The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recently awarded State Champion Tree honors to farm owners in rural Howard County for harboring the state’s largest Osage orange tree.

Osage orange (Maclura pomifera), also known as hedge apple, has a long and interesting history of use by both Native Americans and early pioneers.

Its wood was once in demand for making hubs and wheel rims for horse-drawn wagons, mine support timbers, posts, and many other uses where decay resistance was important.

The trees were promoted as a “living fence” in the early 1800s, and functioned as hedge fences long before the invention of barbed wire.

Seventh generation landowner Derek Bryant and his wife, Jamie, operate Blue Bell Farm near Fayette, and take pride in protecting the natural history of their property.

“For me, the tree is a direct link to the past, and old things capture our imagination,” said Derek Bryant. “It’s incredible to think that my great-great-great-great-grandparents touched that tree, enjoyed its shade, used its wood, and climbed it as children. We’re really lucky it’s still here and hasn’t been inconveniently in anyone’s way for 200 years.”

The Bryants recently hosted a wedding on their farm, and Kailey Brooks was working the event as a floral designer when she noticed the record-setting tree near the farmhouse.

You need to login to view the rest of the content. Please . Not a Member? Join Us