Honey locust is native from Pennsylvania to Iowa south to Georgia and Texas. In Missouri, it commonly occurs in moist soils of low woodland areas in valleys and along streams, and in drier soils of upland slopes and pastures throughout the state. It typically grows 30 to 70 feet tall with a rounded spreading crown.
Trunk and branches have very few thorns (inermis) with pinnate to bipinnate yellow green leaves with ovate leaflets (1/2” to 1 1/2” long). Pinnate leaves have 10-15 pairs of leaflets and bipinnate leaves have 4-7 pairs of pinnae. Feathery leaves cast a sun-dappled shade. Leaves turn yellow in fall, but sometime drop off early without providing any significant fall color display.
Greenish yellow to greenish white flowers appear in racemes in late spring (May-June in St. Louis). Flowers are followed by long, twisted and flattened, dark purplish-brown seedpods (to 18” long) which mature in late summer and persist well into winter. Seedpods contain, in addition to seeds, a sweet gummy substance that gives honey locust its common name.
Specific epithet comes from the Greek acantha (thorn) and tri (three) in reference to the three-branched thorns. Genus name honors Johann Gottlieb Gleditsch (1714-1786), medical doctor and one-time Director of the Berlin Botanical Garden.
Honeylocust prefers full sun and medium moisture. This is a medium maintenance with showy flowers and fruits that makes a suitable street tree. This tree tolerates deer, drought, clay soils and will grow near Black Walnut and will tolerate air pollution.
*Note: Tree has thorns