The Beautiful Bois D’Arc Tree

by Tammy Taylor

Our ranch has many beautiful trees, but none that are also as functional as the Bois D’Arc tree.  The wood from this tree is highly valued for it’s rot-resistant qualities.  And many ranchers use logs cut from this tree in their fence lines and barn beams.  My favorite thing about it though is the beauty in the wood itself as it ages.  Many people have asked me to share a post about these beautiful trees so I’m obliging today.

The tree itself makes a beautiful shade tree, with gently arching branches.  I’m showing a picture of it below, just to the right of the too-cute-for-words Hereford calf.  😉

Calf and Bois D'Arc Tree - This beautiful tree is found on our NE Texas Homestead. The posts are rot resistant and very helpful on the homestead. #TxHomesteader

The shape of the tree is easier to see in the winter without the leaves.  This spot in one of our pastures was apparently at one time a fence line as evidenced by the soldier-straight rows.  I love to daydream about the past history and layout of our homestead…

Bois D'Arc Fenceline - This beautiful tree is found on our NE Texas Homestead. The posts are rot resistant and very helpful on the homestead. #TxHomesteader

The tree will bloom tiny white fragrant blooms in the spring and then put on their fruit called ‘Horse Apples’.  These are not actual edible apples but some wild critters around the homestead will munch on them.  They’re very solid and very heavy.  They start out green and gradually turn yellow by the time they drop from the tree in the fall.  There are some that say there are insect repellant qualities to these horse apples. They are often cut in half and rolled under sheds, barns and homes to repel spiders and other insects.

Horse Apple - This beautiful tree is found on our NE Texas Homestead. The posts are rot resistant and very helpful on the homestead. #TxHomesteader

NOTE:  In season, we often sell these interesting horseapples for decorative & crafty uses on our Online Store, along with handmade items.  Check it out!

As the wood ages, a very beautiful character forms in the wood itself.  I fell in love with this Bois D’Arc branch that apparently fell years ago and continues to amaze me with it’s beauty and detail even now.

Bois D'Arc Log - This beautiful tree is found on our NE Texas Homestead. The posts are rot resistant and very helpful on the homestead. #TxHomesteader

The real beauty in this tree for me is the fascinating characteristics of the wood.  My brother took this photo of a very, VERY old Bois D’Arc tree – what beautiful wood!

Bois D'Arc Tree - This beautiful tree is found on our NE Texas Homestead. The posts are rot resistant and very helpful on the homestead. #TxHomesteader

Master Naturalist PK Kirkpatrick from Ladonia, Texas in Fannin County shares this interesting information about Bois D’Arc trees:

The Bois D’arc tree has many common names including Osage Orange, horse apple, hedge apple and more. This is the tree that native Americans, especially the Osage Indians, preferred for their bows and arrows. This tree was described by French explorers as “Bois D’arc” which means bow wood. Different parts of this tree are used as insect repellant, leather tannin, fence posts, wheel rims, tool handles, etc. The list goes on and on, but the old barns and fences built using this wood are so sturdy, practical and lovely.

Bois Darc Log -This beautiful tree is found on our NE Texas Homestead. The posts are rot resistant and very helpful on the homestead. #TxHomesteader

I guess we’re just really lucky to have so many of these wonderful trees growing here on the Homestead!  I’ve written a more detailed Bois D’Arc Article Here if you’d like to check it out.   Do you have these gorgeous trees where you live?

~TxH~

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48 thoughts on “The Beautiful Bois D’Arc Tree

  1. Steve

    I grew up on 10 acres in Houston in the 40’s & 50’s, where I would play with friends among the roots of a row of “horse apple” trees along our back property line. I loved those trees, from the papery thin root covering and the underneath orange colors to the crazy, lime-green, “horse apples”. We would dig caves into the roots, which were on a linear mound of dirt, and throw the horse apples to see them explode. We moved when my dad subdivided the property when I was 13, but I took with me fond childhood memories. I have lived in California since 1969, so forgot about the trees until I was in Beaune, France in 2010, and came upon a great towering specimen of a Bois d’arc tree in a park. The tree was especially striking because it was in Fall color and the sun was shining through the canopy of golden yellow and green leaves. My wife thought I was crazy while I searched around in the fallen leaves for the “apples”, finally finding several which I took photos of to remember a happy time as a child.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I love these trees too Steve, although RancherMan bristles over any tree with thorns. (although not near as bad as the blasted Honey Locust trees!) ~TMH~

