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Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis is often confused with:
Albizia julibrissin Albizia julibrissin
Gleditsia triacanthos Gleditsia triacanthos
Gymnocladus dioicus Bark
Robinia pseudoacacia Mature form
Styphnolobium japonicum Styphnolobium japonicum
Native alternative(s) for Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis:
Fraxinus pennsylvanica Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Platanus occidentalis Platanus occidentalis Form
Populus deltoides Populus deltoides
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Quercus nigra Quercus nigra
Ulmus americana Full Form
Fraxinus pennsylvanica Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis has some common insect problems:
Fall Webworm

Thornless Common Honeylocust Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis

Previously known as:

  • Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis
Phonetic Spelling
gleh-DIT-see-uh try-a-KAN-thos IN-er-mis
Description

The Thornless Honey Locust is a large, deciduous, shade tree that is a "thornless" variety of the species, Gleditsia triacanthos, commonly known as the Honey Locust. It is a member of the Fabaceae or legume family and grows 30 to 40 feet tall and 25 to 40 feet wide with an upright oval or rounded habit. This variety can be found growing in the wild and reaches the same height as its thorny species trees. Many of the cultivars of this variety are sold in commerce and typically do not have thorns and many times do not have seedpods. This tree has pinnate to bipinnately compound. dark green leaves with ovate leaflets. In the fall, the leaves turn yellow. 

 It is native to central and eastern North America, from North Carolina to Mexico. It grows in the piedmont, mountain, and coastal regions of North Carolina.

As the name implies, it does not have the thorns of its parent plant Gleditsia triacanthos. The genus, Gleditsia, is named for the 18th century, German botanist, Johann Gottlieb Gleditsch, who was director of the Botanical Garden of Berlin. The specific epithet, triacanthos, is derived from the Greek word, acantha, which means thorn, and tri, meaning three. This references the 3-branched or 3-spined thorns found on this species' tree. The infraspecific epithet, inermis, is Latin for unarmed or without thorns or spines. A part of the common name, honey, is derived from the honey-like substance found in the pods

Plant this tree in locations that receive full sun and have moist, organically rich, well-drained soil. This tree tolerates a variety of soil conditions including compaction, poor soils, drought, and flooding. It is also tolerant of heat, urban conditions, salt, and black walnut. and is resistant to damage by deer. Be sure that you have enough room for the tree's mature size. It transplants easily and is best done in the fall.

With a short trunk and open, spreading crown, the fine-textured leaves give it a delicate silhouette. This flowering tree casts light shade allowing grass to be planted underneath, and when the tiny leaflets turn bright yellow and drop in the fall, it results in the easy cleanup. Some cultivars are fruitless making for even easier cleanup. The wood from this tree is often used for fence posts, railroad ties, furniture, tool handles, and fuel.

The Thornless Honey Locust is a finely textured, urban-tolerant, fast-growing, and filtered shade tree. Use it as a specimen in a lawn, recreational play area, or as a street tree. The fruit is edible by wildlife, which attracts pollinators and makes it a welcome addition to any wildlife garden. Its lack of thorns; therefore, makes it an ideal shade tree for a children's garden. 

Seasons of Interest:

Bark:  Winter    Bloom: Late Spring to Early Summer    Foliage:  Late Spring, Summer, and Fall           Fruits:  Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • Adult leaves pinnately compound
  • Juvenile leaves bipinnately compound
  • Fruit is a dark brown, pendulous pod, often curved or coiled
  • Short trunk, fine-textured, spreading crown
  • Pubescent midrib on the leaf underside
  • 20 to 30 leaflets per leaf

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Borers, gall midge, and webworms may be problems. Other pests include leafhoppers, leaf miners, and spider mites. The leaves may be deformed by the honey locust pod gall midge and can cause small branches to die. Honey locusts are susceptible to honey fungus, leaf spots, canker, witches’ broom, powdery mildew, and rust.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

