Buy honey locust tree

Kansas Forest Service

Gleditsia triacanthos, or Honeylocust, can be found growing in woodlands and abandoned fields throughout the state.

Mature Size
Although not related to Black locust, Honeylocust belongs to the legume family. Heights of 30 to 50 feet and a crown spread of 25 to 35 feet are normal. It grows at a moderately fast rate.

NOTE: We try to weed out all of the “thorny” seedlings in the nursery, but occasionally we miss some. We recommend that 10% extra plants be planted in the garden, etc., so that replacements will be available for replacements if any thorns should develop. If there are any thorns, they will be obvious the first year in the field.

Leaves, Stems and Fruit
Leaves may be both once and twice compound on the same tree. Leaflets vary in number, are dark green, and rounded on both ends with a smooth edge. The leaves are borne alternately on the stem(photo). Twigs are red-brown, shiny and form a zigzag pattern. The bark on young trees is thin and light in color, turning almost black with age and broken into strips peeling from around the trunk. Male and female flowers are found on the same or on separate trees. The fruit is a twisted pod 10 to 18 inches in length and contains numerous seeds.
Windbreaks – Honeylocust is an excellent windbreak tree. It can be planted in central rows of a multi-row windbreak. It should be planted where it can receive an abundance of sunlight. It can also be used as a single row field windbreak.
Fuelwood – Honeylocust serves well as a fuelwood species. The wood is moderately dense with high heat yield. Trees grow at a moderately-fast rate and reach harvestable size on good soils within 10 to 15 years.
Adaptation and Soil
Honeylocust has adapted statewide and prefers a moist soil but can do well on droughty alkaline soils. Honeylocust is adapted to a wide variety of soils.
Space the trees in windbreaks 10 to 15 feet apart. In fuelwood plantings the spacing may range from 4 x 9 feet to 6 x 12 feet.
One-year-old, bare root seedlings, 18 to 24 inches tall are used in plantings. Survival is very good when weeds and grasses are controlled. Honeylocust seedlings sold through the Tree Distribution Program are usually thornless. There may be a few trees with thorns. It is advisable to order an additional 10 percent to plant in a separate area to replace the thorny trees after the first year.
Insects are normally not a serious problem on Honeylocust. Those which cause damage in varying degrees are Mimosa webworm, spring cankerworm, Honeylocust borer and twig girdler. While Honeylocust is relatively free of foliage diseases, it is subject to a stem disease called Tyronectria canker. This

Texas Tech’s Honey Locust Tree Crowned Largest in the State

The tree, located south of the Administration Building, stands 56 feet tall with a crown spread of 77 feet.

In a place not not known for its forest landscape, a honey locust tree, located south of the Administration Building on the Texas Tech University campus, recently was crowned the king of its kind by the Texas A&M Forest Service for being the largest honey locust tree in the state. This is the second tree from Lubbock County and the first from Texas Tech to be added to the Texas Big Tree Registry, a listing of the largest trees of every species found in the state.

“I’m proud of our university,” said Mike Quartaro, senior superintendent for Grounds Maintenance. “This is the first tree we’ve had in the Texas Big Tree Registry for Texas Tech. We’re excited to have finally made the list.”

The tree was officially measured in 2013 and compared to other honey locust trees in the state using a tree index. The index determines a score by combining the trunk circumference in inches, tree height in feet and one-quarter of the average crown spread in feet.

(l-r) Dewey Shroyer, Mike Quartaro, Jonathan Motsinger and Charles Leatherwood.

Scientifically known as Gleditsia triacanthos, Texas Tech’s tree has a circumference of 115 inches (9.5 feet), a height of 56 feet and a crown spread of 77 feet, giving it a tree index of 190 points.

Jonathan Motsinger, staff forester for the Texas A&M Forest Service, officially measured the tree and nominated it for the registry.

“This tree is just tremendous,” Motsinger said. “Its girth really makes the difference when you compare it to other trees of the same species.”

According to Dewey Shroyer, former managing director of Grounds Maintenance, the tree was planted in the early 1960s, making it more than 50 years old. The tree was planted before the Preston Smith statue was erected and the brick work done around the Administration Building.

Texas Tech has approximately 8,000 trees throughout campus and has continually grown in the past few years with campus beautification projects.

The honey locust tree is hardy and can grow up to 70 feet tall. Growing at a rate of 24 inches per year, the tree grows quickly and produces small, greenish-yellow blossoms that are notably fragrant and have a honey-like substance in its pods.

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, the purpose of the Big Tree Registry is to recognize owners and nominators of the state’s largest trees and stimulate a greater public appreciation of trees.

As of today, the forest service recognizes 320 native or naturalized tree species that qualify for the list.

