Are hedge apples good for deer?

Answered by John Hunt

Hedge apples, also known as Osage oranges, are often a topic of debate when it comes to their suitability for deer consumption. While some people believe that hedge apples are beneficial for deer, others argue that they are of little nutritional value. So, let’s delve into the question: Are hedge apples good for deer?

First and foremost, it’s important to note that hedge apples are not true apples and should not be confused with the fruit we typically think of. They are the fruit of the Osage orange tree, which is native to parts of North America. Hedge apples are large, green, and bumpy in appearance, with a milky sap when cut open.

When it comes to deer, they have been observed consuming hedge apples, particularly during the fall and winter months when other food sources may become scarce. However, it’s important to understand that hedge apples are not a primary food source for deer and should not be relied upon as a sole food option.

Hedge apples have a relatively low nutritional value compared to other forage options available to deer. They are high in fiber, which can be beneficial in small amounts for digestive health. However, they are low in protein, energy, and other essential nutrients that deer require for optimal growth and survival.

It’s worth mentioning that hedge apples contain compounds called tetrahydroxystilbene glucosides, which some believe have insect-repellent properties. This has led to the misconception that hedge apples can repel deer ticks and reduce the risk of tick-borne diseases in deer. However, scientific research has not provided conclusive evidence to support this claim.

While hedge apples may not be a nutritional powerhouse for deer, they can still offer some benefits. The tree itself can provide cover and shelter for deer, and the leaves can be browsed upon. Additionally, the large size and hard texture of hedge apples may help wear down deer’s teeth, aiding in dental health.

While deer may consume hedge apples to some extent, they are not a significant food source and should not be relied upon as a primary food option. Deer require a varied diet that includes high-quality forage with adequate protein and energy content. It’s always best to provide deer with a diverse range of natural forage options, such as grasses, browse, and other native plants, to ensure their nutritional needs are met.