      Reply
  2. Carolyn Rowe

    I grew up with a Bodark tree in our yard that grew on the banks of a creek in Austin. It was an amazing influence in my life….and if you have children or grandchildren you might be depriving them to cut it! The way that this tree grew it formed arched branches that created a cubby hole area to play, and later read or study inside. It was a living cave of gorgeous green leaves that was natural air conditioning in our hot summers! The biggest thing was…the tree taught Respect! With its long Thorns! Something hard to teach in our modern world! I Loved that Tree! When the city decided to make a drainage ditch out of the creek they were going to destroy the tree. My Dad cut it down in a careful way and carved the Most Beautiful Stallion out of it!! It stood over 3feet high and was the head and neck of a wild stallion….Gorgeous out of the Golden colored wood! The head has been copied and copied! I bought a copy in a Resort gift shop, and sent my Dad catalogs with replicas. He gave the Beautiful head to the Blind School in Austin where it probably still gives the blind children a picture of Wild Freedom they could never experience…I Miss it but I know he was right to gift it! Respect these Beautiful trees…they should be preserved anywhere they are found…..they are a rare treasure ! In Many Many ways!

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I love the Bois D’Arc trees too, Carolyn. And I love the story of the special tree in your life – how wonderful your dad made something else beautiful with that tree of your childhood. And how selfless of him to gift that beautiful piece of art to the Blind School in Austin. ~TMH~

      Reply
  3. Dave Wilson

    I have always wondered why Bois d’arcs, with their rot resistant wood, almost always have a lot of hollow branches. Seems they rot quite a bit while on the tree. Any input on this?

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I’m not an arborist nor a master naturalist Dave, perhaps someone out there with more training can answer Dave’s question? I will say that I’ve seen precious few hollow branches on our trees here. The only hollowed areas I’ve ever noticed are for trees dead for years & years. Instead of just rotting out like normal wood they rot in ribbon-shaped areas. But we have Bois D’Arc posts in our fencelines that are decades old and even though they’re out in the weather year after year, they’re as strong as ever. ~TMH~

      Reply
  4. Brian

    I live in NE Texas also. Dodd City to be exact. There is a house next door that has been condemned. It has a bois d’arc tree in the yard that is very odd in shape. The main trunk is only about 8-9 feet tall but is 14′ in circumference and 6 feet in diameter. Just huge. It is a no apple tree. It is of no use where it is for shade or anything because of its odd shape. I would love to make some table tops out of the trunk but have no idea how to cut it.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      OMGosh that sounds like an absolutely beautiful old tree, it would be great to be able to do something with it Brian. If it’s as old as you say I’m sure cutting it would be a real challenge. Bois D’Arc trees are solid enough by themselves, add many years of growth and you’ve got a real dilemma. Hopefully you’ll be able to do something with it, maybe hire a tree company to come cut slabs for you? They would have industrial equipment. Just a thought. ~TMH~

      Reply
    2. chris guess

      Osage Orange- with many common names including bois d’arc tree or bodark, and bodock all of which either translate or are derived from the French term meaning “Bow Wood”. Given to the tree because of the native Americans and later Europeans use of the wood to make longbows.

      Reply
  5. John Lewis

    We have Bois D’Arc trees here in Georgia. settlers in 1700’s and 1800’s used the wood for pegs in post and beam hand hewn houses. My house is all “fat lighter” or heart pine with Beau D’Arc pegs. We I was a little tike in the 50’s we would pick up the brain fruit and roll them under the wheels of passing transfer trucks to smear yellow streaks down the highway. The trees were removed after the plantation house was moved to a high rent neighborhood, and the lot became a furniture store. What a loss of beautiful trees!

