Mock orange tree fruit

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Monday – June 08, 2009

From: Bordentown, NJ
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification–Mock Orange
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I “grew up” with what I was told was a “Mockorange Bush.” I’ve been looking around to be able to try to identify what variety it was. To be specific, the one that I am familiar with had little basket like-reddish brown “fruit”(?) hanging on it, probably about 3/4” diameter. I don’t think they were completely round, but little semi-hard, kind of flexible, (Like a basket would feel)petal like protrusions, coming from the center of the stem, and curling downward, kind of like a basket. I don’t necessarily remember the white flowers that most of the Mockoranges have, but maybe it wasn’t a Mockorange, although those little “fruits,” might be construed as tiny oranges. I’ve never seen them on any pictures of Mockoranges that I’ve viewed. I always thought that the reason mine was called a Mockorange was because of those little “oranges.” Any clue? Thank you very much for taking time to read this. Hope you had a nice break a week ago! (Vacation?) Jim Kiiffner

ANSWER:

You can see a drawing of the fruit ofPhiladelphus coronarius (Sweet mock orange), a non-native mock orange and the fruit ofP. lewisii (Lewis’ mock orange), a native mock orange, in the USDA Plant Database plus a photo of the developing fruit of P. lewisii from Oregon State University and a photo of mature fruit from Virginia Tech. Here are drawings of the fruits of P. caudatus and P. tetragonus, two Asian species from Flora of China. Here are drawings of P. serpyllifolius (p.133) and P. hitchcockianus, P. argenteus and P. microphyllus (p.134), and P. palmeri (p.135) in Trees and Shrubs of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas by A. Michael Powell (University of Texas Press, 1998). You can see a drawing of the fruit of P. grandiflorus on p.182 in Minnesota Trees and Shrubs by Clements, Rosendahl and Butters (The University of Minnesota, 1912). There is a drawing of the fruit (capsule) of P. ernestii (p. 371) in Rare Plants of Texas by Poole, Carr, Price, & Singhurst (Texas A&M University Press,2007). I wasn’t able to find drawings or photos of the other species of Philadelphus, but you can see that the various fruits in the pictures above resemble each other, but are also different from each other. Perhaps one of the fruits in these pictures resembles the one your remember. You can see photos (no fruits shown) of some of the native species of Philadelphus in our Native Plant Database and you can see more photos and distributions of native and introduced species of Philadelphus in the USDA Plants Database. By the way, most of the sources say that the fruits are inedible, but one source says that the fruit of P. microphyllus (Little-leaf mock orange) is edible and was formerly used as food.

There is a reference in NaturesPlants.com to two plants in other genera that have also been called by the common name of mock orange—Murraya paniculata (Mock orange) and Pittosporum tobira (Japanese mock orange or Japanese cheesewood)—but neither of these has fruit that sounds exactly like your description. M. paniculata, however, certainly looks like a small elongate orange.

Thanks for asking about Mr. Smarty Plants’ vacation. Actually, it was a “working vacation” since Mr. Smarty Plants had to take a week off to try and catch up on answering all the questions ‘he’ receives. ‘He’s’ still trying to catch up!

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Bibliography

Trees and Shrubs of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas (1998) Powell, A. M. Search More Titles in Bibliography

Myth: Spider repellants

Myth: “Hedge apples” (Osage orange fruit) or horse chestnuts can be used to repel spiders.

Fact: The story that the fruit of the Osage orange tree (also called hedge apple, monkey ball, or spider ball) can repel or ward off spiders turns out to be extremely widespread in Midwestern states, where the trees are common. Details vary, but in general it seems that people put these aromatic fruits around their walls in fall to “keep spiders from coming in.” Since house spiders don’t actually come in from outside, of course this works just fine, but there is no evidence that spiders are repelled by Osage oranges. They live on the trees and even make webs on the fallen fruit. What’s more, spiders seldom show any sign of being able to detect airborne odors!

In some versions of the story, the repellent effect has been transferred from spiders to cockroaches, mosquitoes, chicken mites, or mice. Since squirrels regularly chew through these fruits to get the tasty seeds inside, a rodent repellent effect seems pretty unlikely. A recent study did find some cockroach repellency in a purified extract from the fruit – but not in the whole fruit.

