Plants and People Project

Black Locust Robinia pseudoacacia

Locust is a member of the pea and bean family. Its blossoms can have a sweet fragrance and are an important source of nectar to insects. The leaves are compound with up to 15 leaflets. Thorns grow along the stems and small branches.

Locust is a fast growing invader species that controls erosion in road cuts, abandoned fields, strip-mined areas, logged forests, and areas that have burned. Initially colonizing by seeds, it can form stands that snuff out competitive weeds. Locust is also known to sucker from the roots.

The wood is extremely hard, resistant to rot and long lasting, making it prized for fence posts, railroad ties and small watercraft. In his youth, Abraham Lincoln is said to have spent a lot of time splitting rails and fence posts from black locust logs.

Black Locust is prized as firewood for wood stoves. Seasoned locust burns very hot and clean.

Closer view of locust leaves

locust leaves

"Honey-locust is widely planted as a hardy and fast-growing ornamental. It is often used in extreme urban stress areas such as parking lot islands and sidewalk tree squares and has been planted for erosion control, for windbreaks and shelterbelts, and as a vegetation pioneer for rehabilitation of strip-mine spoil banks. Because of the small leaflets and open crown, the trees cast a light shade that permits shade-tolerant turfgrass and partial-shade perennials to grow underneath it.

Indians who dried the legumes, ground the dried pulp, and used it as a sweetener and thickener, although the pulp also is reported to be irritating to the throat and somewhat toxic. Fermenting the pulp can make a potable or energy alcohol. Native Americans sometimes ate cooked seeds, they have also been roasted and used as a coffee substitute. " USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program

Identification and other facts / More facts

Locust bark

locust tree bark

immature locust seed pods

locust seed pods on tree

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Posted 5/10/06 Cindy O'Hora