Gleditsia triacanthos (Honey Locust)

An excellent urban shade tree, Honey Locust are well adapted to cope with a variety of soil types and environmental stressors. While pests may become a
problem if too many are planted in a particular region, their minor problems of being very prolific and growing sharp thorns are mitigated by many

Gleditsia triacanthos (Honey Locust)
Family: Fabaceae
Subspecies: f. inermis ‘Skycole’/SKYLINE (thornless, mostly seedless, somewhat dwarfed, more pyramidal), ‘Cottage Green’, ‘Imperial’, ‘Majestic’, ‘Maxwell’, ‘Moraine’, ‘Rubylace’ (crimson foliage in autumn), ‘Shademaster’, ‘Sunburst’ (new foliage initially golden yellow)
Native: central and eastern United States
Hardiness Zones: 3-8
Height: to 24 meters tall (rarely to 36 meters)
Diameter: to 24 meters wide
Root System: woody taproot with extensive lateral roots, penetrates deep into soil, considerable plasticity, relatively few surface roots (relative to other street trees)
Growth Rate: fast
Age: somewhat short-lived, to roughly 125 years
Deciduous: yes
Monoecious/dioecious: dioecious
Monocot/dicot: dicot

Tolerates: clay soil, air pollution, drought (once established), compacted soil, high temperatures, strong winds, saline soil, Juglones (toxin), herbivores (deer)
Problems (major): leaf spot, witch’s broom, canker, powdery mildew, rust, borers, webworms,
Problems (minor): Female trees can be extremely prolific and easily produce hundreds of seed pods once mature. The thorns (not present on certain varieties) may cause serious damage if stepped on if they fall off the trunk. Growth is inhibited by any considerable shade.
Poisonous: The gummy pulp in the legumes (seed pods) may irritate the mouth and throat if ingested.
Soil requirements: prefers neutral to slightly acidic (pH 5-8) nutrient-rich, well-drained loams
Air requirements: tolerant of pollution
Watering requirement: moderate (tolerant of brief dry spells)
Sun requirement: requires full sun, partial sun or shade inhibits growth
Leaves: double-compound/bi-pinnate, leaflets elliptical, light green (alternate winter buds)
Flowers: yellow-green racemes, superficially resemble Quercus (Oak) flowers, occur in June (early summer)
Fruits: dark red to brown seed pods (legumes) to 45 centimeters long by 5 centimeters wide, often curling or contorted, reddish-purple-brown seeds elliptical to 4 centimeters in diameter, contains a peculiar yellow gum-like substance, may persist into winter although many drop in autumn
Seeds require stratification: yes
Seed dispersal: previously by large mammals such as mammoths, currently an evolutionary anachronism
Form: open, spreading
Trunk: light purple to red or brown, crimson or brown spines single or in pairs of three (to 8 centimeters long, sometimes branched slightly), initially with lenticels, becoming cracked and into vertical strips

Notable characteristics:
These trees, along with others such as Maclura pomifera, have large spines to defer certain herbivores which once dispersed their fruits. Mammoths, and similar species, presumably ate and dispersed the seeds. Due to their absence, their reproductive strategy has become an evolutionary anachronism.

Besides use as shade and street trees, the wood of Honey Locusts are used for fence posts or furniture.

Sources used:

Form (winter)

Bark (vertically split)

The gummy substance inside the legumes, smells like apricot fruits



Golden foliage in early summer
Green foliage, early summer


Bark, coated in lichens
All of the images provided were taken by me. They may be used for educational/informational purposes only, provided that this article/online journal is appropriately cited first.


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