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Overview

Brief Summary

Leguminosae -- Legume family

    Robert M. Blair

    Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos), also called  sweet-locust or thorny-locust, is a moderately fast growing tree  commonly found on moist bottom lands or limestone soils. Because  it has proven very hardy and tolerant of drought and salinity, it  is widely planted for windbreaks and soil erosion control. The  thornless variety has been planted to replace the elm in many  urban areas. The wood is dense, hard, and durable but used only  locally. Honeylocust pods are sweet and eaten by livestock and  wildlife. The tree is relatively short lived, reaching the age of  125 years.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Robert M. Blair

Source: Silvics of North America

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Comprehensive Description

Comments

Wild trees are often formidably armed by thorns; it is possible that this functioned as a defense against the American Mastodon and other large megafauna of the last ice age. Today, these thorns discourage squirrels, opossums, raccoons, and humans from climbing this tree. The only other tree that Honey Locust can be confused with in the Midwest is Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). Black Locust has slightly larger leaflets, fewer thorns, shorter seedpods, and more showy white flowers. These flowers have a pea-like floral structure that is typical of species in the Bean family (Fabaceae). The greenish yellow flowers of Honey Locust, in contrast, have a more conventional floral structure.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This tree is 50-100' tall at maturity, forming a single trunk about 2-3½' across and an open plume-like crown that is somewhat flattened at its apex. Trunk bark of mature trees is light gray to gray-black and divided into large flat plates with upturned margins; these plates are slightly scaly and they are separated by shallow furrows. The bark of branches and twigs is more smooth, brown, and hairless, while young shoots are light green and pubescent. Alternate compound leaves occur along the twigs and young shoots. These leaves are evenly pinnate or bipinnate and 6-14" long. Pinnate leaves have 5-11 pairs of simple leaflets, while bipinnate leaves have 4-7 pairs of pinnate leaves that are each divided into 5-11 pairs of simple leaflets. There are no terminal leaflets. The rachis of each compound leaf is light green and pubescent. The leaflets are ¾-1½" long and about 1/3 as much across; they are oblong to lanceolate-oblong and slightly crenate along their margins. The upper surface of the leaflets is yellowish green to dark green and hairless, while the lower surface is more pale and either hairless or minutely hairy. The leaflets have very short petiolules (basal stalklets) that are less than 1/8" long. Along the trunk, there are usually both simple and branched thorns up to 8" long; there are also simple and tripartite thorns along the lower branches. However, there is also a thornless variety (var. inermis) of Honey Locust that is uncommon in the wild, although often cultivated. The small greenish yellow flowers are produced in racemes about 2-5" long; they are usually male (staminate) or female (pistillate), although sometimes perfect (both staminate & pistillate). Individual male flowers have a calyx with 5 lobes, 4-5 petals, and 3-10 stamens, while individual female flowers have a calyx with 5 lobes and a pistil with a single style. Individual perfect flowers have both a pistil and several stamens. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer for about 2 weeks. The flowers have a sweet fragrance. Fertile female flowers are replaced by flattened seedpods that become 6-14" long and 1-1½" across at maturity. Mature seedpods are dark brown, hairless, and often hooked or spirally twisted. Each seedpod contains several large seeds that are reniform in shape and about 1/3" long; they have hard seed coats. The seeds are embedded in a thick sweet pulp. The seedpods fall to the ground unopened during the late fall or winter. The woody root system has a taproot and abundant lateral roots that are widely spreading and deep. The deciduous leaflets turn yellow during the autumn.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

Shrub or small tree, armed with stout 3-forked spines, grown as a garden ornamental and known as a very occasional naturalized escape. Bark fairly smooth but splitting into vertical fissures on older stems. Leaves variably pinnate or 2-pinnate, even on the same branch, with a single pair of pinnae; leaflets 8-13 pairs per pinna, opposite, oblong-elliptic, up to 3.5 cm long, glossy green; margin finely scalloped. Flowers in axillary heads, unisexual on different trees, small, green. Fruit a flat woody pod, 15-30 cm long, often twisted when older, indehiscent.
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© Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten and Petra Ballings

Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

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Derivation of specific name

triacanthos: 3-spined
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© Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten and Petra Ballings

Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

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Description

General: Pea Family (Fabaceae). Native trees growing to 20 meters tall, with an open crown, armed with thick-branched thorns to 20 cm long on the main trunk and lower branches. Bark blackish to grayish-brown, with smooth, elongate, plate-like patches separated by furrows. Leaves are deciduous, alternate, pinnately or bipinnately compound, 10-20 cm long, often with 3-6 pairs of side branches; leaflets paired, oblong, 1-3 cm long, shiny and dark green above, turning a showy yellow in the fall, typically dropping early. Flowers are greenish-yellow, fragrant, small and numerous in hanging clusters 5-13 cm long, mostly either staminate (male) or pistillate (female), these usually borne on separate trees, but some perfect flowers (male plus female) on each tree (the species polygamo-dioecious). Fruits are flattened and strap-like pods 15-40 cm long and 2.5-3.5 cm wide, dark brown at maturity, pendulous and usually twisted or spiraled, with a sticky, sweet, and flavorful pulp separating the seeds; seeds beanlike, about 1 cm long. The common name "honey" is in reference to the sweet pulp of the fruits.

Variation within the species: Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis (L.) Schneid. (“inermis” means unarmed) is occasionally found wild, apparently more as a populational variant than what is generally given formal taxonomic status as a variety. Such trees have provided stock for selection of some the thornless horticultural forms, but most of the latter are actually derived from buds or stem cuttings taken from the upper, thornless portions of physiologically mature trees thorny in the lower portions. Scions taken from this area generally remain thornless. Breeders also can control the sex of scions by selecting unisexual budwood for cuttings. Certain branches bear only one type of flower, and trees from cuttings of those branches will bear only that type.

Southern races of the species produce fruit more nutritious for stock feeding than northern races.

Natural hybridization between honey-locust and water-locust (Gleditsia aquatica) produces Gleditsia X texana Sarg., the Texas honey-locust.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Honey Locust has been found in almost every county of Illinois; it is common. Habitats include upland woodlands, bottomland woodlands, woodland openings, woodland borders, powerline clearances in wooded areas, savannas, edges of limestone glades, thickets, fence rows, pastures, and roadsides. This tree colonizes disturbed areas that are relatively open; it is intolerant of shade. Because of the thin bark, Honey Locust is vulnerable to wildfires. The thornless variety of this tree is often cultivated as a landscape plant; it often escapes in both urban and suburban areas.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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More info for the term: natural

The natural range of honey-locust extends from central Pennsylvania
through extreme southern Ontario, extreme southern Michigan, southern
Wisconsin, and extreme southeastern Minnesota to extreme southeastern
South Dakota; south through eastern Nebraska to eastern Texas; east to
Alabama; and northeast along the western slopes of the Appalachians.
Isolated populations occur in northwestern Florida. Honey-locust is
naturalized east of the Appalachians as far north as Nova Scotia [16,27].
  • 16. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 27. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

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This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

14 Great Plains

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Occurrence in North America

AL AR CT DE FL GA IN IL IA KS
KY LA OK MD MI MN MS MO NE NY
NC OH PA RI SC SD TN TX VA WI
WV NS ON

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Honeylocust is found scattered in the East-Central United States  from central Pennsylvania westward to southeastern South Dakota,  south to central and southeastern Texas, east to southern  Alabama, then northeasterly through Alabama to western Maryland.  Outlying populations of the species may be found in northwestern  Florida, west Texas, and west-central Oklahoma. It is naturalized  east to the Appalachian Mountains from South Carolina north to  Pennsylvania, New York, and New England (11). Honeylocust attains  its maximum development in the valleys of small streams in  southern Indiana and Illinois.

   
  -The native range of honey locust.


