Bowling Season Begins

As mid-September rolls around, it brings the advent of…bowling season! No, not the Brunswick/Dick Weber/foot-fault bowling — Osage orange lawn bowling.

At the treeline, in the back corner of our property, stands a tall Osage-orange tree, loaded with Osage oranges.

Osage orange tree
no, not the small dark red dogwood tree, the one above and to the right of it

The fruit of Maclura pomifera are known an Osage oranges here, but they are also known as horse-apples or hedge apples. The balls have a kind of waxy/oily feel to them, and it’s commonly thought that they can be used to drive away spiders, but I’ve seen small lawn spiders climbing on them, making me believe that’s a load of hooey. The tree itself is probably the heartiest of Missouri’s native trees, resistant to most disease and pests.
14 oranges
As the fall foliage color begins to peak, one can sit on the deck and hear these fruit, roughly the same size and weight as a large grapefruit, come crashing through the branches below and roll to a stop on the back edge of the lawn.
Osage oranges
This is when I need to be most vigilant; if left where they dropped for any extended length of time, they will damage the grass underneath them, and sometimes the squirrels will scatter little pieces of the outer covering all around as they try dig in to get to the inner seeds, creating a big mess. To minimize the mess, it became a seasonal chore of mine to “bowl” the rogue balls down the hillside behind the back retaining wall, and into the underbrush below.

the bowling alley
the “bowling alley” (note the white flowering wasp bush on the left)

In past falls, I’ve picked up in excess of 100 balls over a few weeks time. I’ve found that if I put a nice left hook on my throw, the oranges will continue far enough down the slope to no longer be troubling eyesore, and the little bit of exercise I gain makes up for the annoyance.


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