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Sweet memories, John. I especially love your discription ‘brain fruit’ – lol. That’s what they look like alright. I love our Bois D’Arc trees! ~TMH~

      Reply
  6. Juliet

    I just moved to Rowlett, TX from CA and cut a 20yr old one down from my front yard in a tract home neighborhood. It’s was a very scary looking tree. Found out it was a Bodart after the fact. Not a good tree for a small yard with all the surface roots. Interesting species of wood, learned all about from goog.. and this blog. I’ll be saving some of the wood to burn for camp outs and to make some walking sticks.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Interesting Juliet, Bois D’Arc aren’t usually a variety of tree planted in tract home neighborhoods, especially since they have thorns on their branches. Most homeowners shun trees planted that close to their home that have thorns. And 20 year old one? Wow, wonder how many saw blades they had to go through to get through that trunk – Bois D’Arc is hard and super-sappy drippy wood! I don’t envy the poor soul stuck working in such a confined place with such a large Bois D’Arc! I love ’em, but I wouldn’t want them that close to my home either so I don’t blame you at all… ~TMH~

      Reply
  7. Bob Burlingame

    Thanks, I’ll keep looking. The key is to cut it green, but it still gums things up! My friend David has made great walking sticks out of bois d arc fence pickets from pre civil war fences I procured from a farm near Whitewright. He uses a draw knife to shape and smooth, and seals with Tung oil. A beautiful piece of history!

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      OOOHHHH – that sounds SO COOL Bob! How wonderful to have such a historical yet utilitarian (and beautiful) thing?? ~TMH~

      Reply
    2. troegner

      i live in whitewright and run a tree service. I take down probably 3 of these trees a year. I have two to take down in the next 2 weeks. I have had to put a lot of this log into the dump. Post if you have a REAL interest in the wood. Also, there are different types of this tree. And the thorn/no thorn and fruit/no fruit I think is because of male/female trees. It is strange to me that these are native trees to this area and grow prolifically here, but there is little real information around. Strangely enough, the Texas A&M University Tree ID website lists the Pyrus calleryana (callery pear) as a close relative. but Callery Pear is another name for Bradford Pear. I think they have made a mistake here.

      Reply
  8. Bob Burlingame

    Ok, so I’m looking for bois d’arc fence posts to build traditional post and rail fences on my Oklahoma ranch. Any help finding a commercial source would be much appreciated. Incidentally, bois d’arc wood was the preferred wood in early propellers for fighter planes. It was the only wood that could take a bullet hit and not fragment. I’ve been told that Boy Scouts were used to locate these trees during wartime for this purpose. Thanks for this great blog!

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Thank you for your kind words, Bob. What interesting facts too! I’m not aware of a commercial source for Bois D’Arc posts, most people around here harvest only enough large limbs to use for their own fences. I know from experience that it’s a whippin’ for your chainsaw when cutting these hardwood trees so maybe that’s why. RancherMan & I are in the process of harvesting some of the smaller limbs to make custom walking sticks from – I can’t wait to see how they turn out. Yep, Bois D’Arc trees are wonderful! ~TMH~

      Reply
  9. Eric

    GREAT TREES and very useful…… However, I would like to get some of the ‘apples’??? Any idea where I might buy some near Dallas? Thanks! Eric

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I see them used often in fall decorations & such – I’m sure craft stores would have artificial ones for that purpose. I’ve also seen the real ones at craft fairs where they use them for various decorative purposes such as Christmas ornaments, etc.