    Honeylocust, especially the thornless form, is widely cultivated  as an ornamental and shade tree in all countries having a  temperate climate.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Robert M. Blair

Source: Silvics of North America

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Worldwide distribution

North America.
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© Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten and Petra Ballings

Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

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Distribution: It is a native of United States, cultivated in the gardens of Punjab.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Honey-locust is essentially Midwestern in distribution, from the west slope of Appalachians to the eastern edge of Great Plains -- scattered in the east-central US from central Pennsylvania westward to southeastern South Dakota, south to central and southeastern Texas, east to southern Alabama, then northeasterly through Alabama to western Maryland. Outlying populations occur in northwestern Florida, west Texas, and west central Oklahoma. It is naturalized east to the Appalachians from South Carolina north to Pennsylvania, New York, and New England and Nova Scotia; sometimes a weed tree in India, New Zealand, and South Africa. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: natural, tree

Honey-locust is a native, deciduous tree. Mature heights usually range
from 49 to 98 feet (15-30 m) [11,36], with a maximum height of 140 feet
(43 m) [14]. In natural stands honey-locust averages 70 to 80 feet
(21-24 m) in height [8]. Honey-locust is armed with heavy branched
thorns on the lower branches and trunk [11]. The crown is plumelike and
open [14,42]. The bole is usually short and often divided near the
ground. The bark of mature trunks is usually 0.25 to 0.75 inches
(0.6-3.5 cm) thick with narrow ridges divided by fissures. The bark
peels in strips [14]. The thick, fibrous roots are deep and
wide-spreading [14,39]. The tree is sturdy and windfirm [14]. The
fruit is a legume 8 to 16 inches (15-40 cm) long and 1 to 1.4 inches
(2.5-3.5 cm) wide [8,11,22].

Honey-locust is usually described as rapid-growing [8,39]. Average
longevity for honey-locust is 125 years [8].

Unlike most leguminous species, honey-locust does not form Rhizobium
nodules on its roots, and does not fix nitrogen [12].
  • 8. Blair, Robert M. 1990. Gleditsia triacanthos L. honeylocust. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 358-364. [21819]
  • 11. Brown, Russell G.; Brown, Melvin L. 1972. Woody plants of Maryland. Baltimore, MD: Port City Press. 347 p. [21844]
  • 12. Burton, Joseph C. 1972. Nodulation and symbiotic nitrogen fixation by prairie legumes. In: Zimmerman, James H., ed. Proceedings, 2nd Midwest prairie conference; 1970 September 18-20; Madison, WI. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Arboretum: 116-121. [2909]
  • 22. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
  • 36. Stubbendiek, James; Conard, Elverne C. 1989. Common legumes of the Great Plains: an illustrated guide. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 330 p. [11049]
  • 39. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
  • 42. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 14. Collingwood, G. H.; Brush, Warren D.; [revised and edited by Butcher, Devereux]. 1964. Knowing your trees. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: The American Forestry Association. 349 p. [22497]

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Physical Description

Perennial, Trees, Woody throughout, Stems erect or ascending, Stems greater than 2 m tall, Trunk or stems armed with thorns, spines or prickles, Stems solid, Stems or young twigs glabrous or sparsely glabrate, Leaves alternate, Leaves clustered on spurs or fasicles, Leaves petiolate, Stipules inconspicuous, absent, or caducous, Leaves compound, Leaves odd pinnate, Leaves even pinnate, Leaves bipinnate, Leaf or leaflet margins entire, Leaflets dentate or denticulate, Leaflets alternate or subopposite, Leaflets 10-many, Leaves glabrous or nearly so, Leaves hairy on one or both surfaces, Inflorescences racemes, Inflorescences spikes or spike-like, Inflorescence ament-like, Infloresce nce axillary, Bracts very small, absent or caducous, Flowers actinomorphic or somewhat irregular, Calyx 5-lobed, Calyx glabrous, Petals separate, Petals white, Petals greenish yellow, Imperfect flowers present, dioecious or polygamodioecious, Fertile stamens 6-8, Stamens completely free, separate, Stamens long exserted, Filaments hairy, villous, Style terete, Fruit a legume, Fruit stipitate, Fruit unilocular, Fruit tardily or weakly dehiscent, Fruit indehiscent, Fruit elongate, straight, Fruit twisted, Fruit or valves persistent on stem, Fruit fleshy, Fruit coriaceous or becoming woody, Fruit exserted from calyx, Fruit glabrous or glabrate, Fruit 3-10 seeded, Fruit 11-many seeded, Seeds embedded in gummy or spongy pulp, Seeds ovoid to rounded in outline, Seed surface smooth, Seeds olive, brown, or black.
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Dr. David Bogler

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Description

A large deciduous polygamous tree, provided with tufts of branched thorns. Leaves uni or bipinnate, rachis 12.5-17.5 cm long, leaflets 12-15 pairs, 1.7-2.5 cm long, opposite or alternate, oblong, crenulate. Raceme 5 cm long. Flowers 5 mm long, greenish. Pods up to 50 cm or more long, 3.7 cm wide, stipe 1.2 cm long, curved or straight, flat, seeds elliptic, embedded in pulp.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Type Information

Holotype for Acacia laevis Standl.
Catalog Number: US 396758
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): C. G. Pringle
Year Collected: 1902
Locality: Guadalajara., Jalisco, Mexico, North America
  • Holotype: Standley, P. C. 1919. Contr. U.S. Natl. Herb. 20: 185.
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Honey Locust has been found in almost every county of Illinois; it is common. Habitats include upland woodlands, bottomland woodlands, woodland openings, woodland borders, powerline clearances in wooded areas, savannas, edges of limestone glades, thickets, fence rows, pastures, and roadsides. This tree colonizes disturbed areas that are relatively open; it is intolerant of shade. Because of the thin bark, Honey Locust is vulnerable to wildfires. The thornless variety of this tree is often cultivated as a landscape plant; it often escapes in both urban and suburban areas.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Habitat characteristics

More info for the terms: natural, tree

Honey-locust is adapted to a variety of soils and climates [14]. It is
common in both bottomlands and uplands, in the open or in open woods
[16]. Honey-locust occurs on well-drained sites, upland woodlands and
borders, old fields, fencerows, river floodplains, hammocks [22], rich,
moist bottomlands [8], and rocky hillsides [36]. It is most commonly
found on moist, fertile soils near streams and lakes [8]. Best growth
occurs in small stream valleys in southern Indiana and Illinois [14].
It has been rated highly tolerant to flooding [24]. It is also
drought-resistant and somewhat tolerant of salinity [37,39].
Honey-locust tolerates both alkaline and acid soils, but its best growth
occurs on soils with pH between 6.0 and 8.0 [8]. Honey-locust grew
better on low nitrogen sites than many other tree species [1].

The natural range of honey-locust is generally below 2,500 feet (760 m)
elevation, although the upper limit appears to be 5,000 feet (1,520 m).
A 20-year-old plantation of honey-locust had good survival at 6,900 feet
(2,100 m) in Colorado, but the trees were small [8,16].
  • 1. Abrams, Marc D. 1985. Age-diameter relationships of Quercus species in relation to edaphic factors in gallery forests of northeast Kansas. Forest Ecology and Management. 13: 181-193. [10377]
  • 8. Blair, Robert M. 1990. Gleditsia triacanthos L. honeylocust. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 358-364. [21819]
  • 16. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 22. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
  • 24. Hook, D. D. 1984. Waterlogging tolerance of lowland tree species of the South. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. 8: 136-149. [19808]
  • 36. Stubbendiek, James; Conard, Elverne C. 1989. Common legumes of the Great Plains: an illustrated guide. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 330 p. [11049]
  • 37. Townsend, A. M. 1989. The search for salt tolerant trees. Arboricultural Journal. 13(1): 67-73. [13061]
  • 39. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
  • 14. Collingwood, G. H.; Brush, Warren D.; [revised and edited by Butcher, Devereux]. 1964. Knowing your trees. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: The American Forestry Association. 349 p. [22497]

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Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the terms: cover, natural

Honey-locust is usually only a minor component of natural forest stands.
It is considered an accessory species in four SAF cover types: bur oak
(Quercus macrocarpa), willow oak (Q. phellos)-water oak (Q.
nigra)-diamondleaf (laurel) oak (Q. laurifolia), sweetgum (Liquidambar
styraciflua)-willow oak, and sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)-American elm
(Ulmus americana). Honey-locust is a secondary species in all other SAF
cover types listed above [8,17].

