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Thornless Honey Locust Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis

Phonetic Spelling
gleh-DIT-see-uh try-a-KAN-thos IN-er-mis
Description

Thornless Honey Locust is a large deciduous tree, reaching heights of up to 30'-70' and as the name implies it does not have the thorns of the its parent plant Gleditsia triacanthos.  It is a member of the bean family and has short trunk and open, spreading crown.  The fine-textured pinnately compound leaves give it a delicate silhouette.   Place it in the full sun in moist, organically rich, well-drained soil and make sure you have enough room for its mature size.

This flowering tree casts light shade allowing grass to be planted underneath and when the tiny leaflets drop in the fall it results in an easy clean up.  It transplants easily, tolerates poor clay soils, salt, drought, black walnut, and is resistant to damage by deer. The wood from this plant is very dense, durable when in contact with soil, and it is capable of obtaining a high luster finish making it a good choice for lumber or furniture projects. 

Gleditsia is named for the German botanist Gottlieb Gleditsch, triacanthos is Latin for 3-spined and inermis is Latin for unarmed.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Borers and webworms may be problems.  Honey locusts are susceptible to leaf spot, canker, witches’ broom, powdery mildew, and rust.

Quick ID Hints:

  • adult leaves pinnately compound
  • juvenile leaves bipinnately compound
  • fruit is dark brown, pendulous pod, often curved or coiled
  • short trunk, fine-textured, spreading crown
  • pubescent midrib on leaf underside
  • 20-30 leaflets per leaf

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Emerald Kascade'
    Weeping, fruitless
  • 'Moraine'
    Zigzag, broad, spreading habit, graceful outline; fruitless; higher disease resistance
  • 'Summer Lace'
  • 'Sunburst'
    Yellow new leaves become bright green, fruitless
'Emerald Kascade', 'Moraine', 'Summer Lace', 'Sunburst'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#shade tree#fragrant flowers#wildlife plant#native tree#salt tolerant#cover plant#air pollution tolerant#playground#lawn tree#small mammals#fast growing#cpp#NC native#deer resistant#glossy leaves#children's garden#edible seeds#shimmer#pollinator plant#fantz#poor soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#black walnut toxicity tolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Emerald Kascade'
    Weeping, fruitless
  • 'Moraine'
    Zigzag, broad, spreading habit, graceful outline; fruitless; higher disease resistance
  • 'Summer Lace'
  • 'Sunburst'
    Yellow new leaves become bright green, fruitless
'Emerald Kascade', 'Moraine', 'Summer Lace', 'Sunburst'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#shade tree#fragrant flowers#wildlife plant#native tree#salt tolerant#cover plant#air pollution tolerant#playground#lawn tree#small mammals#fast growing#cpp#NC native#deer resistant#glossy leaves#children's garden#edible seeds#shimmer#pollinator plant#fantz#poor soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#black walnut toxicity tolerant
  • 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
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Edible fruit
    Fragrance
    Pieces Used in Games
    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
    Appendage:
    Thorns
  • 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, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Legume
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Bean-like pod 7-8" long pod but can be longer, reddish brown to blackish, about 1" wide, margin of pod contracts causing coiling; pod contains shiny, hard, dark brown, oval shaped seeds. Falling fruits can be messy.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Description:
    Greenish-yellow fragrant flowers in summer; 7"-8"
  • 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:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    6"-8" alternate, pinnately or bipinnately compound leaves appear in the late spring They are glossy bright green in the summer, yellow to yellow-green early fall color. Juvenile leaves are bipinnately compound; mature leaves are pinnately compound. Leaves have 20-30 oblong-lanceolate leaflets per leaf, each 1/3 - 1 ½" long and half as wide, slightly serrated with pubescence on midrib underneath.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Rectangle
    Bark Description:
    Attractive, gray-brown, develops elongated, plate-like patches with furrows in between.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Smooth red-brown or green zig-zag, enlarged nodes, 5 lateral buds at each note, no terminal winter bud.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Attracts:
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Drought
    Poor Soil
    Salt
    Wind
    Problems:
    Frequent Disease Problems
    Frequent Insect Problems
    Messy