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PlantFiles: Honey Locust
Gleditsia triacanthos

Family: Caesalpiniaceae (ses-al-pin-ee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Gleditsia (gleh-DIT-see-uh) (Info)
Species: triacanthos (try-a-KAN-thos) (Info)

22 members have or want this plant for trade.


over 40 ft. (12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Pale Green

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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11 positives
4 neutrals
6 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral GregInTN On Feb 8, 2015, GregInTN from Nashville, TN wrote:


The honey locust is native to Central and Eastern US, but, as others have said, is naturally an aggressive plant. That's different than an "invasive" tree, except in areas outside of its native range. I think people are using the term "invasive" too liberally here and could be giving false information to people. The plant is not "invasive" in most of America, it is just aggressive.

Think about it--if you define everything that spreads and survives successfully without human coddling as "invasive," then you're dooming yourself to an agriculture of only weak plants that need coddling. The Honey Locust certainly has a zest for life, and it's native to a lot of places where it's also being planted for landscaping. So what's the problem?

We should probably reserve the term "invasive" for plants that are actually displacing native species in undisturbed habitats outside of their own native range. That distinction applies, actually, to very few species. Most "noxious" and "invasive" species are actually just non-native species that are able to colonize disturbed habitats that native plants can't colonize in the first place. A good example is the much-hated Ailanthus (tree of heaven) that grows along roadsides and gullies here in Tennessee (and everywhere else). I have never yet seen an Ailanthus invade a healthy native forest. They're only widespread because humans have disturbed so much of the land, and Ailanthus is one of the only things that thrives in such conditions. Some invasive species do invade native habitats, but many don't.

Honey Locust is not an invasive species by my definition. It will send up suckers in your yard, maybe, and it has thorns, but just because you have a hard time handling a tree or it has negative aspects to it does not make it "noxious" and "invasive." In fact, it's one of the only native trees hardy enough to survive as a street tree in the city, which is why it's widespread in Chicago, Philadelphia, etc. Stop calling it "invasive."

Negative want2buy On May 30, 2014, want2buy from Brady, WA wrote:

Somebody said that their honey locust tree (which is illegal and quarantined along with the directly related Black Locust Tree in states like California) was their "Devil Tree." It is. I planted a trendy ornamental that was supposedly an innocent horticultural creation, called the Twisty Baby Locust Tree. It is grafted onto the Black Locust and was supposed to be mild mannered, flowering unreliably and putting out invasive seed pods irregularly too. Only supposed to grow up to 15 feet. It has been lovely. I bought it to commemorate and mourn my baby son, who died due to stillbirth. HOWEVER. It has been a few years and last spring we received unrecognizable woody THICK sucker-like branches coming out of the ground. The double sets of needles along each stem were up to 2 inches long and perfectly horizontal in relation to the branches. We mowed all 5 of them down. Now they are emerging again.

At first I thought these might be from some thorny Barberry bushes (also invasive), which I am pulling out. NOPE. After research, I have come to learn that these are highlly prolific suckers coming some 20 yards underground to settle elsewhere in our yard. The Twisty Baby is fairly innocuous but it is founded on the black locust, which is putting out these horribly invasive 4-5 foot tall suckers. They emerge within weeks of having no sign of previous existence.

If you have these, you absolutely need to have a professional cut down your tree, or do it yourself if you can do it safely. Over a period of several dry (no-rain) mild temperature days, you must apply a brush/tree killer (spelled something like Trilopyr) in a high percentage or at least 15 percent, combined with a fuel or natural oil that penetrates through to the tree's roots. These roots can go on for 20 or more feet and are so hard to dig up. They can go through your foundation and destroy pavers etc. We have a fertile yard and so they are very happy there, but this is a problem all over the country, and in England.

