? I have purple coneflowers and other native to the US, but not to New England plants in my yard. I'll be planting a 1/4 acre field of Illinois Bundleflower, partridge peas, and purple prairie clover in my yard as green manure/cover crop along with some Timothy hay for my bunnies. All but the Timothy- native to the US, not to New England.

If there's a naturalist that says they want to restore the landscape to pre-anglo settling, then I suppose the osages in IL don't fit. However- there's a lot of history that will be lost in the process. Save those hedge apples that you can- sneak them back in when nobody's looking :)

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 3:30PM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

I meant to say- sneak a few saplings into your yard...

They'll have a hard time eradicating all the osages in IL anyhoo.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 3:38PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Sure, you can sneak the osage oranges back in..then some more of your tax dollars can go to eradicate them. Again.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 9:29PM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

into your yard... read carefully...

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 10:38PM
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Actually, since they are only doing it in illinois and not my state, most likely it'll be your tax dollars that will be spent. But most of us have found a way to not pay taxes we don't want to, anyways.
I agree with pablo, read the statement clearly. It was not stated to secretly plant them in Mr. Jone's yard, but in oneself's yard.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2006 at 10:50AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I think April's point was that growing them in one's own yard will eventually produce offspring, that ends up growing someplace else, that produces offspring, and produces offspring that produces offs... - eventually the drainage ways become impaired again - which becomes everyone's problem, and then it needs tax money to fix it, again.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 12:01PM
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nativescaping(z5a IL)

As I walk along and under an old hedge of Osage Orange trees - I notice that at one time - when the hedges were planted to keep in/out livestock, they were trimmed annually to about 4 feet high - they were not intended to be overgrown hedges, but rather inexpensive fences in prairieland were wood was too precious and hard to come by for the making of fences - in New England, they used fieldstones, but in the Midwest the thorny fast growing Osage worked out well. John Wright and J. B. Turner of Illinois, both spread the word about Osage fences to farmers in the mid 19th century, before the advent of barbed wire in 1874 - which hence became the economical fence of choice. Osage Orange hedge rows have nothing to do with quality woodlands or God's creation - they are part of our collective cultural/agricultural history.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2006 at 2:19PM
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I've got news for you posters from Illinois, the concern over Osage Orange is not warranted and this is a non-issue. In the mid-Atlantic there are two other charming relatives of OO, White Mulberry and Paper Mulberry. These Asian trees produce fruit which is irresistible to birds. They come up everywhere.
In his excellent book "Native Trees, Shrubs, & Vines" Bill Cullina theorizes that OO may have been spread by herbivores which are now extinct.
The practice of using OO for hedgerows was not unique to mid-West. We frequently see them on old farmsteads and country roads in the east. I have never once seen them in streambanks or woodlands.
Multiflora rose was also promoted as a "living fence" and planted by the conservation corps. In the WW II era running banboo was promoted for use in chicken runs, and everyone knows the history of kudzu. These are demonstrated invasive exotics and appear on numerous lists as noxious and to be avoided.
Someone from Illinois write back and give the name of the bird/mammal which disperses OO, also provide link where OO appears on invasive weed list, otherwise this is a non-issue.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2006 at 5:26PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Its all a matter of geography.

It probably is a non-issue in maryland and lots of other places because there is not the same type of soils that are in Illinois. I think if you read my previous post I was very specific to mention the soil. (I bet it is an issue in parts of Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa & Missouri)

Its a specific problem related to erosion due to shady cover over certain types of soils that need fibrous rooted vegetation to be held in place.

Osage orange is not going to meet the criteria to be identified as an invasive plant,yet. And I specifically stayed away from that term.

However it is considered weedy and is often lumped together with buckthorn, autumn olive and sugar maples when one is dicussing woodland management for erosion control in Illinois.

I have provided a link that explains the type of woodland management/erosion issues that we deal with in Illinois. (The link is huge and will take awhile to download)

Woody vegetation management for erosion control is not common and is pretty geographical specific. Data is still being generated on how effective it is. But the pilot studies have showed great results and so soil conservation districts are eager to do their own pilot projects to stop soil loss.

Squirrels do eat the seeds out of the pods, but they are about the only ones who do. I think the pods are spread more by floating in water than other method of seed dispersal. Which is probably why they are becoming an issue along drainage ways and stream banks.

Not only were they planted as hedge rows but they were also planted excessively in strip mine restoration areas. Strip mines are fairly common in this area also.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mossville Bluffs Watershed Plan

    Bookmark   March 25, 2006 at 7:42PM
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Last week, a neighboring landowner (believe me, I used other names for him, but not on this forum) decided to eradicate a hedge that had been proudly standing for over a hundred years. The day he did it, 8 deer were sadly standing by the side of the road, watching their home go up in flames. This is less than a mile from our farm. On our farm we have 80 acres, including a small timber. My family went out today and will go out every day this week and picked up hedgeballs. I have been reading on how to propogate hedge. We have decided to surround our farm with a hedge, made of, well, hedge. Long live osage orange in Illinois!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 1:34AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Good for you!
In the past couple years, I've been growing osage, too.
I grow them in containers, but I plan on putting two of them out in the yard - one for a landscape tree, the other for a walking-stick (eventually).

My osages are shedding their leaves right now, and it's time to collect fruit for next year's seedlings. In my zone, I find it a waste of time to sow seeds before the last week of April. Like clockwork, my seedlings sprout with the start of May, whether they're planted one, two, or three weeks prior....

