Thorny trees are not always favored by many gardeners. However, there are a few exceptions to this case, such as the honey locust tree. This is a fast-growing deciduous tree that is native to North America. It is medium-sized and can grow in different types of soils. This tree is found growing in many regions of central North America - South Dakota, New Orleans, central Texas - and towards the east, primarily in east Massachusetts.
The tree has a distinctive bark that is dark brown in color. When the tree reaches maturity, the bark becomes scaly. The trunk is short and about 3 feet in diameter. The leaves are bright green in color and are oblong in shape. They are compound leaves that become yellow during fall. The tree grows seed pods that are about 1½ feet in size and about 2 inches wide. The seed pods contain 10 to 20 oval seeds that are brown in color. The fleshy part of these seed pods is sweet to taste. Hence, the tree is called honey locust tree. Its identification is very easy because of the thorns growing on it.
This tree is a polygamodioecious species. This means the male and female flowers grow on separate trees, and they produce perfect flowers on each tree as well. The yellow-green flowers blossom in June and bloom in 2½-inch-long clusters. The seed pods are produced when the plant reaches 10 years of age.
There are three types of honey locust trees. The 'Sunburst' is one type that is seedless as well as podless. It produces bright green leaves that turn yellow. The second type is 'Shademaster' which is also seedless and podless. The branches of Shademaster are ascending and produce dark green leaves. The 'Majestic' is a thornless type that looks similar to your common honey locust. 'Summergold' is another variety that produces gold-green leaves during summer.
If you plan to grow this tree, you need to search for a site with well-drained soil that is moist. This tree is drought-resistant as well as flood-resistant. The plant needs full sunlight to grow and does not mind acidic as well as alkaline soil. It also tolerates pollution. It produces flowers in spring that have a very sweet fragrance.
The honey locust tree is grown in urban areas as it can tolerate pollution. It is also grown to control soil erosion, as a windbreaker, as well as for rehabilitation of vegetation. The wood of the tree is dense and hard. It is coarse-grained and shock-resistant. Therefore, it is used to make pallets, furniture, railroad ties, fence posts, firewood, etc. However, it is not commonly found and, therefore, does not hold much economical value. The seed pods are eaten by animals like rabbits, goats, sheep, opossums, squirrels, crows, and deer. Rabbits and white-tailed deer tend to eat the soft bark and vegetative growth. Hunters often hide behind these trees to hunt down deer, who love eating their seed pods. The seed pulp is sometimes used to make fermented beers.
Diseases Affecting the Tree
The most common disease that affects the tree adversely is canker. This is a fungal disease that is caused by Thyronectria austroamericana. It causes dieback of the branches, premature fall coloration, and leaf drop. Apart from canker, this tree is also affected by root collar rot. This is a dangerous disease as it can cause the death of the tree. It causes discoloration of the bark and wood and affects the cambium of the tree. Pruning of the affected part and use of fungicides may help get rid of these fungal infections.