A farmer’s advice is to make a living fence “horse high, hog tight, and bull strong.” Living fences are permanent hedges that support ecological diversity while providing privacy and protection. The Osage orange tree (Maclura pomifera), also known as the Hedge apple or Monkey ball tree, has been utilized as a living fence since the 1700’s, most popular in the Central and Eastern United States. This easily propagated tree, when planted about one foot apart and seedlings laid over and weaved together in their first two falls, will grow to a formidable fence in just four years. The Osage orange is a long-living hardy wood, resistant to a large range of insects and diseases (including rot), and tolerant to a wide variety of soils and climates; along with long steel-like thorns, these are ideal qualities for living fences.
This color pencil illustration depicts the growing process of an Osage orange tree living fence, with an old, horticulturally manipulated tree in full color. This overgrown tree is typical of what can be seen along present day trailsides as shelter for many types of wildlife. The two fox squirrels (Sciurus niger), who have built a leaf nest in this tree, shred the inedible rind of the tree’s fruit to expose and eat the seeds. The background layer of the drawing is of past Pittsburgh, depicting a 1903 farm hill view of the Carnegie Institute, Schenley Hotel and Phipps Conservatory. The neighborhood of Oakland, Pittsburgh started as the farm of William Eichenbaum in 1840 and the trees of that time can still be found today.