Crossbow from DOW chemicals has been recommended to me. If it's a large tree, you must "frill" the outsides of the tree, through the bark and into the pulp with a hatchet or axe. This is a seriously hard wood in an older tree. My twisty baby will be easier to kill as it is still young, yet I will have to cut it down to where the bottom tree actually is (the black locust part). Diluting the herbicide and applying properly is essential. Many paint the stump with the herbicide (heavy duty). Luckily this sticks to woody growth only, travelling down the roots and stump. HOWEVER, you must collect any seed pods and branches, etc. Any suckers from elsewhere. Triple bag and take to landfill or put in trash. I suppose you could also burn unpoisoned branches and pods but do it thoroughly. Any large trees should be removed professionally after they are dead.

I can't emphasize how important this is. They are invasive and have been coasting along the market because the Twisty Baby is beautiful--our weed control board in WA state is clearly not linking the twisty baby to its illegal/quarantined honey and black locusts. The results of these terrible things will be the same: Thorns the size of hands and even in younger stages, thick strong tire-popping types of thorns. The tree is not manageable and will invade native species in your area. Black Locusts and Honey Locusts usually flower and cast out dozens of successful seed pods annually, and can grow to around 70 feet tall. As you see, no matter how dear the tree is to you and your aesthetic, I had to make the hard call. Luckily I never planted my sons ashes there as I figured we might one day movie. I'm glad I didn't but it will an additional and painful irony. Better than ruining our neighbor's yards and beautiful creeds and rivers as well as destroying precious farmlands and grazing areas. What a terrible terrible experience. Along with so many other terribly invasive plants I have or inherited, these were all sold legally from Home Depot or better--very reputable nurseries. It is just unforgivable and so wrong.

Positive danelady On Sep 20, 2012, danelady from Las Vegas, NV wrote:

I inherited this tree with the half acre of land that I purchased my house on in Las Vegas Nevada. I was not aware of what type of tree it was. But after some reading and research on the internet and help from websites like Dave's Garden, I was able to figure out what it was. After reading several reviews, I must say that I was surprised to hear any negatives on this particular tree. I have one that is thornless. It does send up some suckers, but no big deal. I just mower them over with the lawn mower. The tree is absolutely beautiful. It has a somewhat lacy ferny look to it in the spring. Summer you can't beat the shade that it provides from the scorching sun and it stands up the the horrific dry winds without losing any of its beautiful true green color and no burning of the leaves is a definite plus. And it still keeps that delicate graceful look through the whole summer. Not to mention that it doesn't require any more than average watering from the lawns sprinkler system and about once a month in the summer an over night slow drip with the garden hose as a extra treat to with stand the heat. In the fall it produces a few (not to many about 30) long dark chestnut color pods that look incredible against the leaves that have turned a gorgeous golden color. The kids love gathering the pods and we have broken them open and planted the seeds and had much success in growing new little Honey Locust Trees to share with others. In the winter it does lose its leaves, but they are very small and do not need to be raked up and quickly turn into mulch to help fertilize my lawn. The growth rate has been moderate to fast, which I think is a bonus, as it has provided some great shade to cool down my house and given me areas to plant some ferns and bulbs under its canopy. My tree is about 8 - 9 years old and about 5 to 6 feet taller than my two story house. I really can't find anything negative about this lovely tree.

I would highly recommend it to others. Especially here in Las Vegas, it is nice to see some trees that are out of the ordinary and that produce some fall color.

Positive Currahee On May 2, 2012, Currahee from Ellijay, GA wrote:

The honey locust was known to the Cherokee as kalasetsi. It was one of their principal sources of a sweetener. In modern Cherokee, usually Anglicized as kalseji, the word has come to mean sugar or candy. The name of Cullasaja [NC] is derived from kalasetsi, so that a reasonably good translation would be "Sugartown." More detailed information can be found by Googling "Cherokee Place Names."

Negative lindalouok On Aug 7, 2010, lindalouok from Ann Arbor, MI wrote:

Horrible tree. Yes, it looks beautiful, but if you do not use chemicals on your lawn, it will sprout from suckers all over the place. It is INVASIVE and should not be used or planted. Unfortunately, my supposedly green city of Ann Arbor plants/planted these trees in the easements, furthering the use of chemicals by many homeowners.