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A unique and exotic Citrus relative, Flying Dragon is a deciduous, very dwarf tree with attractive, contorted branches and equally attractive, hook shaped thorns. This citrus tree bears yellow, 2″ diameter fruits that yield juice that can be used as a lemon-like seasoning. In China we have seen Flying Dragon used as a compact, impenetrable hedge. It is reportedly hardy to at least 0F. and can be grown outside in many areas of the Pacific Northwest and other regions of the U.S. with mild winters.

Latin Name: Poncirus trifoliata monstrosa
Site and Soil: In spring, summer and fall, keep your potted Citrus in a location with 1/2 day to full sun. In the winter, place your plant in a well-lit room. Potting soil should be coarse, acidic, and well-drained.
Rootstock Description: Flying Dragon is a hardy and very dwarfing rootstock for Citrus that induces very early flowering and fruit procuction. Trees will rarely exceed 5 ft. in height and will often produce fruit the year they are planted.
Pollination Requirements: Citrus is self-fertile. You can help it set fruit by taking a small brush and moving pollen from flower to flower.
Hardiness: Flying Dragon is hardy to about -20° F.
Bearing Age: 2-3 years after planting
Size at Maturity: 2-3 ft.
Bloom Time: Spring
Ripening Time: The fruit ripens in late fall.
Yield: 20-30 lbs.
Pests & Diseases: While outside, Citrus plants will likely not be bothered by insect pests. Be on the lookout for slugs. Indoors, Citrus can have mites and/or aphids. Watch carefully for any problems and treat with an insecticidal soap or wash them off. We have not seen any disease problems on our Citrus plants.
USDA Zone: 5

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In many of our state’s gardens, dragons lurk. No, not the fire-breathing monster kind, but rather Poncirus trifoliate, or ‘Flying Dragon.’ At this time of year, it is a beauty of a plant — if you adore thorns. This botanical beast is a distorted, twisted creation with claw-like, curved, one- to two-inch emerald green thorns that rake at the chilled winter air. Also called hardy contorted orange, it is closely related to the lemon and lime trees commonly grown indoors, but it will survive outside in all but the highest elevations of North Carolina.

In the summer, this dragon sleeps in a sea of deep green foliage, but come autumn after leaf fall, its long claws are unsheathed. Also very noticeable in early fall are ping pong ball-sized, orange-like fruits (produced from small, fragrant, white flowers in the spring) that can be considered, at best, barely edible due to their super-sour, all-pit, little-pulp nature. The seeds readily sprout, meaning that unless the fruits are picked, this dragon can become aggressive and even invasive in a landscape.

This unusual orange does best when planted in well-drained, slightly acidic soil in partial to full sun. If possible, place the plant in an area where it will be exposed to the low-rising or setting winter sun so strong light and long shadows will accentuate the visual effect of the bizarre green thorns.

‘Flying Dragon’ will remain restrained in habit (if not armament) to form a rounded shrub that tops out anywhere from five to eight feet. One plant will make an interesting addition to the winter garden; 20 plants will form an impervious barrier that will keep dogs, cats, and cat burglars away.

To Do in February

1. Wild vines can cover up a landscape, but now is a good time to tame them. If they have become a nuisance, cut back such invasive vines as wisteria,wild grape, Virginia creeper, poison ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, and bittersweet.

2. If they were root pruned last fall, small woody ornamentals can be moved to a new location now.

3. Just before new growth begins on liriope, shear the plants to make room for the young shoots to come. Clippers will do the job in small beds, but for long border expanses, set the lawn mower up to its highest setting and finish in five minutes or less.

4. Large, showy ornamental grasses such as pampas and miscanthus should also be cut back before new growth begins. In addition, now is a good time to divide large clumps of ornamental grass.

5. Want a sneak peek of spring indoors? Force bloom the branches of such spring beauties as crabapple, forsythia, deciduous magnolia, spirea, redbud, dogwood, pussy willow, viburnum, witch hazel, flowering quince, or ornamental almond, cherry, peach, and plum. Cut branches, put them in a container of warm water, and place them in a room that remains 65° to 70°. Also, change the water at least three times a week.

6. Keep picking spent blooms off pansies to maintain their flower show into the spring.

7. If you had any problems last year with your lawn mower, weed eater, leaf blower, or other such motorized garden helpers, now is a good time to have them looked over, tuned up, or repaired by qualified mechanics before they are swamped with springtime business.

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