      Reply
    2. charles

      Be more than happy to have you harvest the apples from my boidarks. They are really loaded this year. I live near Kemp off 175 its close to 50 miles from dallas, according where you are in town. You can contact me @ 903-498-0101. for direcions

      Reply
  10. Stout Timber Creek Ranch

    Have read. Texas banks back in the day only extend credit to homes built with Bodark post and beam foundations. Now local government/ municipality/ local building codes/ home owners associations would never allow Bodark foundation on new construction. In Collin County I was required to have engineered plan for foundation. Plans called for 110 belled piers drilled from 17-22 foot or bedrock. Then a post tension concrete slab to float on top of piers. Well made it five years before engineered foundation failed to the point of needing repair. Funny though we can drive out my ranch in Hopkins county and look at century old structures straight as can be! My ranch entrance is built solely out of Bodark and quite unique. Right now I probably have 500-1000 staves and 200-300 fence post all cut from Bodark. Grew up in the Mesquite and Cedar brush of South Texas but now have a place where some timber still exist. Bodark in my opinion is the best wood in Texas with White Oak as my second favorite. Thank the good Lord I was born in Texas. cLd

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I love your story – and you’re absolutely right, I certainly don’t think our building codes have improved foundations over the years. My mother lives in a home built back in 1875 on bois d’arc posts! They sure don’t make ’em like they used to. I’m so thankful we have so many interesting bois d’arc trees here.

      Reply
    2. Wolf' Bartles

      Hawdy Grew up 60 miles south east of KC MO just off 50 … now in Pueblo CO on 50 how strange … love the tooth picks from the horse hedge ha ha am looking for just a hand-full of limbs would love to have a load of all u have but … 🙂 I wish to make a for fence and stuff someday on my own place -bow & staff 5’9 ft +, walking stick and a few at least 1 wand 13 + inches -but want to gift 7 + handfull of wands if u have any .. so old snarled – how much would u want for them ? or also if anyone knows where to find a couple foot tall saplings ? and -could you ship them to me or 719-544-6969 unless you are just happening to make a jaunt up to the middle of Colorado ??? i could always move that way and ride the fences and count cows .. i do have some ranch hand experience been some year ago now … 🙂 and do love this blog … Thanxz for any help or info ya’all have a Great Turkey Day

      Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Yes Pierce they are wonderful long-lasting fence posts and we have several of these fence posts on our property. Also they’re used for the piers for our 1880’s barn. Love these trees! ~TMR~

      Reply
  11. Judy Wagnon Bartlett

    I grew up in Tuscumbia, Ala. and we had a bois darc tree in our yard. My family still owns this property. This tree is the most interesting and beautiful tree I have ever seen! This tree has been used as a back drop in so many pictures. I grew up with this tree from the age of five. I am now 72 and the tree is still stunning! I love this tree! I feel like my life is told in this tree.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I love our Bois D’Arc trees Judy. Not only are they beautiful but so functional too. I love your story about your family’s land… ~TMR~

      Reply
  12. Gary Porter

    Hi–I just now discovered your blog while searching for something else, and had to stop in for a look. Last year I moved out to my family’s old ranching property in northeast Texas after many years in Houston and Dallas. I grew up here, and I know all about bois d’arc trees. Good luck if you ever have to chop one down. The wood is truly as hard as steel, and. an ax hardly makes a dent in it. I remember my dad spent several days trying to fell a bois d’arc when I was a kid. I don’t how they split the wood into fence posts. Maybe that’s one reason that local sawmills were more prevalent in years past . You noted that bois d’arc timber was used in barn construction. You may not know that just about every house around here built before concrete foundations became the norm, including mine, sits on a foundation of bois d’arc tree trunks. The trunks were sawed into equal lengths of 2 to 3 feet and stood on end. The wood is strong enough to support even very large two-story homes. My house is almost 100 years old and still sturdy. Another use discovered by the early settlers, who may have learned it from the native American population, was as a dye. When freshly cut, the wood is bright yellow. A few wood chips thrown into a washpot of boiling water will dye any fabric yellow. Have you noticed that some bois d’arcs produce horse apples, and some don’t? That’s because male and female flowers are produced on separate trees, with only the female . It is the female that bears fruit.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Yes, I certainly love Bois d’Arc trees for many reasons. Around here they don’t typically split the logs for fence posts, they usually just cut them to length and drop them as posts into the ground. We have several on our property and the thorns make us want to keep them cut high so we can mow under them but as you mentioned, even cutting the smaller branches can be a task. We’ve only cut them with the chainsaw, I certainly wouldn’t want to try to cut one down with an ax – that really WOULD be a chore! Even with the chainsaw, the Bois d’Arc has so much thick white sap that it stickies-up the chain over time. The white sap will literally drip from the cut log. Very interesting and useful tree, this Bois d’Arc.

