Q. Dear Twig: Did you find any Osage oranges?
A. I did. I'm standing here in front of them now. I'm hoping they don't start to roll. I'll try to describe them for you.
First, they're round like a ball. Halfway in size between a baseball and a softball. And colored a crazy color: bright lime green. Got any Crayola crayons around? Check out Electric Lime. That's it.
Liney, wrinkly, bumpy skin makes an Osage orange look like a brain. Up close all those lines and bumps resemble a whole bunch of belly buttons. Outties. Plus also with a great big innie at the top of the fruit where the stem was.
Sniff one and the smell's kind of orangy, a bit like eucalyptus ("yoo-kuh-LIP-tiss"). Scientists chalk it up to natural, fragrant oils called terpenoids ("TERP-uh-noyds").
Poke the skin with something pointy and sticky white sap oozes out. The sap has latex ("LAY-teks") in it. Avoid it if you're allergic to latex.
Next: What eats Osage oranges?
Don't look at me-ly,
P.S. People use latex to make rubber. They usually get that latex from the Pará rubber tree.
The Pará rubber tree grows in the tropics. We talked about Osage-orange trees, which don't — they grow in Ohio and other non-tropical parts of North America — last week also. Catch up here if you missed it: http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~news/story.php?id=4882.
Osage oranges aren't oranges. The Osage-orange tree belongs to the mulberry family. So does the tropical breadfruit tree; it, too, grows giant lime-green fruit.
Drop an Osage orange on a table and the sound you hear is "bu-unk" (it might bounce a little). Knock on one as you would a front door and the sound is "tok" or "pok."
Get Osage-orange tree facts in Ohio State University Extension's Ohio Trees bulletin, http://ohioline.osu.edu/b700/b700_33.html.
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Blatant (Yet Strangely Irresistible) Twig Book Pitch:
Twig has a new book out: Beware the Flying Steamer Duck! Birds and What They Doo (ages 9+, $9.95, 116 pp.) — a compilation of 41 bird-related "Smart Stuff" columns. Order it, if you're so inclined, from CommTech, OARDC/OSU, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691. Make checks payable to Ohio State University. For details, e-mail email@example.com or call (330) 263-3780. Also, Twig's first two books are now back in print in completely new editions: Purple and Green and Stinky in Spring (bugs, plants, water, wildlife, farming) (ages 9+, 116 pp.) and Hairy Blenny and the Monkeyface Prickleback (freshwater life) (ages 9+, 96 pp.). Both are $9.95 each. Or buy all three for $25.95 and save four bucks.