Positive Podfarmer On Jun 10, 2010, Podfarmer wrote:


I am a South African farmer and we have 40-60 year old Honey Locust on the farm as a fodder reserve. Very positive experience -as they grow in clay, survive drought and even survive complete ring barking by goats.

Pods drop exactly the right time and ruminants kill any suckers. Trees survive PH of 4 and 600mm of rain, 40 C summers and -10 winters.

The trees were planted by a grandfather as a experiment, and it has paid off. I now want to experiement with the Millwood cultivar. If there is anybody that can assist with graftwood would appreciate it a lot. Want more pods, faster growth and all the good stuff. Prefer thorns.



Neutral Serpent_moon On Mar 5, 2010, Serpent_moon from Larkspur, CO wrote:

I found a seed pod of this plant. How should i plant these seeds? I found it in February. Also what should i do to these seeds regarding cold-spell time and water and things like that?

Positive davecito On Dec 18, 2009, davecito from Carrboro, NC wrote:

I gotta defend the honey locust.

Like many, if not most leguminous trees and lianas (mesquite, kudzu, pacay, many others), they can spread very aggressively, and can be very challenging to eradicate, so know what you're getting into, and do not be careless in where you plant it.

There are thornless cultivars, so if you want a mature plant, that's what to look for.

This all noted, they are handsome trees, with great foliage, which is beautiful in the fall.

They are also another sweet legume: like pacay, tamarind and mesquite, the pods are both edible and sweet. The beans themselves are nearly worthless, from a culinary standpoint, as they degenerate into slop when cooked. But the pulp in green pods is delicious. Do not confuse the honey locust with the black locust, which is toxic, and is native to the same areas.

The mature pods turn a deep reddish brown color, become woody, very tough and inedible, due to fermentation that gives them an acidic odor; the pods apparently have some use in beer making, perhaps for this reason. The dried pods might make for a good, instant percussion instrument - the beans rattle in the pods like maracas.

I began some seedlings from dried pods collected in my town - they are street trees in parts of downtown. The seeds germinated in a few weeks with no pre-treatment, and have been steady, but not aggressive in growth. They develop a fairly deep taproot even when very small, so transplanting into a deeper pot will be needed within a month of sprouting. The seedlings have petite compound leaves that slowly unfurl, like fronds on a fern.

Even though mature (and young) plants are very hardy to cold, they need steady watering when young, and the lanky seedlings are quite vulnerable to wind damage, so when young either provide good shelter from wind, or keep in pots indoors until they become a little sturdier.

Positive napdognewfie On Aug 6, 2009, napdognewfie from Cumberland, MD (Zone 6a) wrote:

Lots of these trees grow here. Very popular for fence posts because they don't rot & for firewood because it burns hot & for a long time. Bees love them & Locust honey is wonderful. The flowers smell like heaven & perfume the air all around when in bloom. Very pleasant to sit on the porch & enjoy them.

Positive Wolfgang_E_B On Apr 12, 2009, Wolfgang_E_B from Fulton, MO wrote:

This tree grows wild all over Missouri's woodlands and meadows. When I first moved here, I discovered a row of them growing along a fence in a field across the street. I quickly fell in love with the gorgeous fern-like foliage, the golden fall color, the deep maroon velvet seed pods, and most of all, the magnificent red-maroon thorns.

Old honey locusts that I've seen growing in the woods are tall towers with thorny trunks and a high canopy of foliage. Younger trees tend toward a broader, spreading growth habit, with many branches hanging close to the ground.

I just started 3 seedlings this spring and look forward to planting them in my yard.

Positive pipndani2 On Apr 8, 2009, pipndani2 from Wellington, CO wrote:

We have one tree (thornless) growing well in a difficult climate/poor soil/little water situation. We need dozens more that will fruit, preferably heavily, for planting on our acreage for supplemental livestock feed. Most pastured animals relish the pods and can be fattened on them; wildlife will also eat them (people will, too, as the pods are very sweet -- honey locust, hint, hint). Why rake the tiny leaves? Seems like they would make a nice fertilizer/mulch. See J. Russell Smith's Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture, for more info on G. triacanthos as a cash crop.

