The bizarre, fleshy fruit was actually the perfect snack for large prehistoric mammals like the Woolly Mammoth and the Giant Ground Sloth. That's why present-day mammals and birds aren't able to stomach the alien-like Osaga oranges, sometimes referred to as hedge apples or monkey balls.
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The fruit of the Maclura pomifera tree, or Osaga orange tree, needed a way to spread its seeds during the Pleistocene era. So Mother Nature, being a smart cookie, evolved the Osaga orange to be the fleshy, bright-colored fruit it is to attract massive mammals that traveled great distances in herds.
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After the fruit was eaten and digested, the seeds were deposited with the mammals’ feces away from the parent tree. There, seeds could sprout a new Maclura tree and the cycle would begin again.
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So next time you visit Sugarcreek MetroPark and you're kicking aside dozens of lumpy “monkey balls,” think about a hungry Woolly Mammoth who would love to trade places with you.
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