Trees of Alabama and the Southeast

Lisa Samuelson, Ph.D.
School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Auburn University

Gleditsia triacanthos

Leaves are pinnately or bipinnately compound, alternate, and deciduous with 9-20 leaflet pairs. Leaflets are one inch long and hairy underneath. Twigs are stout and zigzag with large sometimes branched thorns. Bark is gray-brown and smooth becoming scaly and rough with thorns. Flowers are green-yellow. Fruit is a brown twisted legume, 8-24 inches long with sweet edible pulp between the seeds. Form is up to 24 m (80 ft) in height and 1 m (3 ft) in diameter. Honeylocust is found on a variety of sites in open areas in the east and central U.S. and is intolerant of shade. The pods are eaten by deer and cattle. The wood is hard and used for fence posts and specialty items. A thornless variety is used in landscaping. Some group this species in Fabaceae. Gledistia aquatica (waterlocust) is similar but found in swamps and floodplains. Fruit is kidney shaped and thorns are less frequently branched.

Photographs by Mike Hogan.

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