John the Baptist did not really eat orthopteran insects out in the desert. The locust he ate were the beans of the carob tree, Ceratonia siliqua. They are actually quite nutritious. Supposedly, they are known as locust because they resemble the elongated abdomens of the insects with the same name. A few other related trees that also produce beans are collective known as such.

Robinia pseudoacacia happens to be known as black locust, even though there is nothing black about it, and the tiny and papery beans do not even remotely resemble insects. Supposedly, it arrived with Gold Rush prospectors who wanted something of their homes in Eastern North America. It naturalized aggressively, and is now an invasive exotic species in much of the West.

We tolerate a few at work. They are too pretty to cut down without a good excuse. However, one gave us a good excuse when it fell last winter. It was notably polite about it, by falling into a gap between two roofs that a cat could jump across. Damage was very minimal. Nonetheless, the tree and its destabilizing associates needed to be removed. They are gone but not forgotten.

1. Thorns of black locust only look blurry in this picture. They are wickedly sharp! The sharpest are on the most vigorous stems, which is exactly what the freshly cut stumps here generate.P90921

2. Thickets of suckers (or watersprouts) like these developed where black locust trees were cut down last winter. Most developed on freshly cut stumps. Many emerged from random roots.P90921+

3. More than half of the suckers from the formerly impenetrable thicket around the stump at the center of the picture were removed to relinquish space for the lauristinus in the foreground.P90921++

4. A few bay trees got cut down with the black locust trees. I wanted them coppiced, but was away when they instead got VERY badly pollarded. Oh, the shame! (I will coppice them later.)P90921+++

5. As nasty as black locust is, it has a few attributes. Spring bloom resembles that of white wisteria, and is almost as fragrant. This finely textured pinnately compound foliage is quite elegant.P90921++++

6. Their high and open canopies provide nice shade too. It is just enough for warm summer weather, but not too much to exclude turf grass and understory plants that tolerate partial shade.P90921+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

32 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: Locust

    1. It seems to grow just about everywhere that is not too dry for it. It naturalized in riparian situations in Southern California, and in urban areas of the Pacific Northwest. It is very resilient. Although it is very unpleasant to work with, it really is pretty. Garden varieties are much easier to work with, and perhaps prettier, but as far as I know, none bloom white.

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  1. If this is the locust I grew up with (that would also get thorns three inches long growing out of its trunk when old and large) those blossoms, when fresh, taste like peas and are delicious with a cream sauce. I think these trees are actually legumes. They had long pods in the fall full of little beans. The squirrels were crazy for them, but I never tried them. Ah, just had the name come to mind–Honey locust. We had black locusts too.

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    1. The black locust is considered an invasive species here in Ontario though I have yet to see evidence of that. Though the Honey locust, Gleditsia triacanthos, has pretty severe thorns as a mature tree, the beans are not toxic like the black locust and it also has a dense rot resistant wood and the tree also looks good. We may plant some of the honey locust.

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      1. Interesting. They do drop their thorns, so if you walk around barefoot or with thin soled shoes, you’ll need to beware, but they make a good hedge row and I always thought they were a pretty tree, in spite of the weird huge thorns growing out of their trunks. I suppose those could be trimmed, but we never did that, as they were in the woods.

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      2. ‘Locust’ is a big diverse group. As nasty as some are, there are others that are even nastier! For us, the black locust was the worst of them, and because they were mostly naturalize in the forests, we could easily stay out of their way. Their garden varieties (although structurally deficient and uninteresting – and even lacking in floral color and fragrance) are much friendlier.

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      3. Interesting–I think it’s the black locusts whose blossoms I eat (yum!) but someone mentioned the bean pods were poisonous? I don’t think the honey locust pods are, given the wild feeding of our squirrels. I wish I had noticed more as a child…

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      4. Central Illinois–Sangamon County to be specific, along the floodplain (such s it was) f Sugar Creek. I’m wondering if I have any pictures, but my printer scanner is out in any event. I did a photo for a gallery show of a teddy bear perched among the thorns of one of them. One of the prints is at my mother’s house, but I bet I have another–these thorns could be three inches long…It was nice wood to burn, but a little sparky (not as sparky as hedge apple (osage orange) but sparky). I will look for photos. The trees were amazing, and I just accepted them as a child. Now I realize they’re weird as a monkey puzzle…

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      5. Thornless and fruitless cultivars of honey locust are nice street trees here. However, their root suckers are nasty! Fortunately, they have not naturalized like the black locust has.

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  2. I have ‘Frisia’ but it’s not doing very well. A big branch broke off (so brittle) and now its leader is all wonky. It is still not growing tall and if it does, I’m sure it will break. At my previous house, it grew large and happy.

    >

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    1. It is much easier for us because we know their personalities. I know what I can pull out, and what must be cut. I do it without gloves because I find that gloves interfere with me feeling my way around (without providing protection from the thorns). In my former neighborhood, It was annoying to see neighbors attacking unwanted vegetation with the most powerful tools they could find, only to accomplish less than I could by hand.

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  3. I don’t know what type of locust trees we have here but they’re a horrible nuisance on our orchard property. Some of the thorns are 4 to 5 inches long around the trunks and the branches are difficult to cut back. I’ve ruined a number of good work pants and t-shirts getting snagged up in locust trees and osage orange trees doing trimming or culling.

    I would think birds might like nesting and raising young in these trees because it would be impossible for a snake to get the young – there is no way for a snake to travel about the thorns. I never see squirrels in these trees either!

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    1. You know, someone else just recently commented on something like that, and referred to them as honey locust. I remember seeing native honey locusts growing wild there. If I remember correctly, a particularly impressive colony occupies the area around the interchange of Harrah Road and Highway 40. I noticed them because I happen to be fond of garden varieties of honey locust. I know that wild trees are thorny, but I had no idea that they were ‘that’ thorny. I did not get close enough to see. From a distance, they just look ‘twiggy’. Honey locust are Gleditsia triacanthos.

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      1. It still does, and there are too many hippies (or those who think they are hippies) here. However, hippies are not the brightest sort. They love nature and trees and organic vegan fruits and vegetables, but don’t see to know that some of that stuff grows on trees.

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