Propagation couldn't be easier. Toss them into something with drainage (so they don't sit in water if they get rained on), and then allow them to freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw throughout the winter. Whether they're black mush or just dried green mummy balls, you can hack into them and remove the best seed from the heart. Of course, if you're hedge-planting, you'll probably want to make a slurry to pour - and save you valuable time. Plant as many seeds as you want....but be advised that most of them will germinate. You might want to start a few in containers, as well, to be planted out in the yard as specimen trees when they're bigger.


    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 7:31PM
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Union, I'm sorry you're loosing your peace :-(
Hedge apples have a special place in my heart too, I grew up in Kansas and had hedge rows of them, and cedar too. We moved up to Michigan about ten years ago and I finally got someone to bring up a hedge apple. Know-one up here knew what they were!! I now have little "OO" seedlings in buckets to plant around my property-can't wait 'til they fall in the road so people can say "what the ....."?!?

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 2:03PM
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rbrady(5/Eastern Ia)

I love hedge apples, too! Anyway, I have to say that the MAIN reason (IMO) that Osage Orange trees are being removed from fencerows in my area (which includes Western Illinois) is purely selfishness on the part of farmers. They are trying to increase acreage by removing obstacles. You should see the soil erosion when they remove these fencerows. All that open space-I mean thousands of acres-without a fencerow of any kind to stop the wind from carrying the soil away. It usually ends up in the ditches and waterways which they end up having to clean out. I think the Soil and Water Coservation Districts in Illinois should rethink their decision.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 6:30PM
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I am hoping to help some students (i am a science teacher) make some bag pipes. We need Osage trunks/branches. straight. 4" to 2' diameter. 6-12' is optimal. 1-6' long (2' is optimal). If anyone wants to get rid of some let me know. dry or wet. I will be traveling from Fort Collins CO to Byron, IL Dec 20is of 2008 and home on Jan 4ish. I found one kind person but i don't want to pick his stock clean.
Pete Cadmus

    Bookmark   December 8, 2008 at 10:15PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

As long as you maintain your hedge, like the original farmers who planted them, then they won't spread to drainage ways.

Original hedge was burned off, sawed off, to produce suckers and was kept from getting very tall and thus was kept from spreading into the drainage ways.

The original post was dissing the practice of removing hedges without the underlying of knowledge of why.

Illinois was naturally a prairie, vast grasslands as far as the eye could see. The original settlers passed through this area because they thought if trees didn't grow here, it must be "badlands". Little did they know that the ground they passed over was the most fertile land in the country. The invention of the plow allowed the prairie soil to be turned over and farmed (as its impossible to dig by hand). The hedgerows were part of the development of agriculture. So you can certainly preserve the historical significance of hedge by growing it. Just be responsible growers and maintain it such that it doesn't spread to streams and drainage ways. Understand history and preserve our ecology.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 12:43PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Just a side-note:
I've been collecting Osage fruit, here in northern California, over the past week. Usually, I collect fruit earlier in the autumn, but this season I haven't had the opportunity to visit my favorite line of trees. This will be my third year growing Osage from seed.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2008 at 9:53AM
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I doubt anyone is trying to remove the tree from the state.

What is being done is restoring the original Illinois landscape. Virtually every inch of original Illinois has been destroyed; the prairie is gone, but for tiny fragments; woodlands greatly diminished (and very few woodlands have their wildflower flora intact). Other habitats exist as an acre or two, here and there...

So... in those rare areas not used for cities or farming, the original vegetation is being restored; Osage Orange was native to areas south of Illinois, and is removed to restore the original appearance.

One would not allow TVs and cars in Williamsburg, either...

Osages are fun... I'd leave them along farm roads, city streets...

But we have VERY few places where the original Illinois can be preserved or reconstructed, and it's fine to remove those trees from there.

It is funny what people CAN get attached to, though...some folks were really upset about removing Buckthorn from woodlands:)

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 10:21AM
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Let me first say, I love these trees. Yes, they use to be abundant when the area was primarily agricultural. Now with the spreading suburbia, they are quickly disappearing. In part I'm at fault because I cut down a 1/2 mile hedgerow that was slated to for a new subdivision. One tree was over 4' wide.

If you're going to use it for firewood, split it as soon as you cut it and never use it in a fireplace. Actually it can burn too hot even for an unlined cast iron stove. Dangerous wood to burn as it is a "sparkling" wood that will spit out embers. LOTS of ash but NOTHING burns as long or as hot other than coal itself.

Many bird varieties were in the hedgerow including blue birds, indigo buntings, cardinals, hawks, owls, and even raccoons, possum, but never saw a squirrel!

Hedge rows should be protected! They are an amazing wildlife habitant. Sorry to have cut this one down but otherwise they would have bulldozed it and just burnt it in the field.

Remarkable wood. Peal off the bark and it will last 100yrs. Farmers made fence posting out of it. Not a great wood to work with as far as furniture or the like. Extremely hard after drying. I've cut old fence posts and had sparks flying while cutting. Full chisel chain works best for cutting this wood when green.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 12:20PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

You see Osage Oranges in Indiana occasionally, but they really aren't a pest. I do find it interesting that sugar maple is regarded as a weed in Illinois - Sugar maple is the main tree around here (Central IN), forming the climax forest along with beech, tuliptree, red oak, and others. We have mostly a clay loam soil, with a rich, thick topsoil layer under undisturbed woodlands. Not much prairie in our area, although Northern Indiana is more of a prairie region.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 3:28PM
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