Positive lobsterandi On Feb 21, 2008, lobsterandi from Minneapolis, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

Well.... I read everyone else's horror stories and thought I had to do a little defending of this plant.

I guess it depends on what kind of seeds you're getting, but I've never had much of a problem with suckers or thorns. Yes, there are some thorns but... they don't seem to do much.

The leaves are very nice, though, and this tree is pretty rare this far up north. I haven't had any babies popping up - but that might be because of my zone. I planted it to fill a big space in a wide open yard, and for that purpose it was wonderful. The leaves are nice and lacy and light, so the area under the tree still gets plenty of sun to grow a nice lawn and some shade liking plants.

Negative sherlockvulcan On Sep 20, 2006, sherlockvulcan wrote:

Recently purchased 75 acres of pasture in SW Missouri. This plant grows there, voraciously, and has absolutely NO value whatsover. It will "run" over the pasture, reproduce rapidly when cut, and prevent animals grazing close to it. The only cure is to cut down each seedling, bush, tree, then immediately apply "Tordon" RTU to the clean, fresh surface. This will come close to killing the 'wretched' plant. As you might imagine, cleaning up 75 acres is "work".

Negative Crimson On Jun 6, 2006, Crimson from Clarksville, TN (Zone 6b) wrote:

When we moved into our new home I first saw this tree, not knowing what to call it we called it 'The Devil Tree'.

Little did I know that is the kindest thing I would ever say about it! Horrendous, appalling, vicious, a truly horrible noxious, invasive weed of a tree... without the right to have anything remotely nice ever said about it.

Once you have this you may as well move, you'll never get rid of it even if you burn the whole area. The thorns are poisonous, a scratch WILL get infected... if you step on a spine, even with shoes you will have to get a pliers to remove the HUGE vicious spine from deep in your foot... makes cactus look cuddly.

So horribly invasive that overnight it will spring up many spiney babies up to 8 ft away from the original tree! Cut it down, it won't kill it! It seems to thrive even without any branches or leaves, I will have to poison my ground with stump killer to get rid of it... I'm not sure even that will work. Even a small piece of root left in the ground will sprout into a tree, the roots are brittle so as you try to pull it up it simply breaks leaving most of the root behind.

I can't imagine anyone EVER wanting or liking this tree. The bean pods (before we cut it down) were a real mess/very time consuming to rake up and overwhelming in quantity... clogging gutters and littering the yard like brown piles of poo!

Positive Kiweed On Feb 27, 2006, Kiweed from Saratoga Springs, UT (Zone 8a) wrote:

Don't confuse with Robinia, also called "Locust"! The spiecies is thorny, but there are thornless and podless varieties (G. t. inermis) that make beautiful lacey garden trees around here...nice fall color. They are tough trees in heat, cold and just about any soil. Drought tolerant. Old roots can crack cement...don't plant in narrow strips. Small leaves will easily decompose in lawns, so you don't need to rake them. Some of the thornless selections do have the long black seedpods that are quite pretty in fall against the golden foilage. If you want the pods go for 'Halka', which is fast growing with a strong trunk and horizontal branch pattern. 'Moraine' is a graceful spreading tree, fast growing; watch out for wind damage. 'Shademaster' grows quickest and is an upright form. 'Sunburst' is pretty but can loose its leaves due to temperature changes or drought and breaks in high wind. I inherited a 'Twisty Baby' locust with my new house, but it may have been killed by the previous owners (who killed most of the plants on purpose). It has contorted twisted brances and twigs. Hope this spring will bring new growth!
One of the first trees I'd reccomend to someone here in Utah or in similar area with intense heat and cold and difficult alkaline clay. Other recommended trees are Rhus typhina 'laciniata' (Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac) and Acer saccharum grandidentatum (Rocky Mountain Sugar Maple...look for my post for info. on specific cultivars ). These trees together will offer a stunning fall display.