Mesophytic species commonly associated with honey-locust include red
maple (Acer rubrum), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), black tupelo
(Nyssa sylvatica), sweet pecan (Carya illinoensis), boxelder (Acer
negundo), Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica), and black walnut
(Juglans nigra) [8].
  • 17. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]
  • 8. Blair, Robert M. 1990. Gleditsia triacanthos L. honeylocust. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 358-364. [21819]

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Habitat: Cover Types

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This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

More info for the term: hardwood

27 Sugar maple
42 Bur oak
62 Silver maple - American elm
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
88 Willow oak - water oak - diamondleaf oak
92 Sweetgum - willow oak
93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash
94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm

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Habitat: Plant Associations

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This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

K098 Northern floodplain forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest

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Habitat: Ecosystem

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This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch

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Soils and Topography

Honeylocust is found most commonly on soils in the orders  Alfisols, Inceptisols, and Mollisols that originate from  limestone or the rich alluvial floodplains of major rivers and  streams. Growth is poor on gravelly or heavy clay soils and  honeylocust often fails on shallow soils. Although ample soil  moisture is necessary for best growth, the species is very  resistant to drought. Because of this, it is a valuable species  for shelterbelt planting in the Great Plains.

    On 20 drought-resistant species of seedlings tested, honeylocust  ranked third in alkali tolerance (7). The species is also  tolerant of acid soils (26), but best development is usually on  soils having a pH between 6.0 and 8.0. From tests incorporating  artificially salinized soils, young honeylocusts were found to be  tolerant of soil salinity (13). Seed germination was little  influenced by as much as 0.20 percent of sodium chloride in the  dry weight of soil (2). Salt tolerance has particular economic  importance in the North where runoff from highway de-icing salts  can damage plantings, and also where plantings are desired on  saline soils in and states. Whether honeylocust can tolerate the  cumulative effects of salinity over a period of years is still  unknown.

    Typically, honeylocust is a bottom land species, most commonly  found only on moist fertile soils near streams or lakes. Although  it is not common anywhere in the Mississippi River Delta, it  frequently grows on low clay ridges and flats in first bottoms  and on the secondary flood plains along the Missouri River  tributaries in Nebraska.

    Over its range honeylocust grows naturally below a maximum  elevation of 610 to 760 m (2,000 to 2,500 ft), although the  general upper elevational. limit for the species is reported as  1520 m (5,000 ft). A 20year-old plantation growing at 2100 m  (6,900 ft) in Colorado had "good" survival, but  trees averaged only 2.4 m (8 ft) in height (7).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Robert M. Blair

Source: Silvics of North America

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Climate

In the western portion of its range honeylocust grows in a  subhumid climate while in the middle and eastern portions the  climate is humid. Normal annual precipitation varies from about  510 mm (20 in) in South Dakota and Texas to more than 1520 mm (60  in) in southern Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Average  annual snowfall varies from none to 102 cm (40 in). Length of the  growing season varies from about 150 days in the north and  northeast to more than 300 days in the southern extremities of  the range.

    Honeylocust is tolerant of low temperatures and in the north it is  hardy at -29° to -34° C (-20° to -30° F)  (10). Northern races harden-off and become dormant relatively  early, while growth of southern races continues later into the  year. Southern races are subject to frost damage when planted in  the north (7). Honeylocust also may suffer frost damage or  dieback because of its indefinite or indeterminate annual growth  pattern (4). Twigs may continue to elongate until stopped by  cold, whereupon the tender terminal internodes are killed by the  first frosts. New growth in the spring then comes from the lower  lateral buds.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Robert M. Blair

Source: Silvics of North America

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Dispersal

Establishment

Adaptation: Honey-locust occurs on well-drained sites, upland woodlands and borders, rocky hillsides, old fields, fence rows, river floodplains, hammocks, and rich, moist bottomlands. It is most commonly found on moist, fertile soils near streams and lakes. It is tolerant of flooding and also is drought-resistant and somewhat tolerant of salinity. On bottomlands, it is a pioneer tree. On limestone uplands, it is an invader of rocky glades and abandoned farm fields and pastures. It is generally found below 760 meters, but up to 1500 meters in a few places. Flowering: May-June; fruiting: September-October, sometimes remaining on the tree through February.

General: Seed production begins on honey-locust trees at about 10 years and continues until about age 100, with optimum production at about 25-75 years of age. Some seed usually is produced every year but large crops usually occur every other year. The seeds are viable for long periods because of a thick, impermeable seed coat. Under natural conditions, individual seeds become permeable at different periods following maturation so that germination is spread over several years. The seeds are dispersed by birds and mammals, including cattle, which eat the fruits, and buffalo may have been historically important dispersal agents of the seeds. Germinability apparently is enhanced by passage through the digestive tract of animals. Honey-locust also reproduces from stump and root sprouts.

Honey-locust is generally shade-intolerant and reproduction is primarily in open areas, gaps, and at the edges of woods. The ability of honey-locust to invade prairie and rangeland is thought to be related to its tolerance of xeric conditions. Growth is rapid and trees live to a maximum of about 125 years.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Associations

Faunal Associations

The flowers are cross-pollinated primarily by small bees and flies. Both nectar and pollen are available as floral rewards to such visitors. The caterpillars of Epargyreus clarus (Silver-Spotted Skipper) feed on the foliage of Honey Locust. Several moth caterpillars prefer this tree as a host plant
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Flower-Visiting Insects of Honey Locust in Illinois

Gleditsia triacanthos (Honey Locust)
(Bees suck nectar or collect pollen; flies suck nectar; observations are from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn cp fq; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus griseocallis sn cp

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea sn cp, Lasioglossum illinoensis sn, Lasioglossum imitatus sn; Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena dunningi sn, Andrena imitatrix imitatrix sn cp, Andrena personata sn

Flies
Syrphidae: Eristalis dimidiatus, Myolepta varipes, Toxomerus geminatus; Empididae: Rhamphomyia mutabilis; Anthomyiidae: Delia platura

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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / gall
larva of Dasineura gleditschiae causes gall of live leaf of Gleditsia triacanthos

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Pholiota squarrosa is saprobic on relatively freshly cut, white rotted stump of Gleditsia triacanthos

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Associated Forest Cover

Throughout its range, honeylocust generally occurs only as a minor  component of natural forest stands. It is included in four forest  cover types in the United States (19). It is an associated  species on lowland sites in Bur Oak (Society of American  Foresters Type 42), especially in the more southerly portions of  the type range, and in Willow Oak-Water Oak-Diamondleaf Oak (Type  88). It is a minor associate in Sweetgum-Willow Oak (Type 92) and  Sugarberry-American Elm-Green Ash (Type 93). Mesophytic species  commonly associated with honeylocust include red maple (Acer  rubrum), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), blackgum  (Nyssa sylvatica), pecan (Carya illinoensis), boxelder  (Acer negundo), Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus  dioicus), black walnut (Juglans nigra), oaks (Quercus  spp.), elms (Ulmus spp.), ashes (Fraxinus spp.),  and hickories (Carya spp.).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Robert M. Blair

Source: Silvics of North America

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Diseases and Parasites

Damaging Agents

With the increased popularity and  plantings of honeylocust, particularly the cultivars of thornless  varieties, there has been a corresponding increase in the kinds  and numbers of attacking insects. Generally, insect attacks are  not fatal but they do weaken the tree and retard growth.  Honeylocust is a host of a number of leaf feeders and severe  infestations can rapidly defoliate trees. A severe and widely  distributed defoliator is the mimosa webworm (Homadaula  anisocentra) (1). The search for webworm resistant trees has  not been productive (17). Eotetranychus multidigituli, a  spider mite common to the midwest, and other mites feed on  honeylocust leaves. Heavy infestations, occurring particularly in  hot dry weather, will defoliate a tree. The whitemarked tussock  moth (Orgyia leucostigma), the honeylocust plant bug (Diaphnocoris  chlorionis) (25), the leaf hopper (Empoasca pergandei),  and several other species of pod galls, leaf rollers, leaf  hoppers, moths, loopers, bagworms, and beetles feed on  honeylocust foliage. The walkingstick (Diapheromera femorata)  is also included among the many defoliators (21).

    Agrilus difficilis, a flatheaded borer, important west of  the Mississippi River, burrows beneath the bark and may  eventually girdle the trunk or large limbs (18). Several other  bark and wood borers attack honeylocust, such as the widely  distributed Xyleborus saxeseni.

