Friday, March 25, 2016

Meet the "Honey Locust" - Gleditsia triacanthos

The Honey Locust - Gleditsia triacanthos is a large deciduous tree with an open spreading crown and branched spines growing from the trunk and branches.  It is most easily recognized by the combination of pinnate and bipinnate leaves, large visable thorns and elongated legume. Known to reach heights of 80-140 feet, they are considered a medium to large tree. Though in most areas it reaches an average of 65-100 feet.  The fruit is a flat black - brown hairy pod (legume) often a foot or more long and twisted in appearance. The leaves each have 7-16 pairs of leaflets and are a true green color during the growing season changing in the fall to a lovely yellow color.  Flowers are greenish-yellow, bell shaped and grow in small upright symetrical clusters.  The bark is red when young becoming brown and deeply furrowed with narrow ridges when mature.
Image Citation: John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University,

This tree grows naturally in many habitats throughout the Eastern United States from Pennsylvania in the North to Nebraska and Texas in the South. The cultivated forms often lack the prickly spines that many tree workers dread working around and are much preferred in residential and urban settings.  Recommended for hardiness zones 3-9, the Honey Locust is a shade tree capable of completely blocking sunlight to areas below.  Honey Locust's are fast growers gaining as much as 24 inches each year. They prefer full sunlight or at least 6 hours per day and are tolerant of wet and dry sites, salt, compacted soil, pollution and most other urban stresses.

Image Citation: (legumes) Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.),
Image Citation: (thorns) William Fountain, University of Kentucky,

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