Honey Locust

Gleditsia triacanthos
Caesalpiniaceae (sennas)

A medium-sized tree with a short, thorny trunk, thorny branches and a loose, open crown.

Leaves alternate, compound, 5–10 inches long, with 15–30 leaflets; leaflets ¾-2 inches long, broadest near the base to even throughout; margin entire or sometimes with very small, round teeth; upper surface shiny; lower surface paler, often hairy.

Bark grayish brown to black, on older trees with grooves deep, narrow, separating into scaly ridges with sides or ends free and curved outward; often bearing heavy, simple or branching spines.

Twigs greenish or reddish brown, shiny, stout, often zigzag, with solitary or branched spines that are rigid, sharp, straight, shiny, purplish brown, up to 12 inches long.

Flowering: May–June; greenish white; male flowers in catkins, female flowers in clusters; found on separate trees or sometimes as a complete flower.

Fruit a dark brown, leathery pod, 6–18 inches long, narrow, flat, twisting at maturity; seeds 6–27, brown, oval, about ½ inch long.

Height: to 60 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in bottomlands along streams and their valleys, also upland slopes and open or wooded pastures. It is a common invader of pastures and idle fields, and troublesome for farmers whose tractor tires the thorns puncture. It, and other trees such as eastern redcedar, wild plum and persimmon, are some of the first woody plants to grow in places where forests have been cut down, and their establishment is one of the first steps in that land reverting back to a forested “climax community.”
Distribution in Missouri: 
Human connections: 
Cultivated thornless varieties of honey locust are popular in landscaping and along city streets—in autumn, the small leaflets and midveins make little mess. Native Americans ate the fleshy sweet pulp of the young pods, and the pods and inner bark have in the past been used medicinally.
Ecosystem connections: 
The seeds and pulpy pods provide winter food for rabbits, squirrels and deer. The flowers are reportedly a good bee food. Honey locust is an “invader” or early colonizing species, one of the first kinds of trees to become established in disturbed landscapes that are reverting back to forest.
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