Least Favorite Plant: Unkown

This is my first contribution to a regular feature here on Root Simple: the Least Favorite Plant. For me it’s a tie for least favorite between Manroot (I’m sure my adversarial obsession with this plant will compel a future post) and this tree that I have yet to identify (please help in the comments if you know what it is).

[update: The Root Simple Community has correctly identified the tree as Osage Orange or Bois d’Arc. Thanks everyone for the comments!]

I tried to have the tree removed by professionals a few years ago but the stump just keeps growing despite all of the terrible things we’ve done to it including cutting the stump, stripping the bark and severing roots.
The thorns are extremely wicked. Thick leather gloves are no match for this plant. I have taken to working without gloves since they offer no protection and I can be more nimble and careful without them. Someone could make a very realistic crown of thorns with the thin branches of this tree.
When cut it exudes a white glue like sap that is stickier than pine sap but more viscous so it quickly spreads everywhere.
This is where we stand after a 3 year battle and that’s after the initial tree was removed. I hope I’ve finally won.

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  1. Does it have bright flowery bracts at the end of each stem as the summer wears on? That is a bougainvillea without question. Nasty thorns but if you can find a place to transplant it out of the way where it will get plenty of sun, it will reward you with copious amounts of color.

    Enjoy the blog and the book by the way. I picked up a copy this weekend.

  2. Wow, what a beast! Erik and I don’t know what it is, either. But if you still have a stump, here’s a way to kill it: It’s very evil, but sometimes evil is necessary. We did this to our ultra-poisonous and fast growing “Suicide Tree” which we also battled with for years. Drill vertical holes in the trunk and fill them with Roundup, then tie some plastic over the trunk just to make sure no critters get into it.

    If you decide to take this extreme measure, borrow the remainder of our bottle so you don’t have to buy it. This is the only situation which we’ve ever had to resort to Roundup (and to be clear we are generally opposed to herbicides) –but it works.

  3. I’m pretty sure that Bois d’arc / Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera) is the right answer. They’re very pernicious. They make those huge round “hedge apple” fruits – pioneers used to harvest the fruits, mash them into a fermenty pulp in a barrel, and pour the resulting seed-mush out in lines to make fences. It’s dioecious, so there are separate boy trees and girl trees – you’ll never see fruit on a boy tree, but they grow faster and taller because of it.

  4. Take a sample – a 12″ long branch with leaves – to your local Extension Office. They should be able to identify it for you.

    PS The service is free, part of your state University system and funded with tax dollars. Take advantage.

  5. So, my husband and I had a Poplar Sucker problem after a neighbor didn’t properly remove their tree. They were EVERYWHERE, even three houses down from where the original tree was located. They were so prolific, they were like weeds. They were coming up on our lawn, our garden, our daffodils, suffocating the things we wanted. We received quotes from three area tree people (two certified arborists). The last company owner gave us a recipe for homemade weed killer and instructions how to eliminate. We’re into our third year, after having done The Fix, and it worked. http://michellelasley.net/blog/2008/10/poplar-suckers/

    I wonder, if your evil thorny tree comes back – if this would work for that.

  6. Osage Orange is one of the hardest trees there are and makes great firewood.

    Roundup is a Monsanto product and Monsanto is evil. They lost their patent on glyphosate in 2000, so other companies are making it now. If you absolutely have to buy glyphosate, buy a different brand than Roundup. Look in an Ace Hardware or other small-timey hardware store.

    You could always have the stump ground by a professional stump grinder, and there are other products for killing stumps out there. There is one product in which you mix something together and pour into the holes you’ve drilled and the chemical reaction burns the stump- you’ll even see the stump smoking. But I forget what it’s called.

    If it is an Osage Orange, you could try living with it, and using the tree limbs for firewood for the few nights it gets cold where you are. Osage Orange trees sucker freely (as you already know), so they’re good for coppicing. You could make peace with it, and think of it as a renewable resource.

  7. Paula–thanks for the excellent tip on off-brand glyphosate. Not something we use very often, but it can be handy with stuff that just can’t be removed. Bermuda grass, suicide trees and the infamous tree of heaven (should be tree of hell).

    Mother Earth News had an interesting article on living fences using osage orange. If that’s what it is (and it does look similar) it’s the first time I’ve seen it in Southern California.

