The scientific name of the honey locust tree is Gleditsia triacanthos inermis. It is a deciduous, perennial tree and is native to North America, especially the eastern regions. It is commonly called the Sweet Bean, Sweet Locust and Honeyshuck. The honey locust tree has a wide canopy and this helps grass to grow in its shade. It has a rapid growth rate and lives up to an average age of 100 years.
Soil: The honey locust tree is a hardy tree and can grow well in different types of soil. Loam, wet, well-drained, sandy, acidic, and even moist rich soil works well for the honey locust tree. In fact, it is one of the few trees that can survive the alkaline soil in Chicago.
Climate: The honey locust tree grows well in summer and spring. Hence, it does not require too much rainfall. It can survive even with moderate irrigation in case there is less rainfall. It prefers full sun but also grows in a partly shady climate.
Flowers: The honey locust tree grows best in spring and summer. It bears fragrant yellow green flowers which grow in clusters. Male and female flowers grow on separate trees but sometimes, perfect flowers (with both male and female parts) grow on the same tree.
Fruits: The fruits of the honey locust tree grow in pods. The length of the pods vary from 20 cm to 40 cm. Initially, they are green, but turn into deep brown as they mature. As the fruit matures, a sticky sweet substance is formed inside it, separating the seeds (1 cm long) from each other. This sticky substance is what prompted the tree being named as 'honey' locust.
Leaves: The leaves of the honey locust tree can be pinnately or bipinnately compound. Pinnately compound leaves have leaflets along the main vein and bipinnately compound leaves are divided twice, on the two sides of the main vein which gives out secondary veins. Initially the leaves are green, but turn yellowish gold by fall. This is the time when they are at the height of maturity. The honey locust tree is one of the first trees to shed its leaves in fall. This tree also bears thorns. These thorns grow on the branches and along the lower bark. They are green in the beginning, but turn brown and strong as they mature and eventually turn gray and brittle as they become old.
Landscaping: Given its perennial nature, fast growing tendency, easy adaptation to different types of soil and its beautiful golden canopy, the honey locust tree is often used in landscaping gardens, especially in urban areas. It is used to beautify highways and parks in cities as it is hardy enough to absorb pollution to a great extent.
Furniture: The timber from the honey locust tree is dense and strong. This makes it a perfect choice for making furniture frames like frames for upholstered sofas and others. It provides great support to the furniture. The immature wood of the honey locust tree can be used in small carpentry projects like a small cabinet or dresser. It can also be used for making fences around flower gardens or houses. The wood from the honey locust tree is a cheaper alternative to oak when it comes to packing pallets. The wood is almost as strong and hardy as oak trees but much cheaper. It can be splintered and cut in any way, which makes it a great wood variety to use in manufacturing industries.
Food: The honey locust tree has culinary uses as well.
- Its pulp can be fermented and used as energy alcohol and also for extraction of sugar.
- The seeds can be dried, roasted and ground and used as a substitute for coffee.
- The seeds, raw or cooked can also be used in food as they taste like peas.
- The unripe pods can be eaten after cooking.
- The pods of the honey locust tree are also eaten by wild forest animals like rabbits, deer, squirrels, and birds too.