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SPECIES:  Gleditsia triacanthos
Honeylocust. Creative Commons image by Richard Webb, Bugowood.org.

Introductory

SPECIES: Gleditsia triacanthos AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Gleditsia triacanthos. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/gletri/all.html [].
ABBREVIATION: GLETRI SYNONYMS: NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE: GLTR COMMON NAMES: honeylocust common honeylocust honey shucks locust sweet bean locust TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for honeylocust is Gleditsia triacanthos L. (Cesalpiniaceae) [11,14,16,27,42]. Thornless honeylocust (G. t. forma inermis Schneid.) is occasionally found wild [27,42]. Natural hybridization between honeylocust and water-locust (G. aquatica) has been reported [27]. LIFE FORM: Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO-ENTRY


DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Gleditsia triacanthos
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: The natural range of honeylocust extends from central Pennsylvania through extreme southern Ontario, extreme southern Michigan, southern Wisconsin, and extreme southeastern Minnesota to extreme southeastern South Dakota; south through eastern Nebraska to eastern Texas; east to Alabama; and northeast along the western slopes of the Appalachians. Isolated populations occur in northwestern Florida. Honeylocust is naturalized east of the Appalachians as far north as Nova Scotia [16,27].
Honeylocust distribution. 1971 USDA, Forest Service map provided by Thompson and others [46].


ECOSYSTEMS: 
   FRES14  Oak - pine
   FRES15  Oak - hickory
   FRES16  Oak - gum - cypress
   FRES17  Elm - ash - cottonwood
   FRES18  Maple - beech - birch


STATES: 
     AL  AR  CT  DE  FL  GA  IN  IL  IA  KS
     KY  LA  OK  MD  MI  MN  MS  MO  NE  NY
     NC  OH  PA  RI  SC  SD  TN  TX  VA  WI
     WV  NS  ON



BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS: 
   14  Great Plains


KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS: 
   K098  Northern floodplain forest
   K100  Oak - hickory forest
   K101  Elm - ash forest
   K102  Beech - maple forest
   K103  Mixed mesophytic forest
   K104  Appalachian oak forest
   K106  Northern hardwoods
   K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest
   K112  Southern mixed forest
   K113  Southern floodplain forest


SAF COVER TYPES: 
    27  Sugar maple
    42  Bur oak
    62  Silver maple - American elm
    82  Loblolly pine - hardwood
    88  Willow oak - water oak - diamondleaf oak
    92  Sweetgum - willow oak
    93  Sugarberry - American elm - green ash
    94  Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm


SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES: 
NO-ENTRY


HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: 
Honeylocust is usually only a minor component of natural forest stands.
It is considered an accessory species in four SAF cover types:  bur oak
(Quercus macrocarpa), willow oak (Q. phellos)-water oak (Q.
nigra)-diamondleaf (laurel) oak (Q. laurifolia), sweetgum (Liquidambar
styraciflua)-willow oak, and sugarberry (Celtis laevigata)-American elm
(Ulmus americana).  Honeylocust is a secondary species in all other SAF
cover types listed above [8,17].

Mesophytic species commonly associated with honeylocust include red
maple (Acer rubrum), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), black tupelo
(Nyssa sylvatica), sweet pecan (Carya illinoensis), boxelder (Acer
negundo), Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica), and black walnut
(Juglans nigra) [8].

