Osagi orange - Maclura pomifera

Orange of the osagi

Maclura pomifera, commonly known as osagi orange, is a small tree, or large shrub, native to North America; many specimens of this tree are found in Italy, in the ancient gardens, in the villas, in the parks, this because in the middle of the 19th century they tried to cultivate this plant to use its leaves as food for silkworms, since the maclura it belongs to the same family as the mulberry, the moraceae. The project was unsuccessful, but the plants remained, now used only as an ornament. In places of origin instead of the pomlera pomifera it was used in a thousand ways, its wood as a raw material for bows and arrows, the roots to extract a natural dye. The wood of the maclura it is durable and has a pleasant color, it is still used to produce work tools.

Plant characteristics

This plant has deciduous leaves, dark green, leathery and shiny, vaguely reminiscent of lemon or orange leaves; on the trunk and at the leaf axil there are large, very sharp thorns, which make the maclura very useful for forming impassable hedges. However, there are varieties of orange cultivars of the osagi completely without thorns. In late spring the plant produces large greenish inflorescences; it is a dioecious plant, so the male flowers and female flowers are produced on different specimens. In summer the flowers are followed by fruits: showy infructescences, which remind of large, compact, tennis-like green tennis balls, with the outer surface covered by small bumps. Despite seeing the large fruits are very inviting, and giving off a delicate orange fragrance, in reality they are not edible, only the small seeds contained inside are eaten by squirrels.

Cultivation of the orange of the osagi

As for cultivation, Maclura is a vigorous tree that is resistant to cold and heat; in the past centuries the cultivation of this tree was introduced in most of Italy, from Sicily to the Po Valley. Being a very adaptable tree, the maclura proved able to vegetate without problems wherever it was planted. The orange of the osagi definitely prefers a very sunny place, with a rich, fertile and very well drained soil; actually it adapts to practically any terrain and also to shade cultivation.
In Italy the maclura is purely an ornamental tree, used as a single specimen, so that it unfolds its foliage, or as a plant to produce high hedges.

Macloro in the garden

Generally, to produce hedges, male specimens are planted so as not to have to collect and compost large fruits; although in fact the plant is quite vigorous, therefore to maintain a hedge it is necessary to prune it often, generally removing most of the flowers, thus avoiding the presence of the fruits. If we intend to cultivate a specimen in the garden we remind that it can reach 10-12 meters in height, with a foliage up to 6-7 meters wide, so we will have to have the necessary space to let the tree unfold smoothly. Only in the first 2-4 years after planting the young tree we will have to check that the soil does not remain dry for very long periods of time, or periodically supply the plant with fertilizer. Then the maclura will be satisfied with the water of the weather. If possible we avoid pruning the branches of individually planted specimens, but remember to remove all basal suckers, which the plant produces in large quantities.