Ghosts of Evolution…

Over time you get to know your ‘home turf’ pretty well. You notice and enjoy the natural beauty that’s all around. You notice things that don’t quite belong too…

Pretty sure Osage Orange trees fall into the ‘don’t quite belong’ category, at least for Southern Ontario.
Osage is a deciduous tree more commonly associated with southern climes. I’ve seen two in Dundas, Ontario. They announce themselves in late fall when the fruit start dropping. Can’t help but notice those odd green balls on the ground.

Osage orange fruits on tree.
Low hanging fruit?

Osage Oranges have been called Ghosts of Evolution since basically nothing eats the fruit. The seeds in these green balls are so small you’d spend more calories extracting them than they’d give you in return. Also, they ooze a very sticky white sap when opened. Ask your neighbourhood squirrel: not worth the effort.

Osage orange cross section showing interior with tiny seeds.
A peek inside. Tiny seeds.

They’re not actually oranges although the fruit does have a light citrus aroma.
Part of the mulberry family. Alas, not the cool part of the mulberry family from whence the English nursery rhyme Pop Goes The Weasel originates. I guess monkeys and weasels stick to mulberry since nothing rhymes with orange…

Large mature Osage Orange tree.
Beautiful mature tree.

Southern Ontario is at the northern end of the Carolinian forest range. Tree cover is quite diverse here thanks in no small part to being near two great lakes, Ontario & Erie. The lakes help maintain slightly milder temperatures in winter. That difference helps these trees survive.

A Port Dover friend tells me there’s some there too. That’s 50 kilometers further south weather wise and again close to a large body of water.

Collection of Osage Oranges stacked in tidy pile.
I may have gone overboard collecting oddballs for this photo…!

This should be more than enough info for you to answer any pub trivia night question. Keep an eye out next time you’re hiking in late fall!

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