    A number of scale insects, such as the European fruit lecanium  (Parthenolecanium corni), which is widespread and  particularly damaging to shade trees, and the cottony maple scale  (Pulvinaria innumerabilis), injure the bark of  honeylocust, especially on small branches, lowering the vitality  and growth rate of trees (18). Weakened trees become subject to  attack and further damage by various species of boring insects  and bark beetles.

    The twig girdler, Oncideres cingulata, prunes small  branches and can inflict severe injury on nursery seedlings.  Heavy infestations can also severely damage large trees. The  larvae of Amblycerus robiniae, a bruchid weevil, feed on  honeylocust seed (1). The female periodical cicada (Magicicada  septendecim) can damage honeylocust, especially young  transplanted trees, by depositing eggs in the twigs.

    Honeylocust is subject to few diseases, none of which interfere  with its growth, except in isolated situations. The most  noteworthy disease is the canker Thyronectria  austro-americana, which can be fatal. Spiculosa cankers cause  loss in merchantable wood volume or cull. Honeylocust is subject  to several heart-rot and wood-decay fungi from species of Fomes  and Polyporus.

    Few leaf diseases attack honeylocust, and none mar the tree. The  most widely distributed is tarry leaf spot caused by Linospora  gleditsiae (9). In the seedling stage honeylocust is  susceptible to cotton root rot (Phymatotrichum omnivorum),  which is sometimes fatal (7). In shelterbelt planting tests  in Oklahoma and Texas it was ranked as highly susceptible to  certain Phymatotrichum root rots (27). Two other root  diseases, Ganoderma lucidum and G. curtisii, can  cause extensive root rot and tree fatality. The incidence of  these root rots is not high.

    In the southeast Texas area honeylocust was visibly damaged but  not killed by air pollution, presumed to be mainly sulfur  dioxide. In Illinois the species was ranked as highly resistant  to ice damage and in Tennessee it was rated about average in  resistance to flooding damage (9). It also appears to be  resistant to salt spray when planted near the coast. Honeylocust  is considered to be windfirm, but heavy limb breakage from wind  was reported in Kansas. Because of its relatively thin bark it is  easily damaged by fire (7). Rabbits sometimes inflict damage by  gnawing the bark from young trees during the winter.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Robert M. Blair

Source: Silvics of North America

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General Ecology

Plant Response to Fire

More info for the term: top-kill

Honey-locust sprouts after top-kill by fire [39].

In the south-central Iowa study, there was an increase in the number of
honey-locust stems in the first season following the April prescribed
fire, but the number of honey-locust stems declined to prefire levels by
the second postfire year [20].

In Kansas, a bur oak-dominated gallery forest was prescribed burned in
1983. There was no apparent fire-caused mortality to the overstory.
The reproduction layer was dominated by elm seedlings, both before and
after the fire. Although honey-locust seedling mortality was not
reported directly, 100 honey-locust seedlings were present before the
fire, and 50 were recorded in each of the 2 years following the fire [2].
  • 2. Abrams, Marc D. 1986. Ecological role of fire in gallery forests in eastern Kansas. In: Koonce, Andrea L., ed. Prescribed burning in the Midwest: state-of-the-art: Proceedings of a symposium; 1986 March 3-6; Stevens Point, WI. Stevens Point, WI: University of Wisconsin, College of Natural Resources, Fire Science Center: 73-80. [16271]
  • 39. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
  • 20. George, Ronnie R.; Farris, Allen L.; Schwartz, Charles C.; [and others]. 1978. Effects of controlled burning on selected upland habitats in southern Iowa. Iowa Wildlife Research Bulletin No. 25. Des Moines, IA: Iowa Conservation Commission Wildlife Section. 38 p. [4422]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

More info for the term: phenology

Honey-locust is easily injured by fire due to its thin bark [8,39].

In south-central Iowa, grassland dominated by Kentucky bluegrass (Poa
pratense) that was undergoing invasion by coralberry (Symphoricarpos
orbiculatus), honey-locust, and elms was prescribed burned with a series
of fires to observe the effect of fire season on brush control.
Prescribed fires were conducted in February, April, June, and September
in order to include all stages of plant phenology. Some large
honey-locust trees suffered bark damage and subsequent insect injury.
Many honey-locust trees under 10 feet (3 m) in height were top-killed
and sprouted the following year [20].
  • 8. Blair, Robert M. 1990. Gleditsia triacanthos L. honeylocust. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 358-364. [21819]
  • 39. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
  • 20. George, Ronnie R.; Farris, Allen L.; Schwartz, Charles C.; [and others]. 1978. Effects of controlled burning on selected upland habitats in southern Iowa. Iowa Wildlife Research Bulletin No. 25. Des Moines, IA: Iowa Conservation Commission Wildlife Section. 38 p. [4422]

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Post-fire Regeneration

Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/soboliferous species root sucker

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Fire Ecology

More info for the term: density

Honey-locust appears to be excluded from prairies by frequent fire, and
expands where fire is excluded. On bluestem (Andropogon spp. and/or
Schizachyrium spp.) prairie in Kansas, honey-locust was one of a number
of woody species invading undisturbed prairie that had not burned since
1947 [18].

On the Konza Prairie, sites adjacent to gallery forests that had
remained unburned for 10 or more years were converting to woodlands
dominated by junipers (Juniperus spp.), elms (Ulmus spp.), honey-locust,
and hackberries (Celtis spp.). In areas farther from gallery forests,
fire exclusion leads to increased density of species, including
honey-locust, that otherwise persist only at low densities along stream
margins of frequently burned prairies [3].

Honey-locust also occurs in bottomland forests that experience fire
infrequently. Fire may create openings for honey-locust reproduction in
these forests.
  • 3. Abrams, Marc D.; Gibson, David J. 1991. Effects of fire exclusion on tallgrass prairie and gallery forest communities in eastern Kansas. In: Nodvin, Stephen C.; Waldrop, Thomas A., eds. Fire and the environment: ecological and cultural perspectives: Proceedings of an international symposium; 1990 March 20-24; Knoxville, TN. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-69. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station: 3-10. [16627]
  • 18. Fitch, Henry S.; Kettle, W. Dean. 1983. Ecological succession in vegetation and small mammal populations on a natural area of northeastern Kansas. In: Kucera, Clair L., ed. Proceedings, 7th North American prairie conference; 1980 August 4-6; Springfield, MO. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri: 117-121. [3211]

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: density, hardwood, presence, tree, xeric

Facultative Seral Species

Honey-locust is intolerant of shade. Reproduction establishes only in
open areas, gaps, and at the edges of woods [8]. The ability of
honey-locust to invade open prairie is thought to be related to its
tolerance of xeric conditions [3]. Both top and root growth are
retarded by shade. Lower limbs die back in excessive shade.
Honey-locust is a fast-growing member of early seral stands [8]. Hupp
[45] classes honey-locust as an upland disturbance species which is
sometimes found on the most severely degraded stream channels (streams
disturbed by stream channelization projects). The presence of
honey-locust and similar species suggests that these streambanks are now
so high as to be above most fluvial activity, and that these sites are
highly disturbed [45]. Honey-locust is also described as a
mid-successional species [41] and is found in gaps or on the edges of
old-growth forests [10]. The distribution of honey-locust appears to be
related to the serendipitous combination of openings (disturbance) and
seed dispersal.

In southeastern Iowa, honey-locust was one of the major dominants in
pioneer forests that developed on abandoned fields and pastures [44].
Honey-locust is also a pioneer in the rocky limestone glades of
Tennessee and Kentucky that are later populated by eastern redcedar
(Juniperus virginiana) [8]. In Mississippi, honey-locust was a
volunteer on an 11-year-old hardwood stand planted to Nuttall oak
(Quercus nuttallii). At 20 feet (8.8 m), it was the tallest tree in the
stand. It is likely that honey-locust will eventually be overtopped and
shaded out by other species as the stand matures [25]. In Tennessee,
honey-locust was present on a 12-year-old site (oldfield succession),
but not on 3-, 28-, 30-, 40-, and 45-year-old sites [34].

In southeastern Texas, honey-locust was present at very low density on a
47-year-old gravel pit, but was not present in 3- and 5-year-old pits or
in adjacent undisturbed forest [31]. In southwestern Ohio, honey-locust
was common in 50-year-old forests (on old fields), and present but not
common in 90-year-old and old-growth (over 200 years old) forests
[41,41]. In Ohio, honey-locust was an occasional member of the canopy
of 40- and 60-year-old oak (Quercus spp.)-sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
stands [15].

