Honey locust

From Academic Kids

Honey locust

Honey locust trunk
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Magnoliopsida
Order:Fabales
Family:Fabaceae
Subfamily:Caesalpinioideae
Genus:Gleditsia
Species:G. triacanthos

Template:Taxobox section binomial botany

The Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) is a deciduous tree native to eastern North America. It is mostly found in the moist soil of river valleys from southeastern South Dakota south to New Orleans and central Texas, and east to central Pennsylvania.

It can reach a height of 20-30 meters (66-100 feet), with fast growth. They are relatively short-lived, however, living about 120 years. They are also prone to losing large branches in windstorms. The leaves are pinnately compound on older trees but bipinnately compound on vigorous young trees. The leaflets are 1.5-2.5 cm long (smaller on bipinnate leaves) and bright green. They turn yellow in the fall. The strongly scented cream-colored flowers appear in late spring, in clusters emerging from the base of the leaf axils.

The fruit is a flat legume (pod) that matures between September and October. The pods are generally between 15-20 cm long. The pulp on the insides of the pods is edible and sweet; it should not be confused with Black locust, which is toxic. The seeds are dispersed by grazing herbivores (e.g. cattle and horses), which eat the pod pulp and then excrete the seeds in their droppings; the animal's digestive system assists in breaking down the hard seed coat making germination easier.

Honey locusts commonly have long thorns 10-20 cm long growing out of the branches; these may be single, or branched into several points, and commonly form into dense clusters. It has been suggested that these thorns evolved to protect the trees from now-extinct large animals (which may also have been involved in seed dispersal). Thornless forms (f. inermis) are occasionally found growing wild.

Despite its name, Honey locust is not a significant honey plant, while Black locust honey is prized. The name derives instead from the sweet taste of the legume pulp.

The genus contains 12 other species, native to Asia and other areas of North America; see Gleditsia for details.

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

Uses

The legume pulp is edible and sweet; it was used for food by Native American people, and can also be fermented to make beer.

The thornless form and its cultivars are popular ornamental plants, expecially 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 populatrity 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.

It has also been introduced to Europe and elsewhere as an ornamental tree; it has become naturalized in parts of southern Europe.

Honey locust produces a high quality, durable wood that polishes well, but the tree does not grow in sufficient numbers to support a bulk industry. However a niche market exists for honey locust furniture. In the past, the hard thorns of the younger trees have been used as nails.

References

  • Sternberg, Guy, (2004) Native Trees for North American Landscapes pp. 264. Timber Press, Inc.
fr:Févier d'Amérique
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