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Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

Honey Locust Pods Honey Locust (or Sweet Locust) is distinguished by large thorns along its trunk and branches; large, highly divided compound leaves; and distinctive bean-like fruits. The conspicuous thorns on the trunk and limbs are modified branches that occasionally bear leaves. Abundant yellowish, bean-like pods can be seen hanging down from the branches in August. The compound leaves are bi- or tri-pinnate (leaves divided two or three times). Several of these trees are found along Marsh Road and Old Kerr Hollow Road.

Honey Locust Thorns

Honey Locust belongs to the Fabaceae (the bean or pea family). It ranges from central Pennsylvania south along the Appalachians to Alabama and west to Texas and the Central U.S. Its large pods turn brown in the fall and often persist into winter. The pods are sweet and eaten by cattle, hogs, and wildlife - thus the name "honey" or "sweet." The rattling of the seeds in the dry pods is said to resemble the singing of locusts - thus the second part of the common name.

The very hard thorns have been used for a variety of purposes, including use as nails, for carding wool, and as pins for closing sacks. The durable wood has been used for railroad ties, fence posts, and pallets. A number of thornless varieties have been developed for shade and ornamental use. A specimen of one of these thornless varieties, Sunburst Honey Locust, is planted in the Arboretum's Shade Tree Collection.

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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
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