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Gleditsia triacanthos (Honey locust)
Romfh, Peggy

Gleditsia triacanthos

Gleditsia triacanthos L.

Honey Locust, Common Honey Locust, Thorny Common Honey Locust, Honey Shucks Locust, Sweet Locust, Thorny Locust, Honey Shucks, Sweet Bean Tree

Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Synonym(s): Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

The honey-locust is a 30-75 ft. tree with a comparable spread and a "delicate and sophisticated" silhouette. Feathery, yellow-green, pinnately compound leaves provide filtered shade. Fall color is yellow. Greenish flowers are not conspicuous, but the twisted seed pods change from red-green to maroon-brown as they mature. Pods 30-45 cm long, curled, persist into winter. Most wild trees are not thornless; the long, needle-sharp thorns are extremely vicious and not suitable for a domestic landscape.

Livestock and wildlife consume the honeylike, sweet pulp of the pods. Honey Locust is easily recognized by the large, branched spines on the trunk; thornless forms, however, are common in cultivation and are sometimes found wild. The spines have been used as pins. This hardy species is popular for shade, hedges, and attracting wildlife.


From the Image Gallery

16 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Legume
Size Notes: Up to about 75 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: May , Jun


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WI , WV , WY
Canada: ON
Native Distribution: E. TX to e. SD, e. to MS & OH
Native Habitat: Moist woods; bottomlands; stream banks; drier, upland sites

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist, deep, well-drained soil. Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay
Conditions Comments: Honey locust is fast-growing and long-lived. It suffers from mites, Mimosa webworm invaders, a number of cankers, and other pests. Exhibits salt-, drought-, heat-, high pH-, and salt-tolerance. Its filtered shade makes underplanting easy. This tree has the ability to spread quickly and can become a weed problem in some pasture areas. Mowing or cutting increases sprouts.


Use Ornamental: Attractive, Shade tree
Use Wildlife: Cover, Nesting site, Browse, Fruit-mammals, Nectar-butterflies, Nectar-bees.
Use Food: Southeastern indigenous people dried and ground the pulp from the pods and used it as a sweetener.
Warning: Plant has thorns or prickles.
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus).

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Silver-spotted Skipper
(Epargyreus clarus)

Adult Food Source
Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Bicolored honey locust moth
(Sphingicampa bicolor)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Bisected honey locust moth
(Sphingicampa bisecta)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Scarified seeds will germinate readily. Thornless forms come true about half of the time. Transplanting is easy. Cutting from male-flowered branches grow into trees with pollen flowers only, so they do not produce fruit. (Kershaw)
Seed Treatment: Scarify seeds in a concentrated sulfuric acid for 1-2 hours.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Sibley Nature Center - Midland, TX


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 1243 - The Southeastern Indians (1976) Hudson, Charles
Bibref 297 - Trees of Central Texas (1984) Vines, Robert A.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Gleditsia triacanthos in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Gleditsia triacanthos in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Gleditsia triacanthos


Record Modified: 2015-11-12
Research By: TWC Staff

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