Honey Locust Tree Information – The Down and Dirty

This post provides Honey Locust Tree Information.  Honey Locust, Gleditsia triacanthos, also known as the thorny locust, is a deciduous tree native to central North America. It is used for lumber, as a pioneer plant to disrupted or damaged ecosystems, can be used as fodder for animals, provides nectar to beneficial insects, and is use extensively in permaculture.

Honey Locust Tree Information - Honey Locust Tree

Honey Locust Tree Information – Honey Locust Tree

The Honey Locust tree grows quickly to a height up to 100 feet tall, but is short-lived, living “only” around 120 years. Due to its quick growth it is prone to losing large branches in wind storms.

The leaves are pinnately compound on older trees but bipinnately compound on vigorous young trees. They commonly have thorns coming out of the trunk and branches, with thorns growing up to 12″ long. In the past, the thorns were used as nails!  There are thorn-less varieties available at nurseries. They have flowers that are strongly scented that from seed pods later in the year. Honey locust seed pods ripen in late spring and germinate rapidly when temperatures are warm enough.


Honey locust produces a leguminous pod, of which the pulp is edible.  The name Honey Locust is derived from the sweet pulp of the legume, not the honey that bees produce from it. The pods can be eaten raw or cooked. A sugar can be made from the pulp. The pulp can be fermented into a beer.  The very young seeds can be eaten raw or cooked. Reportedly taste like peas. Can even be roasted, ground, and used as a coffee substitute. “The pods have a gooey pulp between the exterior casing and the seeds that tastes like the sugary insides of a Fig Newton type cookie. You can only squeeze out a wee bit from each pod, so it’s not a meal or anything, but it’s quite a nice sidewalk score when you get it.” Reference: firstways.com

Honey Locust Tree Information - Honey Locust Thorns

Honey Locust Tree Information – Honey Locust Thorns

The bean pods are a favorite food of the white-tailed deer, squirrels, rabbits, hogs, opossums, and raccoons. Domestic animals such as sheep, goats, and cattle will also forage on the honey locust bean pods.

Nitrogen Fixation

It is argued if the honey locust actually fixes nitrogen in soils.  One argument goes that it does not fix nitrogen because there are no nodules on the roots that are the primary source of nitrogen fixation in legume plants.  The argument to the other side is that leaf litter and pod pulp produce more nitrogen than root nodules.

Honey locust are used in a lot of permaculture projects at the Canopy layer.  This is because they are hardy, fast growing, fix nitrogen, attract beneficial insects, are hardy from zones 3-9, and like full sun.


Propagation can be done by seed or by cuttings.  Seed germination needs scarification, which is soaking in very hot, but not boiling water until the seeds swell.  Propagation can also be by hardwood and softwood cuttings.


Honey Locust Tree Information - Honey Locust Leaf

Honey Locust Tree Information – Honey Locust Leaf

“The pods have been made into a tea for the treatment of indigestion, measles, catarrh etc. The juice of the pods is antiseptic. The pods have been seen as a good antidote for children’s complaints. The alcoholic extract of the fruits of the honey locust, after elimination of tannin, considerably retarded the growth, up to 63% of Ehrlich mouse carcinoma. However, the cytotoxicity of the extract was quite high and the animals, besides losing weight, showed dystrophic changes in their liver and spleen.

The alcoholic extract of the fruit exerted moderate oncostatic activity against sarcoma 180 and Ehrlich carcinoma at the total dose 350 mg/kg/body weight/mouse. Weight loss was considerable. An infusion of the bark has been drunk and used as a wash in the treatment of dyspepsia. It has also been used in the treatment of whooping cough, measles, smallpox etc. The twigs and the leaves contain the alkaloids gleditschine and stenocarpine. Stenocarpine has been used as a local anaesthetic whilst gleditschine causes stupor and loss of reflex activity. Current research is examining the leaves as a potential source of anticancer compounds.” * Reference: naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/g/gleditsia-triacanthos=honey-locust.php

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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