In central Indiana, honey-locust was present in edge plots but not
interior plots in an old-growth forest [10]. In Kansas, honey-locust
grew in patches on the edges of Konza Prairie gallery forests, reaching
heights of up to 20 feet (6 m); under the canopy it was rarely over 6 to
8 feet (1.8-2.4 m) tall [33]. Large honey-locust trees were present in
a mature shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria)- bur oak community in Kansas,
suggesting that they were relics of an earlier successional stage.
There was no honey-locust in the reproduction layer [44].
  • 3. Abrams, Marc D.; Gibson, David J. 1991. Effects of fire exclusion on tallgrass prairie and gallery forest communities in eastern Kansas. In: Nodvin, Stephen C.; Waldrop, Thomas A., eds. Fire and the environment: ecological and cultural perspectives: Proceedings of an international symposium; 1990 March 20-24; Knoxville, TN. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-69. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station: 3-10. [16627]
  • 8. Blair, Robert M. 1990. Gleditsia triacanthos L. honeylocust. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 358-364. [21819]
  • 10. Brothers, Timothy S. 1993. Fragmentation and edge effects in central Indiana old-growth forests. Natural Areas Journal. 13(4): 268-275. [22356]
  • 15. DeMars, Brent G.; Runkle, James R. 1992. Groundlayer vegetation ordination and site-factor analysis of the Wright State University Woods (Greene County, Ohio). Ohio Journal of Science. 92(4): 98-106. [19823]
  • 25. Krinard, R. M.; Johnson, R. L. 1981. Description and yields of an 11-year-old hardwood stand on Sharkey clay soil. Res. Note SO-265. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 2 p. [4229]
  • 31. Nixon, Elray S. 1975. Successional stages in a hardwood bottomland forest near Dallas, Texas. The Southwestern Naturalist. 20: 323-335. [12250]
  • 33. Reichman, O. J. 1987. Forests. In: Konza Prairie: A tallgrass natural history. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas: 115-124. [4255]
  • 34. Shankman, David. 1990. Forest regeneration on abandoned agricultural fields in western Tennessee. Southeastern Geographer. 30(1): 36-47. [17640]
  • 41. Vankat, John L.; Snyder, Gary W. 1991. Floristics of a chronosequence corresponding to old field-diciduous forest succession in southwestern Ohio. I. Undisturbed vegetation. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 118(4): 365-376. [18758]
  • 44. McBride, Joe. 1973. Natural replacement of disease-killed elms. The American Midland Naturalist. 90(2): 300-306. [8868]
  • 45. Hupp, Cliff R. 1992. Riparian vegetation recovery patterns following stream channelization: a geomorphic perspective. Ecology. 73(4): 1209-1226. [19499]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the term: softwood

The mimimum seed-bearing age of honey-locust is 10 years. Optimum seed
production occurs from about 25 to 75 years of age. Seeds are produced
until about age 100. Large crops usually occur every other year but can
be produced annually. Some seed is usually produced every year.
Honey-locust seed is viable for long periods due to an impermeable
seedcoat. Seeds are dispersed by birds and mammals, including cattle.
Germination of honey-locust seeds is apparently enhanced by passage
through the digestive tract of animals. Germination is artificially
enhanced by scarification (both hot water and acid treatments are
effective) [8]. Honey-locust seeds showed the broadest germination
response of five species tested (honey-locust, white ash [Fraxinus
americana], sycamore [Platanus occidentalis], red mulberry [Morus
rubra], and black cherry [Prunus serotina]). Honey-locust showed a high
rate of emergence under all temperatures tested, and under all but the
driest conditions. It was also the only species of the five that had a
higher proportion of variance in germination rate explained by moisture
than by temperature [13].

Honey-locust seedlings grew faster on clay soils than on loess and
alluvium. There was no growth difference between sun and shade on clay
soils, but on the other two soil types honey-locust seedlings exhibited
retarded growth in the shade. Seedling root depths were 5 to 5.25 feet
(1.5-1.6 m) on clay and 20 to 24 inches (50.8-61 cm) in moist alluvial
soil [7].

Honey-locust can be propagated by grafting, budding, and cuttings
(hardwood, softwood, and root cuttings) [8].
  • 7. Biswell, Harold H. 1935. Effects of environment upon the root habits of certain deciduous forest trees. Botanical Gazette. 96(4): 676-708. [3076]
  • 8. Blair, Robert M. 1990. Gleditsia triacanthos L. honeylocust. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 358-364. [21819]
  • 13. Burton, Philip J.; Bazzaz, F. A. 1991. Tree seedling emergence on interactive temperature and moisture gradients and in patches of old-field vegetation. American Journal of Botany. 78(1): 131-149. [13443]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: phanerophyte

Phanerophyte

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Life Form

More info for the term: tree

Tree

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Reaction to Competition

Honeylocust is classed as  intolerant of shade, and reproduction becomes established only  beneath openings in the forest canopy (5). Both top and root  growth are retarded where young trees are subjected to shade;  therefore, for survival and optimum development, honeylocust must  maintain a dominant position in the forest community. Lower limbs  of forest-grown trees die when they are excessively shaded from  the

    sides, and the dead limbs often are retained for some time.

    Honeylocust is occasionally a pioneer on midwest strip-mine spoil  banks. It is also a pioneer in rocky limestone glades of  Tennessee and Kentucky, where it is often succeeded by eastern  redcedar (Juniperus uirginiana). In northern Ohio,  honeylocust was found with shellbark hickory (Carya  laciniosa) and bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) in the  elm-ash-soft maple association on areas that formerly were swampy  (7).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Robert M. Blair

Source: Silvics of North America

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Rooting Habit

Honeylocust is deep rooted with a widely  spreading and profusely branched root system and a strong  taproot. Deep soils are penetrated as far as 3 to 6 m (10 to 20  ft). The root system is responsive to environmental conditions.  For example, in a Missouri study, 4- to 6-year-old saplings on  upland clay soil produced root systems that were about twice as  long, with laterals covering twice the area, as those of older  trees growing in lowland alluvial soil where the water table was  higher (7). The generalized, well-developed root system enables  this species to grow on both upland and lowland sites.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Robert M. Blair

Source: Silvics of North America

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: tree

Honey-locust begins to flower when its leaves are nearly full grown,
from around May 10 in the southern parts of its range to around June 25
in the northern parts of its range [8,42]. The legumes ripen from
September to October, usually falling after ripening but sometimes
remaining on the tree through February [8,16,39,42].
  • 8. Blair, Robert M. 1990. Gleditsia triacanthos L. honeylocust. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 358-364. [21819]
  • 16. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 39. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
  • 42. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]

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Flower/Fruit

Fl. Per.: April.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Reproduction

Vegetative Reproduction

Honeylocust coppices freely.  Propagation, particularly of high quality clonal stock, can be  achieved by grafting, budding, and cuttings from hardwood,  softwood, and roots (7). Root cuttings appear to be the best  method of reproducing desirable strains in large quantities at  reasonable cost. At times other species or varieties are grafted  onto the rootstock of honeylocust (24).

    Honeylocust thorn production usually diminishes gradually and  finally ceases in the upper and outer crown growth as the tree  ages. Thorns may still be produced on the lower trunk and on  lower-trunk and limb sprouts. Typical trees, 10 years old or  more, show a definite thornless region in the upper and outer  shoot growth. When hardwood cuttings for propagation are taken  from this thornless area, the scions generally remain thornless  (6). Tree breeders can control the sex of scions from honeylocust  by selecting unisexual budwood when taking cuttings. Certain  branches bear only one type of flower, and trees from cuttings  from those branches will bear only that type (14).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Seedling Development

Germination is thought to be  enhanced when seeds are eaten and passed undigested by birds and  mammals (7). Passage through the digestive system apparently  softens the impermeable seedcoat. Enhanced germination can also  be achieved by mechanically scarifying the seeds or soaking them  in concentrated sulfuric acid or hot water (880 C, 1900 F) for 1  to 2 hours. When hot water is used the water and seeds should be  allowed to cool to room temperature or until seeds swell (3).  Treated seeds should be sown promptly and not stored. Germination  is epigeal.