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Gleditsia triacanthos
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE: Honeylocust wood is dense, hard, coarse-grained, strong, stiff, shock-resistant, takes a high polish, and is durable in contact with soil [11,14,16,22,42]. Honeylocust wood is used locally for posts, pallets, crates, general construction, furniture, interior finish, turnery, and firewood [8,36]. It is useful, but is too scarce to be of economic importance [8]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Honeylocust pods are eaten by cattle, goats, white-tailed deer, Virginia opossum, eastern gray squirrel, fox squirrel, rabbits, quail (including northern bobwhite), crows, and starling [8,11]. White-tailed deer frequently strip and eat the soft bark of young trees in winter [36]; rabbits also consume honeylocust bark in winter [8]. Livestock and white-tailed deer consume young vegetative growth [8,36]. Honeylocust is a source of pollen and nectar for honey [36]. In Virginia, honeylocust and other species were planted for mast production on the margins of plots cleared and revegetated for wildlife [28]. Honeylocust is planted into currently operating pastures and hayfields to provide high-protein mast for livestock (a management system termed browse agroforestry). Cattle do not digest the seeds and thus do not derive full nutritional benefit from consuming whole pods, but ground honeylocust pods do provide a high-protein feed for cattle. Sheep do digest the seeds, and therefore obtain more of the available protein when consuming whole pods. The open canopy of honeylocust allows good growth of pasture grasses [43]. PALATABILITY: NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE: Ground honeylocust seeds and pods contained 16.1 percent crude fiber (as fed) and 9.3 percent protein [30]. COVER VALUE: NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: Honeylocust pioneers on strip-mine spoil banks in the Midwest. It is often planted for erosion control [8]. OTHER USES AND VALUES: Thornless honeylocust is widely planted as an ornamental [11], particularly on dry sites [23]. Honeylocust is also widely used in windbreaks and shelterbelts [8,36]. Honeylocust pods are being fermented for ethanol production in studies to explore the feasibility of biomass fuels [4]. Honeylocust was one of a number of species planted to assess biomass yield potential for short-rotation cropping. Honeylocust showed good survival through the fourth annual harvest [21]. Honeylocust pods are edible [5]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Rows of honeylocust planted for windbreaks showed a positive response to release [9]. In some areas honeylocust invades rangelands. Honeylocust is susceptible to triclopyr and to a mixture of picloram and 2,4,-D [29]. Honeylocust is not usually subject to serious insect and disease problems; however, with the increase in plantations of honeylocust, there has been a concomitant increase in insect pests. Honeylocust is host to a number of leaf feeders including spider mites, white marked tussock moth, and honeylocust plant bug. The only serious disease of honeylocust is a canker which is occasionally fatal [8]. Damage to young honeylocust is caused by rabbits gnawing the bark [8] and by livestock and white-tailed deer browsing [8,36].

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Gleditsia triacanthos
 
Honeylocust flowerbuds and fruits. Creative Commons images by Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org/.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: 
Honeylocust is a native, deciduous tree.  Mature heights usually range
from 49 to 98 feet (15-30 m) [11,36], with a maximum height of 140 feet
(43 m) [14].  In natural stands honeylocust averages 70 to 80 feet
(21-24 m) in height [8].  Honeylocust is armed with heavy branched
thorns on the lower branches and trunk [11].  The crown is plumelike and
open [14,42].  The bole is usually short and often divided near the
ground.  The bark of mature trunks is usually 0.25 to 0.75 inches
(0.6-3.5 cm) thick with narrow ridges divided by fissures.  The bark
peels in strips [14].  The thick, fibrous roots are deep and
wide-spreading [14,39].  The tree is sturdy and windfirm [14].  The
fruit is a legume 8 to 16 inches (15-40 cm) long and 1 to 1.4 inches
(2.5-3.5 cm) wide [8,11,22].

Honeylocust is usually described as rapid-growing [8,39].  Average
longevity for honeylocust is 125 years [8].

Unlike most leguminous species, honeylocust does not form Rhizobium
nodules on its roots, and does not fix nitrogen [12].


RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM: 
   Phanerophyte


REGENERATION PROCESSES: 
The minimum seed-bearing age of honeylocust is 10 years.  Optimum seed
production occurs from about 25 to 75 years of age.  Seeds are produced
until about age 100.  Large crops usually occur every other year but can
be produced annually.  Some seed is usually produced every year.
Honeylocust seed is viable for long periods due to an impermeable
seedcoat.  Seeds are dispersed by birds and mammals, including cattle.
Germination of honeylocust seeds is apparently enhanced by passage
through the digestive tract of animals.  Germination is artificially
enhanced by scarification (both hot water and acid treatments are
effective) [8].  Honeylocust seeds showed the broadest germination
response of five species tested (honeylocust, white ash (Fraxinus
americana), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), red mulberry (Morus
rubra), and black cherry (Prunus serotina).  Honeylocust showed a high
rate of emergence under all temperatures tested, and under all but the
driest conditions.  It was also the only species of the five that had a
higher proportion of variance in germination rate explained by moisture
than by temperature [13].

