Osage Orange

Imagine tennis balls – the bright neon-green kind – but a little larger and all wrinkly. Two of these showed up on my porch the other day (mysteriously) and I brought them in and put them in my fruit bowl.

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They have an unusual odor – not “pretty” – but not unpleasant either, sort of a clean chemical aroma, if that makes sense. I did a little googling and discovered they are called osage oranges (Maclura pomifera) and they grow on trees whose northern most range is the southern most part of my county, just barely.

osage orange distribution MapIt is reported indigenous people made war clubs from its very hard wood and that Europeans found it useful as a living livestock hedge, and later, after barbed wire became popular, the rot-resistant wood made good fence posts. The seeds are edible, if you can get to them through the pulp and slimy husk, a task readily engaged in by squirrels.  There are unsubstantiated claims that the fruits repel bugs and spiders in your home.

I don’t know who put these on my porch, but if you are reading this, I am very interested in seeing the tree from which they came! Contact me?

Read accounts about Osage Orange at:

Sunrise on the Cape

I rise early, stumble around in the dark, and sneak out as quietly as I can so as not to wake the others. I drive in the direction of the beach searching through the recesses of my gray matter for the instructions the Park Ranger gave me yesterday to a beach parking lot, wondering if I should have written them down. Not to worry. I arrive just in time. Pre-dawn.

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Morning is my time, whether I am on the beach, in the woods, or sitting at home with my laptop and cup of Joe. I feel most alive at dawn. A few kindred spirits join me in welcoming a new day: a man who stays at the top of the stairs with his cup of Joe, a father and son who play in the gentle waves, a mom with two daughters – all three still in pajamas, a gull.

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The interplay of stones and sand and water requires no color for its expression of dawn.

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Or does it?

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The sun climbs higher making irresistible shadows.

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It will be a glorious, clear-blue day.

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Cape Cod

It is a very long drive from where I live to the middle of Cape Cod, especially when slightly more than an hour of it must be done at 27mph (or slower). It is a beautiful place. I understand why everyone wants to go there. I can say without hesitation: I will never go there in summer. If the “off” season draws these kinds of crowds (this kind of traffic), I cannot imagine what the “high” season draws! Seems it would be brutal.

The BayWe spent a lovely few days. I had not been to a salt water shore for a very long time. There is something healing about it. I could have stayed on the sand forever exploring, watching the water come in and go out, the sun come up and go down, the shadows grow shorter and then longer again, making stone and shell collections, getting sun- and wind-burned.

Beach Grasses

I have spent the last 12 years as a naturalist. It is my job to know the names and stories of the things I encounter in the natural world and to share that with visitors. Now, I was a visitor – at a loss for what to call things. I am safe with “pebbles” and “shell” I suppose. Though a seaside naturalist would be able to tell you where the pebbles came from, the name of the species that once inhabited that shell and probably even the species that later made that shell a home base.

Pebbles Shell

A seaside naturalist would know the common names of the plants that live along the shore, and probably also the undersea ones that wash up on the shore.

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We watched more than one sunset over the bay. I know I become very contemplative when I watch the sun go down. This time, I wondered what thoughts were going through my kids’ heads.

Maddie, Phil, and Emily

Maddie Phil and Emily