    Honeylocust seedlings show a growth pattern characteristic of  deciduous hardwoods with sympodial. growth. Persistent terminal  buds are not formed and the shoot tip often dies and falls off  (5).

    Nursery-grown seedlings from pretreated seeds attain suitable  size-30 cm (12 in) or more in height-for field planting in 1 year  (3). In southern Michigan, first-year seedlings grown in pots  reached a height of 37 cm (14.6 in) by September 21, just before  leaf abscission (5). The average root-to-shoot ratio was 2 to 3.  Stem growth was slow in the spring but rapid in early summer and  fall. Only 60 percent of the height growth was attained by  mid-July. In an additional study in southern Michigan, nursery  seedlings grown 3 years in pots and nearly two growing seasons  outplanted in the field averaged 22 mm (0.9 in) in trunk diameter  (16) by early autumn. The following year trunk diameter increased  4 min (0.15 in).

    Dormant nursery-grown seedlings can be stored, barerooted, at  about 0° C (32° F) for several weeks before outplanting  with no appreciable loss in survival rate (15).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Seed Production and Dissemination

Honeylocust begins  bearing seed at about 10 years of age, optimum production  occurring between 25 and 75 years. Trees continue to bear fruit  up to about 100 years of age (7). They generally bear fruit each  year and produce abundant seed crops every year or two.

    Honeylocust seeds, like those of many leguminous species, have  impermeable coats and thus remain viable for long periods of  time. Under natural conditions, individual seeds become permeable  at different periods following maturation so that any one crop is  capable of producing seedlings over a period of several years.

    The seeding range or natural dispersal of honeylocust seeds is not  extensive. The pods, however, are readily eaten by cattle,  whereby seeds are scattered in the feces. Undoubtedly seeds are  also disseminated by birds and other mammals that feed on the  fruit. Cleaned seeds average about 6,170/kg (2,800/lb), with a  commercial purity of 95 percent and a soundness of 98 percent  (24). Viability can be retained for several years when seeds are  stored in sealed containers at 0° to 7° C (32° to  45° F) (3).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Flowering and Fruiting

Flowering occurs in late spring,  the average date being about May 10 in the southern limit of the  range and June 25 in the north (7). Honeylocust leaves are nearly  full grown when the flowers are produced, which is usually late  enough in the year for the seed crop to escape frost damage.

    The species is polygamo-dioecious; flowers are home in axillary,  dense, green racemes (24). Racemes of staminate flowers are 5 to  13 em (2 to 5 in) long, pubescent, and often clustered. The calyx  is campanulate, with five elliptic-lanceolate lobes; there are  four to five petals, erect, oval, and longer than the calyx  lobes; and up to 10 stamens, inserted on the calyx tube. The  pistil is rudimentary or absent in the staminate flowers.  Pistillate racemes are 5 to 8 ern (2 to 3 in) long, slender, with  few flowers, and usually solitary. The pistils are tomentose, the  ovary nearly sessile, and the style short; there may be two  ovules or many. The stamens are much smaller and abortive in  pistillate flowers.

    Seeds, borne in long (15 to 41 cm, 6 to 16in), flat, indehiscent,  and often twisted pods, ripen about mid-September in the southern  portion of the range and around mid-October in the north. Soon  after fruits mature they begin falling and dissemination often  continues into late winter.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Growth

Growth and Yield

In natural stands honeylocust attains a  height of 21 to 24 m (70 to 80 ft) and a d.b.h. of 61 to 91 cm.  (24 to 36 in). On the best sites, trees may be 43 m (140 ft) in  height and 152 to 183 cm (60 to 72 in) in d.b.h. On poor sites  trees are stunted, wide-branched, and often covered with thorns.  In eastern Nebraska, 18- to 35year-old honeylocust in plantations  grew an average of 4.6 cm (1.8 in) in diameter each 10 years.

    The average height growth of honeylocust planted in shelterbelts  from North Dakota to Texas was 49 cm (19.2 in) per year during  the first 7 years (7). This was a slower height growth than for  plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides var. occidentalis
and Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) but faster than that  of American elm (U. americana), green ash (Fraxinus  pennsylvanica), or hackberry (Celtis laevigata), all  of which were frequently planted on the same shelterbelt  projects. Under favorable conditions the annual diameter growth  of young honeylocust is from 8 to 13 mm (0.33 to 0.50 in) (22).  The species is an excellent tree for windbreaks.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Genetics

Races and Hybrids    The honeylocust has wide genetic variations that have enabled  improvement through selection. The northern races show relatively  good winter hardiness and southern races bear fruit that is much  more nutritious for stock feeding than that found on the trees in  the north (6).

    A number of horticultural forms have been developed and are widely  cultivated, especially for shade and as ornamentals (24).  Thornless honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis  Willd.) is thornless, or nearly so, and slender in habit;  bushy honeylocust (G. triacanthos var. elegantissima  [Grosdemangel Rehd.) is unarmed and densely bushy; Bujot  honeylocust (G. triacanthos var. bujotii [Neuml  Rehd.) has slender pendulous branches and narrow leaflets; and  dwarf honeylocust (G. triacanthos var. nana [Loud.]  A. Henry) is a small compact shrub or tree. Selected cultivars of  the thornless forms have been patented. About 60 percent of the  seedlings grown from thornless honeylocust seed are thornless  (7).

    Gleditsia x texana Sarg., the Texas honeylocust, is  considered to be a hybrid of G. aquatica Marsh. and G.  triacanthos L. (24). Its range is largely restricted to the  Brazos River bottoms in Texas, with additional trees found along  the Red River in Louisiana and occasionally along the Mississippi  River in Indiana and Mississippi.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Gleditsia triacanthos

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Gleditsia triacanthos

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 17
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.

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Management

Management considerations

Rows of honey-locust planted for windbreaks showed a positive response
to release [9].

In some areas honey-locust invades rangelands. Honey-locust is
susceptible to triclopyr and to a mixture of picloram and 2,4,-D [29].

Honey-locust is not usually subject to serious insect and disease
problems; however, with the increase in plantations of honey-locust,
there has been a concomitant increase in insect pests. Honey-locust is
host to a number of leaf feeders including spider mites, white marked
tussock moth, and honey-locust plant bug. The only serious disease of
honey-locust is a canker which is occasionally fatal [8].

Damage to young honey-locust is caused by rabbits gnawing the bark [8]
and by livestock and white-tailed deer browsing [8,36].
  • 8. Blair, Robert M. 1990. Gleditsia triacanthos L. honeylocust. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 358-364. [21819]
  • 9. Bratton, Gerald F. 1990. Windbreak renovation studies--update, 1964-1989. In: Great Plains Agricultural Council, compiler. Windbreaks: Living with the wind: Proceedings, windbreak renovation workshop; 1990 October 23-25; Hutchinson, KS. Great Plains Agriculture Council Publ. No. 133. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University, Cooperative Extension Service: 17-20. [15253]
  • 36. Stubbendiek, James; Conard, Elverne C. 1989. Common legumes of the Great Plains: an illustrated guide. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 330 p. [11049]
  • 29. Melichar, M. W.; Geyer, W. A.; Ritty, P. M. 1986. Hardwood tree control with herbicide applications. In: Proceedings, 40th annual meeting of the Northeastern Weed Science Society; [Date unknown]; [Location unknown]. [Place of publication unknown]: Northeastern Weed Science Society: 210-211. [10484]

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These species are introduced in Switzerland.
  • Aeschimann, D. & C. Heitz. 2005. Synonymie-Index der Schweizer Flora und der angrenzenden Gebiete (SISF). 2te Auflage. Documenta Floristicae Helvetiae N° 2. Genève.   http://www.crsf.ch/ External link.
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Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.” These plant materials are readily available from commercial sources.

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The only serious disease of honey-locust is a canker, which is occasionally fatal, but trees in landscape plantings may be damaged by a number of pests and pathogens. Damage to young honey-locust also may be caused by rabbits gnawing the bark and by browsing of livestock and deer.

