Honey locust

Honey locust

name = Honey locust

image_width = 250px
image_caption = Honey locust trunk
regnum = Plantae
divisio = Magnoliophyta
classis = Magnoliopsida
ordo = Fabales
familia = Fabaceae
subfamilia = Caesalpinioideae
genus = "Gleditsia"
species = "G. triacanthos"
binomial = "Gleditsia triacanthos"
binomial_authority = L.

The Honey locust ("Gleditsia triacanthos") is a deciduous tree native to eastern North America and can also be found in central and southern Illinois. It is mostly found in the moist soil of river valleys ranging from southeastern South Dakota to New Orleans and central Texas, and as far east as central Pennsylvania.


Honey locusts can reach a height of 20–30 m (66–100 ft), with fast growth, and are relatively short-lived; about 120 years, some living up to 150. They are also prone to losing large branches in windstorms. The leaves are pinnately compound on older trees but bipinnately compound on vigorous young trees. The leaflets are 1.5–2.5 cm (smaller on bipinnate leaves) and bright green. They turn yellow in the fall. Leafs out relatively late in spring, but generally slightly earlier than the black locust ("Robinia pseudoacacia"). The strongly scented cream-colored flowers appear in late spring, in clusters emerging from the base of the leaf axils.

The fruit of the Honey locust is a flat legume (pod) that matures between September and October. The pods are generally between 15–20 cm. The pulp on the insides of the pods is edible and sweetFact|date=June 2008, unlike the Black locust, which is toxicFact|date=June 2008. The seeds are dispersed by grazing herbivores such as cattle and horses, which eat the pod pulp and excrete the seeds in droppings; the animal's digestive system assists in breaking down the hard seed coat, making germination easier.

Honey locusts commonly have thorns 10–20 cm long growing out of the branches; these may be single, or branched into several points, and commonly form dense clusters. The thorns are fairly soft and green when young, harden and turn red as they age, then fade to ash grey and turn brittle when mature. These thorns are thought to have evolved to protect the trees from browsing Pleistocene megafauna which may also have been involved in seed dispersal. [cite journal | last=Barlow | first=Connie | title=Anachronistic Fruits and the Ghosts Who Haunt Them | journal=Arnoldia | volume=61 | issue=2 | pages= | doi= | month= | year=2001 | accessdate=2008-02-21] Thornless forms (f. "inermis") are occasionally found growing wild.


Despite its name, Honey locust is not a significant honey plant. The name derives from the sweet taste of the legume pulp, which was used for food by Native American people, and can also be fermented to make beer.

A Native American legend is that the Thunder Spirit recognized his son by his ability to sit comfortably on locust branches, despite the thorns.

Its cultivars are popular ornamental plants, especially in the northern plains of North America where few other trees can survive and prosper. It tolerates urban conditions, compacted soil, road salt, alkaline soil, heat and drought. The popularity is in part due to the fact that it transplants so easily. The fast growth rate and tolerance of poor site conditions make it valued in areas where shade is wanted quickly, such as new parks or housing developments, and in disturbed and reclaimed environments, such as mine tailings. It is resistant to Gypsy moths but is defoliated by another pest, the mimosa webworm. Spider mites, cankers, and galls are a problem with some trees.

The honey locust has also been introduced in many places as an ornamental tree, especially the thornless forms [3] , and has become naturalized in parts of southern Europe, and Australia where it is called McConnel's curse. Though considered invasive in these areas, it is yet sometimes recommended by some nurseries. [cite web | author=James Will; John Fitzgibbon; John Brereton | title="Gleditsia triacanthos": Honeylocust | url=http://www.metrotrees.com.au/treehandbook/page-listings/gleditsia-triacanthos.html | publisher=Metropolitan Tree Growers | date=19 June 2007 | accessdate=2008-02-21]

Honey locust produces a high quality, durable wood that polishes well, but the tree does not grow in sufficient numbers to support a bulk industry. Its also used for posts and rails since it works with soil so well and takes a long time to rot. However a niche market exists for honey locust furniture. In the past, the hard thorns of the younger trees have been used as nails.



*Sternberg, Guy, (2004) "Native Trees for North American Landscapes" pp. 264. Timber Press,

3. Little, Elbert L. 1980 The Audubon Society Field Gudie To North American Trees - Western Region. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, p. 495.

External links

* [http://www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/bioimages/species/frame/gltr.htm "Gleditsia triacanthos" images at bioimages.vanderbilt.edu]
* [http://www.forestryimages.org/search/action.cfm?q=Gleditsia%20triacanthos "Gleditsia triacanthos" images at Forestry Images]
* [http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/gletri/all.html "Gleditsia triacanthos" at US Forest Service Silvics Manual]
* [http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=GLTR "Gleditsia triacanthos" at USDA Plants Database]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Honey locust — Honey Hon ey (h[u^]n [y^]), n. [OE. honi, huni, AS. hunig; akin to OS. honeg, D. & G. honig, OHG. honag, honang, Icel. hunang, Sw. h[*a]ning, Dan. honning, cf. Gr. ko nis dust, Skr. ka[.n]a grain.] 1. A sweet viscid fluid, esp. that collected by… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • honey locust — Locust tree Lo cust tree . [Etymol. uncertain.] (Bot.) A large North American tree of the genus {Robinia} ({Robinia Pseudacacia}), producing large slender racemes of white, fragrant, papilionaceous flowers, and often cultivated as an ornamental… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • honey-locust — tridyglė gledičija statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Cezalpinijinių šeimos dekoratyvinis, medieninis, pašarinis, vaistinis augalas (Gleditsia triacanthos), paplitęs Šiaurės Amerikoje. atitikmenys: lot. Gleditsia triacanthos angl. common honey …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • honey-locust — gledičija statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Cezalpinijinių (Caesalpiniaceae) šeimos augalų gentis (Gleditsia). atitikmenys: lot. Gleditsia angl. honey locust; locust; sweet locust vok. Christusdorn; Gleditschie; Schotenbaum; Schotendorn rus.… …   Dekoratyvinių augalų vardynas

  • honey locust — a thorny North American tree, Gleditsia triacanthos, of the legume family, having small, compound leaves and pods with a sweet pulp. Also called black locust, three thorned acacia. [1735 45, Amer.] * * * ▪ tree genus  any of the thorny trees of… …   Universalium

  • honey locust — /ˈhʌni loʊkəst/ (say hunee lohkuhst) noun 1. Also, locust. a tree, Gleditsia triacanthos, of North America, having pods with a sweet pulp. 2. → honey mesquite. 3. any of various other trees, usually having either sweet pods or durable timber …   Australian English dictionary

  • honey locust — noun tall usually spiny North American tree having small greenish white flowers in drooping racemes followed by long twisting seed pods; yields very hard durable reddish brown wood; introduced to temperate Old World • Syn: ↑Gleditsia triacanthos… …   Useful english dictionary

  • honey locust — noun Date: 1743 a tall usually spiny North American leguminous tree (Gleditsia triacanthos) with very hard wood and long twisted pods containing a sweet edible pulp and seeds that resemble beans …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • honey locust — noun A North American deciduous tree (Gleditsia triacanthos) having fragrant flowers and hard red wood …   Wiktionary

  • honey locust — n. tall thorny tree of eastern North America …   English contemporary dictionary

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