Honeylocust seedlings grew faster on clay soils than on loess and
alluvium.  There was no growth difference between sun and shade on clay
soils, but on the other two soil types honeylocust seedlings exhibited
retarded growth in the shade.  Seedling root depths were 5 to 5.25 feet
(1.5-1.6 m) on clay and 20 to 24 inches (50.8-61 cm) in moist alluvial
soil [7].

Honeylocust can be propagated by grafting, budding, and cuttings
(hardwood, softwood, and root cuttings) [8].


SITE CHARACTERISTICS: 
Honeylocust is adapted to a variety of soils and climates [14].  It is
common in both bottomlands and uplands, in the open or in open woods
[16].  Honeylocust occurs on well-drained sites, upland woodlands and
borders, old fields, fencerows, river floodplains, hammocks [22], rich,
moist bottomlands [8], and rocky hillsides [36].  It is most commonly
found on moist, fertile soils near streams and lakes [8].  Best growth
occurs in small stream valleys in southern Indiana and Illinois [14].
It has been rated highly tolerant to flooding [24].  It is also
drought-resistant and somewhat tolerant of salinity [37,39].
Honeylocust tolerates both alkaline and acid soils, but its best growth
occurs on soils with pH between 6.0 and 8.0 [8].  Honeylocust grew
better on low nitrogen sites than many other tree species [1].

The natural range of honeylocust is generally below 2,500 feet (760 m)
elevation, although the upper limit appears to be 5,000 feet (1,520 m).
A 20-year-old plantation of honeylocust had good survival at 6,900 feet
(2,100 m) in Colorado, but the trees were small [8,16].


SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: 
Honeylocust is intolerant of shade.  Reproduction establishes only in
open areas, gaps, and at the edges of woods [8].  The ability of
honeylocust to invade open prairie is thought to be related to its
tolerance of xeric conditions [3].  Both top and root growth are
retarded by shade.  Lower limbs die back in excessive shade.
Honeylocust is a fast-growing member of early seral stands [8].  Hupp
[45] classes honeylocust as an upland disturbance species which is
sometimes found on the most severely degraded stream channels (streams
disturbed by stream channelization projects).  The presence of
honeylocust and similar species suggests that these streambanks are now
so high as to be above most fluvial activity, and that these sites are
highly disturbed [45].  Honeylocust is also described as a
mid-successional species [41] and is found in gaps or on the edges of
old-growth forests [10].  The distribution of honeylocust appears to be
related to the serendipitous combination of openings (disturbance) and
seed dispersal.

In southeastern Iowa, honeylocust was one of the major dominants in
pioneer forests that developed on abandoned fields and pastures [44].
Honeylocust is also a pioneer in the rocky limestone glades of
Tennessee and Kentucky that are later populated by eastern redcedar
(Juniperus virginiana) [8].  In Mississippi, honeylocust was a
volunteer on an 11-year-old hardwood stand planted to Nuttall oak
(Quercus nuttallii).  At 20 feet (8.8 m), it was the tallest tree in the
stand.  It is likely that honeylocust will eventually be overtopped and
shaded out by other species as the stand matures [25].  In Tennessee,
honeylocust was present on a 12-year-old site (oldfield succession),
but not on 3-, 28-, 30-, 40-, and 45-year-old sites [34].

In southeastern Texas, honeylocust was present at very low density on a
47-year-old gravel pit, but was not present in 3- and 5-year-old pits or
in adjacent undisturbed forest [31].  In southwestern Ohio, honeylocust
was common in 50-year-old forests (on old fields), and present but not
common in 90-year-old and old-growth (over 200 years old) forests
[41,41].  In Ohio, honeylocust was an occasional member of the canopy
of 40- and 60-year-old oak (Quercus spp.)-sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
stands [15].