Honey-locust is easily injured by fire because of its thin bark, but it sprouts after top-kill by fire. It appears to be excluded from prairies by frequent fire. Infrequent fires may create openings for reproduction in bottomland forests. Honey-locust is not a nitrogen fixer.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

This adaptable tree prefers full to partial sunlight and moist to dry-mesic conditions. It will flourish in  almost any type of soil (pH range 6.0-8.0) if it is not too acidic. Both temporary flooding and hot dry weather are tolerated. The root system doesn't fix nitrogen in the soil. New trees can be propagated by seeds or vegetatively by cuttings. Growth and development is fairly fast; young trees can produce seedpods in as little as 10 years. Longevity of healthy trees is typically 100-150 years. One of the advantages of Honey Locust as a landscape tree is the light shade that is cast by its open crown; this allows the survival of turfgrass and other plants.
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Other uses and values

Thornless honey-locust is widely planted as an ornamental [11],
particularly on dry sites [23]. Honey-locust is also widely used in
windbreaks and shelterbelts [8,36].

Honey-locust pods are being fermented for ethanol production in studies
to explore the feasibility of biomass fuels [4].

Honey-locust was one of a number of species planted to assess biomass
yield potential for short-rotation cropping. Honey-locust showed good
survival through the fourth annual harvest [21].

Honey-locust pods are edible [5].
  • 5. Batzell, Peter. 1985. Edible pods. Bio-dynamics. 155: 55-58. [23161]
  • 8. Blair, Robert M. 1990. Gleditsia triacanthos L. honeylocust. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 358-364. [21819]
  • 11. Brown, Russell G.; Brown, Melvin L. 1972. Woody plants of Maryland. Baltimore, MD: Port City Press. 347 p. [21844]
  • 21. Geyer, Wayne A. 1989. Biomass yield potential of short-rotation hardwoods in the Great Plains. Biomass. 20: 167-175. [10135]
  • 23. Gutknecht, Kurt W. 1989. Xeriscaping: an alternative to thirsty landscapes. Utah Science. 50(4): 142-146. [10166]
  • 36. Stubbendiek, James; Conard, Elverne C. 1989. Common legumes of the Great Plains: an illustrated guide. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 330 p. [11049]
  • 4. Avgerinos, George C.; Wang, Daviel I. C. 1980. Utilization of mesquite and honey locust pods as feedstocks for energy production. In: Proceedings, workshop on tree crops for energy co-production on farms; [Date unknown]; [Location unknown]. Golden, CO: Solar Energy Research Institute: 209-217. [23163]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

More info for the term: mast

Honey-locust pods are eaten by cattle, goats, white-tailed deer,
Virginia opossum, eastern gray squirrel, fox squirrel, rabbits, quail
(including northern bobwhite), crows, and starling [8,11]. White-tailed
deer frequently strip and eat the soft bark of young trees in winter
[36]; rabbits also consume honey-locust bark in winter [8]. Livestock
and white-tailed deer consume young vegetative growth [8,36].

Honey-locust is a source of pollen and nectar for honey [36].

In Virginia, honey-locust and other species were planted for mast
production on the margins of plots cleared and revegetated for wildlife
[28]. Honey-locust is planted into currently operating pastures and
hayfields to provide high-protein mast for livestock (a management
system termed browse agroforestry). Cattle do not digest the seeds and
thus do not derive full nutritional benefit from consuming whole pods,
but ground honey-locust pods do provide a high-protein feed for cattle.
Sheep do digest the seeds, and therefore obtain more of the available
protein when consuming whole pods. The open canopy of honey-locust
allows good growth of pasture grasses [43].
  • 8. Blair, Robert M. 1990. Gleditsia triacanthos L. honeylocust. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 358-364. [21819]
  • 11. Brown, Russell G.; Brown, Melvin L. 1972. Woody plants of Maryland. Baltimore, MD: Port City Press. 347 p. [21844]
  • 36. Stubbendiek, James; Conard, Elverne C. 1989. Common legumes of the Great Plains: an illustrated guide. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 330 p. [11049]
  • 43. Wilson, A. A. 1991. Browse agroforestry using honeylocust. Forestry Chronicle. 67(3): 232-235. [23162]
  • 28. McGinnes, Burd S.; Ripley, Thomas H. 1962. Evaluation of wildlife response to forest-wildlife management--a preliminary report. In: Southern forestry on the march: Proceedings, Society of American Foresters meeting; [Date of conference unknown]; Atlanta, GA. [Place of publication unknown]. [Publisher unknown]. 167-171. [16735]

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Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

Honey-locust pioneers on strip-mine spoil banks in the Midwest. It
is often planted for erosion control [8].
  • 8. Blair, Robert M. 1990. Gleditsia triacanthos L. honeylocust. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 358-364. [21819]

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Nutritional Value

Ground honey-locust seeds and pods contained 16.1 percent crude fiber
(as fed) and 9.3 percent protein [30].
  • 30. National Academy of Sciences. 1971. Atlas of nutritional data on United States and Canadian feeds. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences. 772 p. [1731]

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Wood Products Value

Honey-locust wood is dense, hard, coarse-grained, strong, stiff,
shock-resistant, takes a high polish, and is durable in contact with
soil [11,14,16,22,42]. Honey-locust wood is used locally for posts,
pallets, crates, general construction, furniture, interior finish,
turnery, and firewood [8,36]. It is useful, but is too scarce to be of
economic importance [8].
  • 8. Blair, Robert M. 1990. Gleditsia triacanthos L. honeylocust. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 358-364. [21819]
  • 11. Brown, Russell G.; Brown, Melvin L. 1972. Woody plants of Maryland. Baltimore, MD: Port City Press. 347 p. [21844]
  • 16. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 22. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
  • 36. Stubbendiek, James; Conard, Elverne C. 1989. Common legumes of the Great Plains: an illustrated guide. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 330 p. [11049]
  • 42. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 14. Collingwood, G. H.; Brush, Warren D.; [revised and edited by Butcher, Devereux]. 1964. Knowing your trees. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: The American Forestry Association. 349 p. [22497]

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Special Uses

Honeylocust fruits are readily eaten by cattle and hogs. The beans  of some cultivars contain as much as 12 to 13 percent protein,  and the pods contain up to 42 percent carbohydrates (12,20).  Livestock also eat the young vegetative growth and both the fruit  and plants are eaten by snowshoe hares and cottontails. Fruits  are also eaten by gray squirrels, fox squirrels, white-tailed  deer, bobwhite, starlings, crows, and opossum (7,8). Honeylocust  is a source of honey during the short flowering period in spring.

    Both the common honeylocust and its thornless varieties are  planted for erosion control and for wind breaks; the thornless  varieties are widely planted as shade and ornamental trees. In  many urban areas thornless honeylocust has been planted as a  replacement for the American elm (26).

    The wood of honeylocust possesses many desirable qualities but is  little used because of its scarcity (23).

    The sapwood is generally wide and yellowish in contrast to the  reddish-brown heartwood, providing an attractive grain. The wood  is dense, very heavy, very hard, strong in bending, stiff,  resistant to shock, and is durable when in contact with soil. It  is used locally for fence posts, and also as lumber for pallets,  crating, and general construction.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Uses

Honey-locust is widely planted as a hardy and fast-growing ornamental. It is often used in extreme urban stress areas such as parking lot islands and sidewalk tree squares and has been planted for erosion control, for windbreaks and shelterbelts, and as a vegetation pioneer for rehabilitation of strip-mine spoil banks. Because of the small leaflets and open crown, the trees cast a light shade that permits shade-tolerant turfgrass and partial-shade perennials to grow underneath. Cultivars have been selected for crown shape and branch angles and leaf color, and most are both thornless and fruitless. Over-use of honey-locust in cities has led to recommendations that its use be discouraged until adequate biodiversity is restored.

Honey-locust wood is dense, hard, coarse-grained, strong, stiff, shock-resistant, takes a high polish, and is durable in contact with soil. It has been used locally for pallets, crates, general construction, furniture, interior finish, turnery, firewood, railroad ties, and posts (fence posts may sprout to form living fences), but it is too scarce to be of economic importance. The wood also was formerly valued for bows.

The geographic range of honey-locust probably was extended by Indians who dried the legumes, ground the dried pulp, and used it as a sweetener and thickener, although the pulp also is reported to be irritating to the throat and somewhat toxic. Fermenting the pulp can make a potable or energy alcohol. Native Americans sometimes ate cooked seeds, they have also been roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

Honey-locust pods are eaten by cattle, goats, deer, opossum, squirrel, rabbits, quail, crows, and starling. White-tailed deer and rabbits eat the soft bark of young trees in winter, and livestock and deer eat young vegetative growth. Honey-locust is planted around wildlife plots and into pastures and hayfields to provide high-protein mast. Cattle do not digest the seeds, but sheep do.

