When Lewis and Clark set off to explore the Louisiana Territory, the first tree they sent back east from St. Louis was the osage-orange (Maclura pomifera). Native to a relatively small area in eastern Oklahoma and portions of Missouri, Texas, and Arkansas, it had been used for centuries by Native Americans for war clubs and bows.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries the tree was planted throughout the United States probably more than almost any other tree species in North America. Still considered the best wood for archer's bows, osage-orange was valued as a natural hedgerow fence, which made agricultural settlement of the prairies possible. It led directly to the invention of barbed wire in 1874, then provided most of the posts for the wire that fenced the West.
Known also as hedge, hedge apple, bodark (from the French bois d'arc, meaning wood of the bow), and bowwood, the osage-orange's name comes from the Osage Indian tribe, which lived near the tree's home range, and from the orange-like aroma of the ripened fruit. These trees are easily recognized by their glossy, lance-shaped leaves and stout, one-inch thorns, which give them value as fences for farm animals.
Osage-orange can be either a shrub or a tree, depending on its surroundings. Standing alone in full sun it will become a multi-stemmed shrub; with neighboring competition it can become a single-stemmed tree. Although it is the only member of its genus (a monotype), it is cousin to the mulberry family (Moraceae).
There was one of these trees at the corner of Watson Leathers barn lot which me an Richard passed on our way home from school everyday when the fruit was on the tree we would carry them home and have war out behind the barn with them.