A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from December 11, 2006
Bois d’Arc Capital of Texas (Commerce nickname)

The city of Commerce was declared by the Texas Legislature the “Bois d’Arc Capital of Texas” in 1999. “Bo-dark” (as it’s called) is a tree. Commerce holds an annual Bois d’Arc Bash in mid-late September.

Are there really hordes of Bois d’Arc tourists interested in this?

Wikipedia: Osage-orange
The Osage-orange (Maclura pomifera) is a plant in the mulberry family Moraceae. It is also known as mock orange, hedge-apple, horse-apple, hedge ball, bois d’arc, bodark (mainly in Oklahoma & Texas), and bow wood. Common slang terms for it include monkey brain, monkey ball, monkey orange, and brain fruit due to its brainlike appearance.

The species is dioeceous, with male and female flowers on different plants. It is a small deciduous tree or large shrub, typically growing to 8-15 m tall. The fruit, a syncarp of achenes, is roughly spherical, but bumpy, and 7-15 cm in diameter, and it is filled with a very sticky white sap. In fall, its color turns a bright yellow-green and it has a faint odor similar to that of oranges.
Today, the fruit is sometimes used to deter spiders, cockroaches, boxelder bugs, crickets, fleas, and other insects. However, using the fruit in this fashion, at least for spiders, has been debunked. However, hedge apple oil has been shown to effectively repel cockroaches (University of Iowa, 2004), and the fruit may indeed have an effect of repelling cockroaches and boxelder bugs.

Texas Escapes
Bois d’Arc Capital of the World
Hunt County, Central Texas North
10 miles N of I-30
65 miles NE of Dallas
125 miles W of Texarkana
Population 7669 (2000)
Home of Texas A & M - Commerce
Gateway to Cooper Lake
The Commerce event calendar revolves around the September Bois d’Arc Bash. The Bash occurs on the nearest weekend to Sept 25th, the anniversary of the town’s incorporation in 1885.

Commerce has taken this maligned and under-appreciated tree and only asks that we take a closer look. The name is pronounced Bo-Dark (which sounds like a late night AM Disc Jockey). The tree’s seed was once a commercial export to foreign places like Oklahoma, where it was planted in fence lines before the advent of barbed wire.

McKinney and Bonham also have the tree in their history. Blocks were cut of the durable wood and streets were paved with it. Max, the former Champion Bois d’Arc in the State of Texas, recently lost his throne to a tree in Corsicana (of all places), but can still be visited (and consoled) inside the city limits of Commerce.

Since Bois d’Arc “apples” can’t be eaten, the folks at Commerce also hold a Crawfish Festival and 5K Run/Walk the first Saturday in May. 

Official Capital Designations - Texas State Library
Bois d’Arc Capital of Texas
House Concurrent Resolution No. 31, 76th Legislature, Regular Session (1999)

Texas Legislature
H.C.R. No. 31

WHEREAS, Since long before even the Osage Indians knew its value, the bois d’arc tree has thrived in northeast Texas, and the city of Commerce sits at the very heart of the geographic region to which this famed and multipurpose tree is native; and

WHEREAS, The earliest residents of Texas used the bois d’arc for dyes, fuel, and their bows and arrows that so amazed the first French explorers; fence posts, wagon wheels, tools, and bois d’arc bricks would follow, as later settlers learned the true worth of the Osage orange; and

WHEREAS, It is an extremely hard wood, very durable, and it possesses a natural fungicide; there was a time when many banks in Texas would not finance a home unless it was built on sure-to-last bois d’arc blocks; and

WHEREAS, During the lean and grim days of the Dust Bowl, countless Texas bois d’arc seedlings were shipped across the Great Plains to create thousands of miles of living fence, slowing erosion and providing much-needed shade for beleaguered farmers and their families; and

WHEREAS, In tribute to this useful and hardy native, the city of Commerce has hosted its Annual Bois d’Arc Bash every September for more than a decade; with a variety of cultural, historical, educational, and recreational activities, the popular event is indeed a memorable one and famed across the state; and

WHEREAS, The city’s appreciation for the tree has earned it considerable notice, for Texas Monthly, Texas Highways, and Southern Living magazines have all featured stories of the Commerce bois d’arc celebration, and Tumbleweed Smith has highlighted the event on his popular radio program, “The Sound of Texas”; and

WHEREAS, Perhaps the centerpiece of all this bois d’arc ardor is “Max,” a 300-year-old giant of a bois d’arc that is listed as a Famous and Historic Tree by American Forests; and

WHEREAS, The fine citizens of Commerce are justifiably proud of the important role the bois d’arc tree has played in their long and colorful history, and in turn their enthusiasm has made all of Texas more aware of that role; their determined and successful efforts have rightfully earned their city distinction as the Official Bois d’Arc Capital of Texas; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the 76th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby declare Commerce in Hunt County as the Official Bois d’Arc Capital of Texas; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared for prominent display in Commerce, the Official Bois d’Arc Capital of Texas.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Monday, December 11, 2006 • Permalink