Major living fence applications in the United States have utilized Osage orange trees (Maclura pomifera), also called hedge apple or horse apple. For an incredibly tough, enduring windbreak that’s a major player in a local ecology, probably nothing surpasses Osage orange. It was planted extensively in the central and eastern areas of the country in the 1800s (before the invention of barbed wire), especially to fence the rapidly colonized prairies. After the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, thousands of miles of Osage orange were grown as shelterbelts to prevent wind erosion.
Easily propagated from seeds, cuttings or sprouts from the roots, Osage orange is tolerant of a wide range of soils, resistant to drought, long-lived, and affected little by insects or disease. Planted at a spacing of 1 foot, in four years it makes a fence that is “horse-high, bull-strong and hog-tight.”