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Honey Locust


Gleditsia triacanthos  (glad-it-see-ah try-ah-CAN-thos)
Fabaceae (Legume Family)
Deciduous shade tree

HEIGHT: 50 to 70 feet
SPREAD: 30 to 40 feet
FINAL SPACING: 20 to 30 feet although I don’t recommend planting.


NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Eastern third of Texas in a variety of soils.

IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Honey locust is an upright, spreading, lacy-textured shade tree that has huge thorns on the limbs with clusters on the trunks. Large brown beans in the fall or winter.

FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Flowers are green racemes in May through June. They are not showy. Fruit ripens from September to October. Legumes of the bean pods are 1/2 to 1-1/2 feet long and 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches wide.

BARK: Grayish brown to black on the older trees. Fissures are narrow and get deeper with age separating into scaly ridges.

FOLIAGE: Leaves are alternate, compound, deciduous, with yellow fall color. They have an overall lacy look. Leaflets are small.

CULTURE: Honey locust grows pretty much in any soil, is drought tolerant, tough, but not recommended due to the incredibly large and vicious thorns.

PROBLEMS: Big nasty thorns, borers, and root diseases. Honey locust tends to throw off limbs when in stress, especially during drought in the summer.

PROPAGATION: If you really want to, you can grow honey locust from the seeds. Pods should be gathered from the ground or picked when brown and dry and planted in the fall or kept at about 41 degrees over the winter and planted in the spring.

INSIGHT: If decent specimens are growing on your property, it is okay to keep them unless the thorns present a serious problem. I do not recommend planting new ones. Thornless hybrids do exist but they don’t seem nearly as healthy. Pods are eaten by cattle, deer and other wildlife.
Related Q&As on this Subject

I disagree with your evaluation of the Honeylocust. They are very useful on a homestead and farm. Very high BTU for fireplace. Resist rot as well as any cedar, fence posts etc. The foliage is excellent nutrition for livestock, copiced it produces an abundance of leaves. Pollard it can produce a lot of fence posts. The pods, they will fatten livestock faster than any grain. Look at the Calhoun and Hersey varieties, thornless and huge pods with up to 32% carbohydrates. Check out the book "Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture". Here in north Alabama they grow wild as well as ragweed and feed the wildlife. - A. B. 

Q: I own 160 acres and these trees are coming up in the middle of the pasture...everywhere. I specifically need to know how they spread and the best way to eradicate them. My research on the internet and YouTube shows people cutting them down and then using Round-up. I would much rather find a natural method to kill them versus a poison. These are becoming a very big problem. - T. C.

A: This is honey locust and a horrible plant. Trees should be cut down, 1/4 to 1/2” holes drilled into the stumps and filled with salt Peter (potassium nitrate). Mowing and spraying the regrowth with vinegar or fatty acid products. Building the soil health and encouraging competition is the long term plan.


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