Tales of Our Trees

Thornless Honey Locusts

For this final article of the season we are featuring the row of 15 Honey Locusts, Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis ‘Skyline’ (Skycole) along the central entryway drive.

All are doing well.

The honey, or thorny, locust, is a medium-sized deciduous tree native to central North America. They have fine compound leaves (pinnate or sometimes bipinnate) that cast light dappled shade. The shade cast by the lacy foliage of this attractive tree is only one of its virtues. It also is durable and adaptable, tolerating a wide range of soil conditions as well as drought and road salt. As a result, honey locust is much used in city and suburban landscapes.

The native (wild) species of honey locust has large thorns on its stems and bark. For this reason, the thornless male honey locust, the cultivar we have at Kendal, is most commonly sold. The native tree produces large 8” long (or more) seed pods. The pulp between the seeds is sweet, from which the tree gets its common name, and is enjoyed by wildlife. It has small greenish-yellow flowers on 2”long racemes and rarely produces seed pods. The leaves turn a beautiful pale to golden yellow color in the fall.

Although the species is considered an environmental and economic weed in many parts of the world, honey locusts produce a high quality, durable wood that is used for posts and rails, since it is very rot resistant. In the past, the hard thorns of the younger trees were used as nails(!) while the wood itself was used to fashion treenails for shipbuilding.

During the summer we encourage residents to walk and enjoy all the trees in our arboretum.

Martin Wells and Judy Czeiner, Photographer


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