Neutral Z71JROD On Jul 13, 2005, Z71JROD from Clovis, NM (Zone 7a) wrote:

These are very nice shade trees and very quick growing. They are widely used in this area. The only real complaint is that the seed pods can make a huge mess. My neighbor picked up 22 bags of pods last season. I have not had too many problems with the suckers but I have seen this problem at some other places. Overall a good tree though.

Neutral 01Leta On Jun 26, 2005, 01Leta from Bigfork,, MT (Zone 5a) wrote:

Dave's Garden Members:

My two thornless Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) 'Sunburst' were just planted yesterday, June 24, '05, therefore, I cannot give either a negative or positive, just neutral. I shall keep you informed as our two babies grow, should they require a 'negative or positive' experience.

Bigfork, Montana (Big Sky Country)

Positive frostweed On Nov 26, 2004, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

We have a small Honey locust that we dug up from a builder's lot and moved it to our yard. We love the foliage in summer and Fall, but it does have very long thorns, whick we remove from the trunk so no one will be hurt. We have pollarded the tree so that it won't get out of hand, it grows very fast, but we are keeping under control that way. So far no root suckers we shall see what happens as it gets older.
Gleditsia triacanthos ,Honey locust, is ntive to Texas and other States.

Negative glrivera On Jul 9, 2004, glrivera from Las Cruces, NM wrote:

I've had a honey locust for about 13 years. It's a great tree for shade and landscaping but.... the suckers are awful. They pop up everywhere, the roots break the soil and grow into the house foundation. If I'd known they could get out of hand, I would have controlled them more. Now I have stumps from the larger suckers and is unsightly. This tree definitely needs alot of room to grow. The bean pods are a mess to pick up in addition to the small tiny leaves that are hard to rake up. I think this tree would be good in a large acreage or yard, but not for a small contained area.

Positive patp On May 20, 2004, patp from Summerville, SC (Zone 8a) wrote:

We purchased the Thornless Honey Locust tree (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis) in April 1993 for what now seems to be a ridiculous price of $3.97. My husband planted it in an area where builders had dumped gravel over already rock-hard clay soil, and I swore it would never grow there. Little did I know! It's a beautiful tree with fern-like lacy foliage which becomes golden yellow in the fall. Long, dark brown twisted seed pods ripen over winter. The roots have stayed below ground, for the most part, and have never produced suckers. A very few seedlings emerged in cultivated flower beds but have definitely not been a problem. (USDA Zone 8a, Summerville, SC)

Negative lupinelover On Jan 3, 2003, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

The unimproved species is native to the eastern US, and is incredibly thorny, making it hazardous to have as a lawn specimen. These thorns are fish-hook in shape. It suckers frequently from shallow roots, which can be invasive.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Clovis, California
Larkspur, Colorado
Wellington, Colorado
Lady Lake, Florida
Ellijay, Georgia
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Cottonwood Falls, Kansas
Benton, Kentucky
Clermont, Kentucky
Frankfort, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky (2 reports)
Melbourne, Kentucky
Nicholasville, Kentucky
Paris, Kentucky
Versailles, Kentucky
Fryeburg, Maine
Cumberland, Maryland
Halifax, Massachusetts
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Bellaire, Michigan
Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Sturgis, Mississippi
Waynesboro, Mississippi
Caulfield, Missouri
Fulton, Missouri
Sedalia, Missouri
Bigfork, Montana
Henderson, Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada
Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey
Clovis, New Mexico
Carrboro, North Carolina
Oxford, North Carolina
Rougemont, North Carolina
Beach, North Dakota
Belfield, North Dakota
Hulbert, Oklahoma
East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Media, Pennsylvania
Summerville, South Carolina
Clarksville, Tennessee
Dickson, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
Alice, Texas
Arlington, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Richmond, Texas
Santa Fe, Texas
Lehi, Utah
Lexington, Virginia
Richlands, Virginia
Brady, Washington
Elmwood, Wisconsin

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