For more information about the Texas A&M Forest Service or the Texas Big Tree Registry, visit

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Honey Locust

Scientific Name:

Gleditsia triacanthos


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. Thornless forms (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis) are occasionally found growing wild and are available as nursery plants.

Range and Habitat:

Honey locust is 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.


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.

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.

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.

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. It is also claimed to be a nitrogen fixer, by way of rhizobium, which benefits the surrounding soil and plants. 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.

Ranchers and farmers, though, do deem this species as invasive because it quickly can move into pastures and grazing lands out-competing grasses for living space.

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. Seeds of Gleditsia triacanthos contain a trypsin inhibitor.

Thornless honey-locust

Tree & Plant Care

Prune in fall or winter.

Disease, pests, and problems

Mites can lead to early leaf drop.
Cankers, root rot, and borers are potential problems (most commonly on stressed trees).

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 2
Native to most of the lower Midwest and south to the Gulf coast.

Bark color and texture

Bark is dark gray, breaking into long flat plates that curl along the edges.
The native honey-locust has long thorns on stems and bark; f. inermis does not.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Pinnately compound or bipinnately compound, alternate leaves with 20 to 30 oval leaflets; each leaf about 6 to 8 inches long. Fall color is yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Inconspicuous; small yellow-green flowers in spikes in spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Flat, red-brown pod about 1 inch wide and several inches long; often curling; each pod contains several seeds. Some cultivars are fruitless (seedless).

Cultivars and their differences

These plants are cultivars of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.

Imperial™ (Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis ‘Impcole’): A more compact cultivar (35 feet); will produce a few seed pods.

Moraine (Gleditisia triacanthos f. inermis ‘Moraine’): This tree is a seedless male cultivar. It has a graceful outline, with small dark green foliage that turns golden yellow in fall.

Northern Acclaim (Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis ‘Harve’): A seedless male cultivar, considered cold hardy to zone 3; good yellow fall color; drought tolerant; 45 feet tall.

Perfection (Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis ‘Wandell’): A seedless male cultivar with good branch structure; 50 feet tall.

Skyline (Gleditisia triacanthos f. inermis ‘Skycole’): A male (fruitless) cultivar with a more pyramidal shape.

Street Keeper™ (Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis ‘Draves’): Narrow, upright form (20 foot spread); will produce some seed pods.

Sunburst (Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis ‘Suncole’): New foliage emerges yellow and matures to bright green; a seedless, male cultivar.

Honey Locust (Gleditsia spp.)-Canker

Cause Several fungi have been associated with a canker problem in the Pacific Northwest. Fusarium spp. and Phomopsis sp. have been associated with canker problems in nurseries. Nectria cinnabarina has been detected over the years from samples sent to the OSU Plant Clinic. Thyronectria austroamericana (asexual: Gyrostroma austroamericana) has not been reported in the Pacific Northwest but is very common in the Eastern United States.

Fusarium cankers have been associated with cold events in the fall, early harvest times and wounding. Sawdust storage seems to increase the potential for this disease problem as well. In addition, some cultivars (such as Imperial) are more susceptible than others.

Symptoms These fungi can cause cankers that are not easily distinguished from one another.

Fusarium canker-The earliest symptom is a subtle, orangish bark discoloration that is more sunken as the season progresses. Later, a definite, elongate, sunken, discolored canker is evident. Branches or trunks may be girdled, causing wilting, yellowing, and dieback above the canker. After the bark dies, fungal fruiting bodies (sporodochia) break through the lenticels. These sporodochia are football-shape (elliptical) and are yellow, orange, or salmon.

Nectria cinnabarina-Girdling cankers form on twigs, limbs, and sometimes trunks; then the affected parts die. Cankers appear as slightly sunken areas generally associated with wounds.

Pink-to-orange to reddish-brown fruiting structures (sporodochia) appear in the cankered area in early spring. Sporodochia gradually darken and may appear nearly black. Striking orange-to-red perithecia form on the stroma in late summer and early fall.

Cultural control

  • Prune off and destroy infected branches.
  • Water occasionally if drought becomes severe.
  • Avoid wounds. When limbing nursery trees, use sharp pruning shears instead of knocking off limbs by hand. Careful handling during harvest and storage are also encouraged.
  • Maintain tree vigor by proper fertilizing and watering.
  • Avoid leaving pruning stubs when removing top growth.
  • Avoid pruning in the dormant season.
  • Promote winter acclimation by harvesting at later times in the fall.

Chemical control Fungicides have not been successfully used in the bare-root tree industry. Focus on cultural control tactics first before using chemicals.

  • Phyton 27 is registered for tree injection but not recommended because its efficacy in the Pacific Northwest is unknown.

Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis ‘Imperial’: ‘Imperial’ Thornless Honeylocust1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2


This cultivar of Honeylocust is smaller than others, growing to 35 feet with a flat-topped, vase-shaped canopy. Branches emerge fairly low on the trunk and some training would be needed to force branches to clear tall vehicles along streets. The species has undesirable thorns on the trunk and main branches and large seed pods but this cultivar is thornless and usually fruitless. The tree is strong-wooded and casts light shade. Lawns grow fairly well beneath the tree and there is little to rake up in the fall since the tiny leaflets filter in between the blades of grass or are washed away in the rain. Honeylocust has a yellow or golden fall color in the northern part of its range. Trees often defoliate early in the south and are bare by October.

Figure 1.

Young Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis ‘Imperial’: ‘Imperial’ Thornless Honeylocust


Ed Gilman

General Information

Scientific name: Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis Pronunciation: gleh-DIT-see-uh try-uh-KANTH-oase variety ih-NER-miss Common name(s): ‘Imperial’ Thornless Honeylocust Family: Leguminosae USDA hardiness zones: 4A through 8A (Fig. 2) Origin: native to North America Invasive potential: little invasive potential Uses: street without sidewalk; shade; specimen; parking lot island 100-200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; sidewalk cutout (tree pit); tree lawn 4-6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; urban tolerant; highway median; reclamation Availability: not native to North America Figure 2.



Height: 30 to 35 feet Spread: 30 to 35 feet Crown uniformity: symmetrical Crown shape: vase Crown density: moderate Growth rate: fast Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3) Leaf type: bipinnately compound, odd-pinnately compound Leaf margin: crenate Leaf shape: oblong, lanceolate Leaf venation: pinnate Leaf type and persistence: deciduous Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches Leaf color: green Fall color: yellow, copper Fall characteristic: showy Figure 3.



Flower color: yellow Flower characteristics: not showy


Fruit shape: no fruit Fruit length: no fruit Fruit covering: no fruit Fruit color: no fruit Fruit characteristics: no fruit

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don’t droop; showy; typically one trunk; thorns Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure Breakage: resistant Current year twig color: brown Current year twig thickness: thin Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade Soil tolerances: sand; loam; clay; acidic; alkaline; well-drained; occasionally wet Drought tolerance: high Aerosol salt tolerance: high


Roots: can form large surface roots Winter interest: yes Outstanding tree: no Ozone sensitivity: unknown Verticillium wilt susceptibility: resistant Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

The tree has no particular soil preferences and is useful in dry or alkaline areas, although its native habitat is along stream banks. It tolerates compacted, poorly aerated soil and flooding for a period of time and does well in confined soil spaces. Honeylocust adapts well as a city street tree and is tolerant to small planting pits in concrete. It is susceptible to breakage in ice storms.

Unfortunately, it has been overplanted in some areas and insect problems are beginning to catch up with Honeylocust, including the cultivars. Recommend planting only small numbers of this tree to avoid catastrophe if insects or diseases invade. It might be best to plant Pistacia, Zelkova, Taxodium, Quercus or some other proven urban tough tree in place of Honeylocust to avoid potential insect, disease and early defoliation problems.

Most garden centers will have at least one cultivar of Honeylocust in stock. Some of the cultivars may develop thorns and/or seed pods when they get older and they may be best suited for areas north of USDA hardiness zone 8b. The cultivars are: `Cottage Green’ – semi upright, seedless, thornless; `Majestic’ – upright, seedless, thornless; `Maxwell’ – upright, seedless, thornless; `Moraine’ – spreading, usually seedless, thornless; `Rubylace’ – new reddish foliage, seedless, thornless, color not outstanding, may need staking when young; `Shademaster’ – upright, spreading, usually seedless and thornless until 10 to 15-years-old when some seeds do develop – perhaps the best cultivar; `Skyline’ – pyramidal, generally seedless, thornless; `Sunburst’ – new yellow foliage, seedless, thornless, favored by plant bugs and leafhoppers.


Mimosa webworm has become a serious pest on Honeylocust in some communities.

Boring insects may be largely prevented by keeping trees healthy with regular fertilization. They usually attack trees under stress from other problems.

The combination of plant bug and leafhopper feeding causes the leaves to drop. Plant bugs may be more common on the yellow leaved cultivar `Sunburst’ than on green leaved types. Both insects are green so they will be hard to detect.

Pod gall midge causes unusual reddish galls at the tips of the branches. Leaflets become pod-like. The galls appear in late spring and may be most common on thornless, seedless cultivars. These have become quite a problem in many areas. Control is difficult.

