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Sweet Bean Tree Gleditsia triacanthos

Previously known as:

  • Gleditsia ferox
Description

Honey locust is a large tree in the pea family.  Plant it in full sun to partial shade in well-drained moist soil high in organic matter, though it tolerates a wide variety of soil types.   This tree can grow up to 75' tall casting light shade underneath.  The trunk and branches have stout thorns (to 3” long) that are singular or three-branched.  This tree is highly salt and wind tolerant, drought tolerant once established and resistant to damage by deer.  

Leaflets are too small to rake, which is good, but seed pods are unattractive on the tree and messy on lawns and walkways when they fall. This tree is not recommended for landscapes because of its thorns and seed pods.  Look for thornless varieties like Gleditsia trianthos var. inermis or thornless and podless like 'Sunburst'.

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. 

Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Sunburst'
    Yellow leaves, fruitless and thornless
Tags:
#bees#butterflies#fall color#wildlife plant#large tree#moths#nectar plant#salt tolerant#high maintenance#air pollution tolerant#street tree#black walnut#food source#fast growing#NC native#deer resistant#long lifespan#thorny#Braham Arboretum#yellow fall color#fall food source#nesting sites#larval host plant#food source winter
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Sunburst'
    Yellow leaves, fruitless and thornless
Tags:
#bees#butterflies#fall color#wildlife plant#large tree#moths#nectar plant#salt tolerant#high maintenance#air pollution tolerant#street tree#black walnut#food source#fast growing#NC native#deer resistant#long lifespan#thorny#Braham Arboretum#yellow fall color#fall food source#nesting sites#larval host plant#food source winter
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Gleditsia
    Species:
    triacanthos
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Timber used as fence posts, railroad ties, furniture, shipping pallets, tool handles, and fuel, Native Americans used the dried pulp from the seed pods as a sweetening agent and used its wood for bows. The thorns have been used as pins.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    United States, NC to Mexico
    Distribution:
    located throughout the US and Ontario except for WA and OR
    Wildlife Value:
    Bean pods are eaten by white-tailed deer, squirrels, rabbits, hogs, opossums, and raccoons, deer browse young shoots in spring and bark of young trees in the winter. Butterflies, bees, and moths nectar at the flowers. It is the larval host plant for the Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus).
    Edibility:
    The pulp inside the seed pod is edible and mostly consumed by livestock and wildlife.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 60 ft. 0 in. - 100 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 60 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Medium
    Appendage:
    Thorns
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Legume
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Reddish-brown twisted flat bean pods up to 18" long appear in the summer and can remain on the tree through the winter. They can be messy to maintain once they fall off the tree.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Raceme
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Small greenish yellow 2-3 inch long narrow hanging clustered flowers
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Feathery alternate pinnately compound 5"-8" long leaf with 15-30 leaflets or bininnately compound with 4-7 pairs of minor leaflets
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Lenticels
    Bark Description:
    initially grey-brown to bronze smooth with many horizontal lenticels later breaking into long, narrow curling plated bark
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Design Feature:
    Security
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Small Mammals
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Drought
    Pollution
    Problems:
    Messy
    Spines/Thorns