In central Indiana, honeylocust was present in edge plots but not
interior plots in an old-growth forest [10].  In Kansas, honeylocust
grew in patches on the edges of Konza Prairie gallery forests, reaching
heights of up to 20 feet (6 m); under the canopy it was rarely over 6 to
8 feet (1.8-2.4 m) tall [33].  Large honeylocust trees were present in
a mature shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria)- bur oak community in Kansas,
suggesting that they were relics of an earlier successional stage.
There was no honeylocust in the reproduction layer [44].


SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: 
Honeylocust begins to flower when its leaves are nearly full grown,
from around May 10 in the southern parts of its range to around June 25
in the northern parts of its range [8,42].  The legumes ripen from
September to October, usually falling after ripening but sometimes
remaining on the tree through February [8,16,39,42].

FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Gleditsia triacanthos
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Honeylocust appears to be excluded from prairies by frequent fire, and expands where fire is excluded. On bluestem (Andropogon spp. and/or Schizachyrium spp.) prairie in Kansas, honeylocust was one of a number of woody species invading undisturbed prairie that had not burned since 1947 [18]. On the Konza Prairie, sites adjacent to gallery forests that had remained unburned for 10 or more years were converting to woodlands dominated by junipers (Juniperus spp.), elms (Ulmus spp.), honeylocust, and hackberries (Celtis spp.). In areas farther from gallery forests, fire exclusion leads to increased density of species, including honeylocust, that otherwise persist only at low densities along stream margins of frequently burned prairies [3]. Honeylocust also occurs in bottomland forests that experience fire infrequently. Fire may create openings for honeylocust reproduction in these forests. FIRE REGIMES: Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY: Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/soboliferous species root sucker

FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Gleditsia triacanthos
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Honeylocust is easily injured by fire due to its thin bark [8,39]. In south-central Iowa, grassland dominated by Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratense) that was undergoing invasion by coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus), honeylocust, and elms was prescribed burned with a series of fires to observe the effect of fire season on brush control. Prescribed fires were conducted in February, April, June, and September in order to include all stages of plant phenology. Some large honeylocust trees suffered bark damage and subsequent insect injury. Many honeylocust trees under 10 feet (3 m) in height were top-killed and sprouted the following year [20]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT: NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: Honeylocust sprouts after top-kill by fire [39]. In the south-central Iowa study, there was an increase in the number of honeylocust stems in the first season following the April prescribed fire, but the number of honeylocust stems declined to prefire levels by the second postfire year [20]. In Kansas, a bur oak-dominated gallery forest was prescribed burned in 1983. There was no apparent fire-caused mortality to the overstory. The reproduction layer was dominated by elm seedlings, both before and after the fire. Although honeylocust seedling mortality was not reported directly, 100 honeylocust seedlings were present before the fire, and 50 were recorded in each of the 2 years following the fire [2]. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: No entry

References for species: Gleditsia triacanthos


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3. Abrams, Marc D.; Gibson, David J. 1991. Effects of fire exclusion on tallgrass prairie and gallery forest communities in eastern Kansas. In: Nodvin, Stephen C.; Waldrop, Thomas A., eds. Fire and the environment: ecological and cultural perspectives: Proceedings of an international symposium; 1990 March 20-24; Knoxville, TN. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-69. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station: 3-10. [16627]
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42. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
43. Wilson, A. A. 1991. Browse agroforestry using honeylocust. Forestry Chronicle. 67(3): 232-235. [23162]
44. McBride, Joe. 1973. Natural replacement of disease-killed elms. The American Midland Naturalist. 90(2): 300-306. [8868]
45. Hupp, Cliff R. 1992. Riparian vegetation recovery patterns following stream channelization: a geomorphic perspective. Ecology. 73(4): 1209-1226. [19499]
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