More information on Gleditsia triacanthos.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Emerald Kascade'
    Weeping, fruitless
  • 'Halka'
    rounded habit, upright with many horizontal branches
  • 'Impcole' or IMPERIAL (tradename)
    rounded, compact, thornless, seedless
  • 'Moraine'
    Zigzag, broad, spreading habit, graceful outline; fruitless; higher disease resistance
  • 'Shademaster'
    vase-shaped, vertical growth
  • 'Skycole' or SKYLINE (tradename)
    pyramidal, thornless, seedless, grows up to 40 to 45 feet tall
  • 'Summer Lace'
  • 'Sunburst'
    Yellow new leaves become bright green, fruitless
'Emerald Kascade', 'Halka', 'Impcole' or IMPERIAL (tradename), 'Moraine', 'Shademaster', 'Skycole' or SKYLINE (tradename), 'Summer Lace', 'Sunburst'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#shade tree#fragrant flowers#wildlife plant#native tree#salt tolerant#cover plant#air pollution tolerant#street tree#lawn tree#small mammals#fast growing#cpp#NC native#deer resistant#glossy leaves#children's garden#playground plant#edible seeds#shimmer#pollinator plant#fantz#poor soils tolerant#larval host plant#fall color yellow#urban conditions tolerant#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#black walnut toxicity tolerant#silver-spotted skipper butterfly#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Emerald Kascade'
    Weeping, fruitless
  • 'Halka'
    rounded habit, upright with many horizontal branches
  • 'Impcole' or IMPERIAL (tradename)
    rounded, compact, thornless, seedless
  • 'Moraine'
    Zigzag, broad, spreading habit, graceful outline; fruitless; higher disease resistance
  • 'Shademaster'
    vase-shaped, vertical growth
  • 'Skycole' or SKYLINE (tradename)
    pyramidal, thornless, seedless, grows up to 40 to 45 feet tall
  • 'Summer Lace'
  • 'Sunburst'
    Yellow new leaves become bright green, fruitless
'Emerald Kascade', 'Halka', 'Impcole' or IMPERIAL (tradename), 'Moraine', 'Shademaster', 'Skycole' or SKYLINE (tradename), 'Summer Lace', 'Sunburst'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#shade tree#fragrant flowers#wildlife plant#native tree#salt tolerant#cover plant#air pollution tolerant#street tree#lawn tree#small mammals#fast growing#cpp#NC native#deer resistant#glossy leaves#children's garden#playground plant#edible seeds#shimmer#pollinator plant#fantz#poor soils tolerant#larval host plant#fall color yellow#urban conditions tolerant#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#black walnut toxicity tolerant#silver-spotted skipper butterfly#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Gleditsia
    Species:
    triacanthos
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The wood of this tree is used as fence posts, railroad ties, furniture, warehouse pallets, shipping pallets, tool handles, and fuel. Native Americans are known to have used the dried pulp fro seed pods as a sweetener and minor food source. They used the wood to make bows. Traditional medicines were made from various parts of the plant.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Grafting
    Leaf Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern, Southeastern, and Central United States
    Distribution:
    This variety can occur naturally in the wild in the United States from PA to NE and south to TX and MS.
    Wildlife Value:
    Hosts the larvae of the Silver Spotted Skipper as well as many other larvae of moths and butterflies. The seed pods and seeds may be eaten by livestock, rabbits, deer, squirrels, and bobwhite. The flowers provide nectar for bees.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Easy to Grow
    Fragrance
    Shade
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wind Shimmer
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 70 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 30 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Open
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Very Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Legume
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Most of the thorn-less cultivars do not have fruits. Occasionally, some will display a large number of fruit. The fruit is a bean-like pod, 7 to 8 inches long, and 1 inch wide. They are yellowish-green to reddish-brown to purplish at maturity, and the margin of the pod contracts causing coiling. The pod contains shiny, hard, dark brown, oval-shaped seeds. In the fall the pods split open releasing the seeds. The falling fruits can be messy.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Description:
    There are male and female flowers that are found on separate trees (dioecious). The male flowers are pendulous catkins, and the female flowers are smaller and less showy. The blooms are greenish-yellow, fragrant flowers, and appear from late May to early June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are alternate, pinnately, or bipinnately compound, and measure 6 to 8 inches long. The leaves appear in the late spring. They are glossy bright green in the summer and yellow to yellow-green in early fall. Juvenile leaves are bipinnately compound, while mature leaves are pinnately compound. Leaves have 20 to 30 oblong-lanceolate leaflets per leaf, each 1/3 to 1 ½ inches long and half as wide. Each leaf has slightly serrated margins, and the underside midrib is pubescent.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Lenticels
    Ridges
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Rectangle
    Bark Description:
    The bark is attractive, gray-brown, and smooth with many lenticels, and develops elongated, plate-like patches with furrows in between. The interior bark is orange.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are smooth, shiny, and reddish-brown to greenish-brown with a zig-zag form. They have enlarged nodes. There are five small lateral buds at each node and no terminal winter bud. The branches usually have no thorns or may have a few thorns if any on the branches.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Drought
    Poor Soil
    Salt
    Urban Conditions
    Wet Soil
    Wind