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Wikipedia

Honey locust

The honey locust, Gleditsia triacanthos, also known as the thorny locust, is a deciduous tree native to central North America. 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 eastern Massachusetts.

Description[edit]

Detail of thorns

Honey locusts, Gleditsia triacanthos, can reach a height of 20–30 m (66&–100 ft), with fast growth, and are relatively short-lived; their life spans are typically about 120 years, though some live up to 150 years. They are 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 (autumn). 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 in early autumn. The pods are generally between 15–20 cm. The pulp on the insides of the pods is edible, unlike the black locust, which is toxic. 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. In addition, the seeds are released in the host's manure, providing fertilizer for them. Honey locust seed pods ripen in late spring and germinate rapidly when temperatures are warm enough.

Honey locusts commonly have thorns 3–10 cm long growing out of the branches, some reaching lengths over 20 cm; 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, but the size and spacing of them is useless in defending against smaller extant herbivores such as deer. In much of the Midwest, honey locust is considered a weed tree and a pest that establishes itself in farm fields.[1] Thornless forms (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis) are occasionally found growing wild and are available as nursery plants. Hybridization of honey locust with water locust (G. aquatica) has been reported.[2]

Sunburst honey locust in Elko, Nevada

Cultivation[edit]

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. Many cultivated varieties do not have thorns.

Food[edit]

Unripe honey locust pods

Despite its name, the 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. The long pods, which eventually dry and ripen to brown or maroon, are surrounded in a tough, leathery skin that adheres very strongly to the pulp within. The pulp—bright green in unripe pods—is strongly sweet, crisp and succulent in unripe pods. Dark brown tannin-rich beans are found in slots within the pulp.

Timber[edit]

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

Agriculture[edit]

The honey locust is popular with permaculturalists across the globe for its multiple uses. The legumes make a valuable, high protein cattle fodder, which becomes more readily accessible with the thornless (inermis) variety. The broad shade of the tree canopy is of great value for livestock in hotter climates, such as Australia. The durability and quality of the timber, as well as the ability to produce its own nails, fits the paradigm of self-sustaining agriculture that requires fewer external inputs/resources.

Conversely, ranchers and farmers who employ monocropping deem honey locust as a nuisance weed; its fast growth allows it to out-compete living space of grasses and other crops.

Nitrogen fixing[edit]

The ability of Gleditsia to fix nitrogen is disputed. Many scientific sources[3][4][5] clearly state that Gleditsia does not fix nitrogen. Some support this statement with the fact that Gleditsia does not form root nodules with symbiotic bacteria, the assumption being that without nodulation, no N-fixation can occur. In contrast, many popular sources, permaculture publications in particular, claim that Gleditsia does fix nitrogen but by some other mechanism.

There are anatomical, ecological and taxonomic indications to indicate nitrogen-fixation in non-nodulating legumes.[6] Both nodulating and non-nodulating species have been observed to grow well in nitrogen-poor soil with non-nodulating legumes even dominating some sites. The litter and seeds of non-nodulating species contains higher nitrogen than non-legumes and sometimes even higher than nodulating legumes growing on the same site.[7] How this happens is not yet well understood but there has been some observations of nitrogenase activity in non-nodulating leguminous plants including honey locust.[8] Electron microscopy indicates the presence of clusters around the inner cortex of roots, just outside the xylem, that resemble colonies of rhizobial bacterioids. These may well constitute the evolutionary precursors in legumes for nitrogen fixation through nodulation. It is not known whether the non-nodulating nitrogen fixation, if it exists, does benefit neighboring plants as is said to be the case with nodulating legumes.[citation needed]

Pharmacological activities[edit]

The tree has been used in traditional Native American medicine. Extracts of Gleditsia possess important pharmacological activities in treating rheumatoid arthritis, as anti-mutagenic, anticancer and have significant cytotoxic activity against different cell lines.[9] Seeds of Gleditsia triacanthos contain a trypsin inhibitor.[10][11]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Barlow, Connie (2001). "Anachronistic Fruits and the Ghosts Who Haunt Them". Arnoldia 61 (2). 
  2. ^ Sullivan, Janet (1994). "Gleditsia triacanthos". U.S. Forest Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Retrieved August 13, 2014. 
  3. ^ Burton, Joseph C.; eds. Zimmerman, James H. "Nodulation and symbiotic nitrogen fixation by prairie legumes". Proceedings, 2nd Midwest prairie conference. 
  4. ^ Allen, O.N.; Allen, E.K. (1981). The Leguminosae. The University of Wisconsin Press. 812 p. 
  5. ^ Djumaeva, D.; D. Djumaeva, J. P. A. Lamers, C. Martius, A. Khamzina, N. Ibragimov and P. L. G. Vlek. "Quantification of symbiotic nitrogen fixation by Elaeagnus angustifolia L. on salt-affected irrigated croplands using two 15N isotopic methods". Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems. 
  6. ^ Bryan, James A.; James A. Bryan, Graeme P. Berlyn and John C. Gordo (2011). "Toward a new concept of the evolution of symbiotic nitrogen fixation in the Leguminosae". Plant and Soil 186 (1): 151–159. doi:10.1007/BF00035069. 
  7. ^ Bryan, James (1995). "Leguminous Trees with Edible Beans, with Indications of a Rhizobial Symbiosis in Non-Nodulating Legumes". Doctoral dissertation, Yale University. 
  8. ^ Elkan, G.H.; Upchurch, R.G., ed. (August 13–17 1995). Series: Developments in Plant and Soil Sciences:Current Issues in Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation 72 (Proceedings of the 15th North American Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation Conference). 
  9. ^ Abou Zeid A.H., El Hawary S.S., Mohammed R.S., Ashour W.E."Bioactive constituents from gleditsia triacanthos L. leaves." Planta Medica. Conference: 59th International Congress and Annual Meeting of the Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research Antalya Turkey. Conference Start: 20110904 Conference End: 20110909. Conference Publication: (var.pagings). 77 (12) , 2011.
  10. ^ Mosolov V.V., Kolosova G.V., Valueva T.A., Dronova L.A. "Trypsin inhibitor from Gleditsia triacanthos L. seeds. <Ingibitor tripsina iz semian gledichii (Gleditsia triacanthos L.).Biokhimiia (Moscow, Russia). 47 (5) (pp 797-802), 1982
  11. ^ Mosolov V.V., Kolosova G.V., Valueva T.A., Dronova L.A."Trypsin inhibitor from Gleditsia triacanthos (L.)." Biokhimiya. 47 (5) (pp 797-802), 1982.

References[edit]

  • Sternberg, Guy. Native Trees for North American Landscapes pp. 264. Timber Press, 2004.
  • Little, Elbert L. The Audubon Society Field Guide To North American Trees - Western Region. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, p. 495. 1980.

Bibliography[edit]

Philips, Roger. Trees of North America and Europe, Random House, Inc., New York ISBN 0-394-50259-0, 1979.

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Notes

Comments

The Honey Locust is planted as an ornamental and hedge plant. The pods are reputed to contain 29% sugar and are readily eaten by animals. Wood is durable.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Native in eastern North America; planted and occasionally escaped elsewhere.

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Common Names

honey-locust
common honey-locust
honey shucks locust
sweet bean locust

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The currently accepted scientific name for honey-locust is Gleditsia
triacanthos L. (Cesalpiniaceae) [11,14,16,27,42]. Thornless
honey-locust (G. t. forma inermis Schneid.) is occasionally found wild
[27,42].

Natural hybridization between honey-locust and water-locust (G.
aquatica) has been reported [27].
  • 11. Brown, Russell G.; Brown, Melvin L. 1972. Woody plants of Maryland. Baltimore, MD: Port City Press. 347 p. [21844]
  • 16. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
  • 27. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]
  • 42. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 14. Collingwood, G. H.; Brush, Warren D.; [revised and edited by Butcher, Devereux]. 1964. Knowing your trees. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: The American Forestry Association. 349 p. [22497]

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