      Reply
  13. Barbara Mc

    I loved this post and just ran across another post in my email tonight from Granny Miller about Osage Orange trees ( http://www.granny-miller.com/osage-orange-trees/ ) and as I scrolled down I saw this beautiful fruit and remembered your post. If we have them in NC whether they be called Bois D’Arc trees or Osage Orange trees, I have never seen them. Texas and Pennsylvania….probably in NC too, sure wish we had some of them around our house!

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I love Bois D’Arc trees – they’re beautiful and graceful and the wood is hard as iron. They do have one drawback, they grow thorns on their branches so RancherMan doesn’t like to mow too close to them in the pastures. LOL ~TMR~

      Reply
  14. Ruby Fleet

    I grew up in Arkansas and riding my horse to take cows to pasture, I stopped at many a ‘horse apple tree’! I am currently looking for some apples for insect repellant purposes for a family member with allergies to chemical repellants. Haven’t found any yet in Dallas County.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      We’re not far from Dallas County and they grow wild here so I’m guessing you’ll certainly be able to find them! ~TMR~

      Reply
  15. Patty

    I am a native Texan (hill country between Wimberley and Blanco), and just found out about these trees last year! They are beautiful, but I didn’t know that about their wood – something to remember! I had to comment when I saw Roger’s comment about being from near Honey Grove – my sister and brother-in-law moved to Honey Grove last year (they were closer to Bonham) – it’s such a small world! Good luck with the ranch this summer – I hope we all get good rains! Patty

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Small world indeed Patty! As I mentioned, some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever been privileged to know are either from or living in Honey Grove. We really hit a gold mine for good folks around here!

      Reply
  16. Karen

    I love these trees! We have some on the property we own – and formerly lived on. They are called Osage Orange around here too. My boys loved using the fruits as balls! :0 I miss those grand trees.! TALU 🙂

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I love Bois D’Arc trees too Karen. It’s funny the number of people telling me their kids played with the horse-apples, they’re SO HEAVY! LOL ~TMR~

      Reply
  17. Carol J. Alexander

    We call them Osage Orange, too. According to the new book Plowing with Pigs, they can also be trained when young into a living fence. Love your photos. Thanks for sharing with us at the HomeAcre Hop. Come back this week

    Reply
  18. Pat

    I never knew this about the Bois D’arc…(that they were good for posts and beams) We’ve actually burned some of this in our stove and it burns long and hot! I use the horse apples on the porches and under the porches and around the underpinning of the house too. The kids used them the year they made a potato gun and I wouldn’t ante up the the potatoes. Horse Apples travel pretty far when projected out of a pvc cannon! The wood is hard…and pretty the way it twists and turns. I have enjoyed practicing my camera skills on our mystical looking tree. We actually have a couple on our property. thanks for posting this information, came here via FFBH , Pat

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Pat – LOL – potato guns. MAN I bet that would be some sort of game using horse apples instead. WOW! Too funny. ~TMR~

      Reply
  19. Lisa Lynn

    We call them Osage Orange round here 🙂 They have a hard, rot resistant wood that is great for fence posts. Thanks for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop!

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I’ve heard them called Osage Orange as well. I never really noticed how beautiful the wood was until we moved here and there were so many of the trees on the property. ~TMR~

      Reply
    2. Lisa Lynn

      Thank you so much for sharing this on The Creative HomeAcre Hop! I hope to see you again tomorrow. 🙂

      Reply
  20. Roger Simmons

    I grew up north of Honey Grove and remember these trees. When the wood from this dries out it is a very hard wood. Many people have never heard of these trees.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I was surprised too Roger when I got so many comments asking about these beautiful trees – I just assumed everyone had them. The wood is so valuable on the ranch for fence posts and barn beams and poles. It lasts forever! (by the way, I love the town of Honey Grove – there are so many great people there!) Thanks for stopping by. ~TMR~

      Reply

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