  8. Not too off topic, but I have something like that with angry and vicious thorns that seems to ENJOY being cut back. It flourishes but I could never kill it, so I cut. And I cut. It thrives.

    Any original ideas or tips on what to do with these long whips of bramble and thorny sticks apart from throwing them into the woods? (I would make a crown but I’m not Jesus)

  9. Thanks everyone! It is in fact (*was* hopefully) an osage orange. Must either be a male or maybe there are no other pollinators around because I never did see fruit on the tree. I think I have finally killed it by severing all of the large roots but if I see any new growth I might resort to glyphosate. Hopefully I won’t have to.

    @ Michael: Thanks for the link (http://www.osageorange.com/Roughing_out_T.html) Now I’m wishing I knew that before I had it cut down – I would have saved a large section of trunk and tried to make a bow out of it.

    @ Paula: I am fascinated by the tree now but it was in the wrong place (intertwined with our pomegranate) and is so nasty that harvesting anything but gold from it would not be worth the physical pain.

  10. At least my Meyer Lemon gives me something worth putting up with those kinds of thorns – until this photo I’d never seen thorns as nasty as those on my lemon tree. Best of luck keeping it gone! (says the woman whose neighbor’s lot is wooded with Tree of Heaven…)

  11. Osage orange. If it does come back it is great root stock (read impossible to kill). Graft to it.

  12. I like this! I have a few least favorite, or should I say, hated plants. They include bindweed (which our yard is infested with), bermuda grass (grows only where the bindweed won’t), privets, and Himalayan blackberries.

  13. Osage trees are supposed to make wonderful living fences. I don’t think they do well in backyard gardens. Good luck with your battle! Mine is with a rose vine that won’t come off the side of my house! Battle to commence tomorrow.

  14. I can’t believe that’s osage orange! I can’t believe your readers could identify it from the picture! Here in the midwest it grows into a tree and in fall spews forth the oddest looking fruit that looks like green brains. The fruit is supposed to be inedible (or inevitable, as I malapropiciously remarked to my husband) but horses LOVE it.

  15. I think they call that a Troll’s Ball Sack Hair Protruding From The Ground to Cause You Grief Tree.

    I’m sure that’s not the official Latin name or anything. ;-P

  16. I love your ‘least favorite plant’ posts, and it got me thinking about my list of least favorites…..I would like to share my top contender.

    It is the bane of my upkeep efforts, while my next door neighbor simply delights in it. That nasty “it’ is her ENGLISH IVY. Oy! She planted many many plants many many years ago as a living fence (which in theory, seems like a lovely idea), and while she keep the ivy in her yard nice and tidy, she let it run rampant to neighbors yards leaving us to del with her disaster. Over here is Whittier, it is weaving itself into fences, trees, shrubs, grass….. It is choking out trees with vines that are seriously 8-10” in diameter. It is a battle that we will never win. It is terribly invasive.

    (one day my neighbor caught my trimming it back on my side of the fence, and instructed me to be more careful with the ivy so that I didn’t kill it. If only…)

    Please, anyone who is reading, never, never, ever plant English Ivy. Ever.

  17. Osage orange fruit is the perfect vampire brain for my Halloween table outdoors. Kids and adults cringe at the sight. Osage orange wood is the MOST rot resistant wood in North America. It also resists termites, so the trunk would have built an indestructable structure. The tree has sap or something that is antifungal and maybe antibiotic. I read once that the fences made from the thick growth of trees were bull strong, horse high, and something else. These trees are why barbed wire was invented. They are invasive and grew places the pioneers did not want them. I read that you could drill holes in the top of the trunk and pour buttermilk in the holes and cover. Supposedly this will rot stumps faster. I don’t know about the Osage Orange.

  18. Also, I meant to say that you do not want the Osage Orange tree growing in your yard because a falling hedge apple could do brain damage if someone is hit on the head. Seriously, they are huge and dense. Maybe you might like one in a field, but not where you want to walk or enjoy the area underneath its canopy. The article I read long ago on the Osage Orange had the mention of height and strenth of the fence it would provide.

  19. What if tree is like osage Orange but fruit is way smaller almost like a green apple but the size of a crab apple visous thorns all over wood is super hard and kinga orangeish had carpenter ants living in a crease

  20. This is not an Osage Orange. This is a bougainvillea. I would recognize those thorn’s anywhere.

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