Monday, November 19, 2007

Bow and Gun Stock in the Hedge

The dogs and I came across this den yesterday morning, and it looked like it had been aerial bombed by Black Walnuts.

Which, of course, it had. I guess that's why they call it Fall.

Black Walnuts are fairly allelopathic, which means the roots of the tree put out a chemical that discourages many (but not all) plants from growing underneath and competing for nutrients and water.

Other plants that are allelopathic include some common invasive plants, such as Ailanthus, Garlic Mustard, and Japanese Knot Weed, as well as Rhododendron.

Black Walnut, of course, is a prized furniture wood, and is also used to make gun stocks.

Here's another aerial bombing. These are Osage Oranges (which are not an orange), which are about the size of a softball (i.e. you can barely span them with both hands) and which are quite heavy.

Osage Orange is sometimes called "Hedge Apple" (though it is not an apple), and it was once used by Native Americans for making bows, and later by early settlers looking for rot-resistant fence posts.

Osage Orange, along with Honey Locust (a very common tree) and the Kentucky Coffeetree (quite rare) are trees that have large fruits and seed pods with thick protective coatings or thorns.

It is believed that these protective coatings are natural defenses designed to help protect the fruit of these trees from over-grazing by mammoths that roamed through this area perhaps as recently as 10,000 years ago.

The largest Osage Orange Tree in the world is in Virginia, and is reported to have been planted by Patrick Henry's daughter from seeds brought East by Lewis and Clark.

The largest Kentucky Coffeetree in the world is in Maryland.

The largest Honey Locust tree is in Pennsylvania.



Caveat said...

Black walnuts are very common here in southern Ontario. I have a large one in my backyard.

Some plants, mostly those native to the area, seem to do quite well but pines do not like the juglone exuded by the roots. Tomatoes get 'walnut wilt' (I grow mine in pots now), so I presume that's true for all nightshades.

If you cut a black walnut down, I'm told the roots will continue to exude juglone for up to two years.

Very interesting post. When my tree is dropping fruit, I try to keep my small dogs from hanging around under it - those things falling from 80 feet or so could crack somebody's skull!

Camera Trap Codger said...

Your post brings back fond memories of ole Virginny. I used to gather a few osage oranges from a tree on Rt 55, and they smell quite nice as they dry. The black walnut meat is superior for cookies and breads, and a great reward for the hard work of cracking and digging it out. The best place to gather them is on a country road where the cars have "skun em". And what about wild persimmons? Now there's a fine fruit once the frosts have turned them brown and black.

PBurns said...

Ah persimmons! Not quite cold enough to pick them, but I will, and I will post when I do.

I have two persimon trees -- one near my house at the edge of the woods, and the other next to a roadside grave yard in Maryland which used to have a fox sette on the edge. I cannot work the sette, for obvious reasons, but the persimons are fair game. Get them too early, however, and the alkalinity will pucker 'ya good!


Luisa said...

Ah, the black walnut --- my great-aunt had a giant one in her orchard and made dye from the hulls.

In my neck of the woods the allelopathic champ is the creosote:

Anonymous said...

Around here, Osage Orange fruits are called "monkey balls" and the kids play with them. Are they actually useful for anything else?


gabboon said...

I grew up with a large Kentucky Coffee in the front yard. Possibly "planted" during the civil war as it is rumored to have been a coffee substitute for soldiers away from home (I have no idea if this is true). The seed pods are rather large leathery and thick and if broken open, full of a very thick and sticky green goo. The seeds, when cleaned off, are a beatiful shiny black gem.