I’m going to start a new topic here to answer @tennessean 's question in the hopes that I’m not the only one on the forum interested in osage orange trees.
Thornless osage oranges have been selected for use as street/shade trees in urban/suburban plantings, but my interest in the thornless cultivars is just for ease of management and handling. The little plantation I already have planted is all seedlings, but I intentionally planted them in the middle of the woods (surrounded by woods on all four sides) and didn’t bother make the aisles between my rows to where I could get a tractor down the aisles because I’m afraid of puncturing tractor tires if I were to drive between or next to the osage oranges. Thornless cultivars would do away with those limitations and make it easier to handle the logs and branches at whatever point I begin harvesting them (as well as any pruning work I’d do in the meantime.)
If I can sell specialty staves to people wanting to make their own bows for a price that would make it worth my while, I’d certainly consider that – I don’t know how many years it will be before I have trees the size I’d want to harvest, but I’ll have plenty of time to explore marketing options in the meantime – but what I’m mainly thinking at this point is that highly rot-resistant posts (and possibly even small saw logs) would be very useful to me, if not also to sell.
What I’m really hoping to do is to establish a plantation that I (and my son, grandsons that aren’t born yet…) can harvest at a small enough size that they’ll stump sprout after harvest and then rapidly regenerate. I’m hopeful the regrowth from stump sprouts will effectively save me at least 5 years compared to setting out 1-2 year old seedlings, not only making future harvests more frequent but also outgrowing and shading out any weed trees or other competition with much less help from me.
I have pretty limited forestry knowledge, but based on what little I know, I’m thinking 9-11" in diameter would be a good harvest size. I’ve heard that larger trees don’t regenerate from stump sprouts as well. I’m hoping seedlings will reach that size in 20-25 years from planting, but I don’t really know if that’s at all realistic. 10" in 20 years would be 1/4" average growth rings. The seedlings seem to be growing pretty vigorously so far, even despite the pretty heavy weed pressure, and hopefully they’ll be shading out the weeds before too long. If 20-25 years is realistic, I’m hoping 15-20 years would be attainable with stump sprouts.
Osage oranges definitely don’t have the best timber form, so I plan to do some pruning and maybe even some staking. I’m sure a lot of what I’m doing won’t be worth the time, but I feel like I need to experiment to find out what is and what isn’t worth doing, and I’m fine with that. I’m hopeful that it will all be very worthwhile over the long-term, though, assuming one or two generations continue with this project after me. Of the thornless cultivars at Brenton Arboretum in central Iowa – if you’re in the area, go visit! I really enjoyed my visit there – the cultivars that looked most interesting to me were Denmark, K-3, White Shield, Park, and Dawson. I hope to get some of those started next year (2019) and figure out a good way to multiply them: layering or rooting cuttings or maybe grafting and then burying the graft union… such that stump sprouts would still be thornless.