‘Umpa’ the Osage orange

Maclura pomifera

February 27, 2020 · 1 minute exploration
‘Umpa’ the Osage orange
UrbanForestDweller.com name:  Umpa
Notes: If you have spent any time near the Stone House at the highest point in Forest Hill Park, the odds are you’ve taken notice of this remarkable immigrant. Osage orange, Maclura pomifera, is a native of the Midwest, and its name is associated with the Osage Indians of that region. This specimen looks to be very old.  The first mention we know involving Osage orange trees in Virginia is when cuttings of this tree were sent back to Thomas Jefferson by Lewis and Clark. Meriwether Lewis wrote to Thomas Jefferson from St. Louis on 26 March 1804, a few weeks before embarking on the expedition. “I send you herewith inclosed, some slips of the Osages Plums, and Apples. I fear the season is too far advanced for their success.”
Jefferson was an avid botanist and would share the clippings sent back from Lewis and Clark with wealthy friends. Since this tree looks to be about that old, we’d like to think it possible that it’s a close relative of those first clippings that were sent back east by pioneering Americans.
Enjoy a walk around the base of this storyteller, and see if it tells you tails of wealthy philanthropists, trolley rides, amusement park goers, hoards of joyful sleigh riders, and hopeful unions of husband and wife. Such is the history of this storied knoll in South Richmond where “Umpa,” the great Osage orange of Forest Hills, stands his watch.
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