Spider mites cause an autumn-like yellowing of the leaves. Diagnosis of this problem is difficult due to the small size of the insect and leaflets. Look for the mites and their webbing near the midrib at the base of the leaflets.

Leafminers and bagworm can also be a problem.


Canker causing fungi or bacteria attack branches and trunks causing dieback of parts or the entire tree. Keep the trees healthy and avoid unnecessary wounding. Infected areas have discolored bark, peeling bark, discolored sapwood, or a crack between the diseased and healthy bark. The ronectria canker is especially damaging.

Leaf spot may be a problem. Rake up and dispose of infected leaves.

Powdery mildew may cause a white coating on the leaves but is seldom serious.


This document is ENH439, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.

Honey Locust Propagation

The honey locust, or Gleditsia triacanthos, is a deciduous tree native to North America. Honey locusts can reach a height of twenty to thirty meters, and are relatively short-lived. Their life spans are usually only around 120 years, though some can live longer than that. The leaflets are only a few centimeters long and bright green. They turn yellow in the fall. Strongly scented cream-colored flowers appear in late spring.

A honey locust’s leaves turn yellow in autum

Honey locusts produce pods that mature in early autumn. The pods are generally between 15–20 cm. The pods contain edible seeds that many herbivores eat. The animals’ digestive systems help in breaking down the hard seed coat. The seeds cannot germinate until this seed coat is somehow broken. Honey locust seed pods ripen in late spring and germinate rapidly when temperatures are warm enough.

Many honey locusts are popular ornamental plants. It can tolerate many conditions, and it transports easily. It is resistant to gypsy moths, but is attacked by the mimosa webworm, spider mites, cankers, and galls. Some varieties of the honey locust have thorns, but many ornamentals are cultivated to be thorn-free.


Gleditsia triacanthos can be propagated in different ways. Some people take cuttings and use rooting hormone to produce roots and a new tree. Propagation of high quality clonal stock can be achieved by grafting, budding, and cuttings from hardwood, softwood, and roots. Sometimes other species or varieties are grafted onto the rootstock of honey locust. Today, we will be discussing propagation by seeds. The seeds of honey locust are readily available. When prepared properly, the seeds of the Gleditsia triacanthos can easily be used to propagate with.


Honey locust pod

Boiling water



Collect your seed pod

Before you plant, you need to collect a seed pod off of a honey locust tree. Gleditsia triacanthos grow all over North America, so one should not be too difficult to find. Be sure that the seed pod is dried. If you need to store the seeds for a period of time, store them in a cool, dry place.

A honey locust’s seed pods

Prepare the seed

Honey locust seeds have a very hard seed coat on them. The seeds will not grow until this coat is broken down. There are multiple ways you can go about breaking down the seed coat. Some people sand the seed coat down with a file. You do not need to file the entire seed, just enough to make a small hole in it for nutrients and water to get through. Many nurseries soak the seeds in acid or other corrosive products. What I will be discussing today is boiling the seed. When propagating on a small scale, boiling the honey locust seeds works just fine.

Boil a pot of water with four times the volume as the seeds. Once boiling, take the water off the stove and let the temperature drop to 190 degrees Farenheit. You can use a candy thermometer to check the temperature. Place the seeds in the water and let the water cool to room temperature. Keep the seeds in the water until they swell to three times their normal size. They are then ready to plant immediately.

Plant the seeds

Fill a pot with high-quality potting mix. Honey locusts like moist soil, so be sure that the soil is watered well. Plant the seeds, giving them enough room grow (about three inches apart). Plant them at a depth of about one half inch, and cover them in soil. Place plastic wrap over the pot, and punch a few small hole in the plastic for ventilation. This creates a mini greenhouse for your plantings. Keep your newly planted seeds in a place that receives bright sunlight, and keep the soil moist. Remove the plastic when you see sprouts emerging. If both seeds germinate, remove the seedling that is smaller.


Before you fully plant the tree outdoors, you need to harden it off. This process takes about one week. Move the young tree to a protected area outside, and leave it there, in its pot, for at least a week once the night temperatures are above fifty degrees. Transplant the tree to a larger container and continue to keep it outside in a sunny area. Let the tree grow three feet tall before you plant it in a permanent outdoor location.

A honey locust and its leaves

Once you are ready to permanently plant it, pick out a sunny spot with well drained soil. Dig a hole that is as deep as the pot it is in and two times wider. Remove the tree from the pot and place it in the hole. Fill in the hole with the dirt you removed to dig it. Water the tree every day until it is well established. For the first year, water the tree once a week when it is particularly dry out. – accessed 4/20/14 – accessed 4/20/14 pmcfs8420.pdf – accessed 4/20/14 – accessed 4/20/14

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