Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Gleditsia triacanthos


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: [].

ABBREVIATION : GLETRI SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : GLTR COMMON NAMES : honey-locust common honey-locust honey shucks locust sweet bean locust TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for honey-locust is Gleditsia triacanthos L. (Cesalpiniaceae) [11,14,16,27,42]. Thornless honey-locust (G. t. forma inermis Schneid.) is occasionally found wild [27,42]. Natural hybridization between honey-locust and water-locust (G. aquatica) has been reported [27]. LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Gleditsia triacanthos
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : The natural range of honey-locust 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. Honey-locust is naturalized east of the Appalachians as far north as Nova Scotia [16,27]. 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 : Honey-locust 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). Honey-locust is a secondary species in all other SAF cover types listed above [8,17]. Mesophytic species commonly associated with honey-locust 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].


SPECIES: Gleditsia triacanthos
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Honey-locust 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]. Honey-locust 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 : Honey-locust 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 honey-locust bark in winter [8]. Livestock and white-tailed deer consume young vegetative growth [8,36]. Honey-locust is a source of pollen and nectar for honey [36]. In Virginia, honey-locust and other species were planted for mast production on the margins of plots cleared and revegetated for wildlife [28]. Honey-locust 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 honey-locust 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 honey-locust allows good growth of pasture grasses [43]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Ground honey-locust 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 : Honey-locust pioneers on strip-mine spoil banks in the Midwest. It is often planted for erosion control [8]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Thornless honey-locust is widely planted as an ornamental [11], particularly on dry sites [23]. Honey-locust is also widely used in windbreaks and shelterbelts [8,36]. Honey-locust pods are being fermented for ethanol production in studies to explore the feasibility of biomass fuels [4]. Honey-locust was one of a number of species planted to assess biomass yield potential for short-rotation cropping. Honey-locust showed good survival through the fourth annual harvest [21]. Honey-locust pods are edible [5]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Rows of honey-locust planted for windbreaks showed a positive response to release [9]. In some areas honey-locust invades rangelands. Honey-locust is susceptible to triclopyr and to a mixture of picloram and 2,4,-D [29]. Honey-locust is not usually subject to serious insect and disease problems; however, with the increase in plantations of honey-locust, there has been a concomitant increase in insect pests. Honey-locust is host to a number of leaf feeders including spider mites, white marked tussock moth, and honey-locust plant bug. The only serious disease of honey-locust is a canker which is occasionally fatal [8]. Damage to young honey-locust is caused by rabbits gnawing the bark [8] and by livestock and white-tailed deer browsing [8,36].


SPECIES: Gleditsia triacanthos
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Honey-locust 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 honey-locust averages 70 to 80 feet (21-24 m) in height [8]. Honey-locust 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]. Honey-locust is usually described as rapid-growing [8,39]. Average longevity for honey-locust is 125 years [8]. Unlike most leguminous species, honey-locust does not form Rhizobium nodules on its roots, and does not fix nitrogen [12]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : The mimimum seed-bearing age of honey-locust 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. Honey-locust seed is viable for long periods due to an impermeable seedcoat. Seeds are dispersed by birds and mammals, including cattle. Germination of honey-locust 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]. Honey-locust seeds showed the broadest germination response of five species tested (honey-locust, white ash [Fraxinus americana], sycamore [Platanus occidentalis], red mulberry [Morus rubra], and black cherry [Prunus serotina]). Honey-locust 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]. Honey-locust 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 honey-locust 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]. Honey-locust can be propagated by grafting, budding, and cuttings (hardwood, softwood, and root cuttings) [8]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Honey-locust 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]. Honey-locust 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]. Honey-locust tolerates both alkaline and acid soils, but its best growth occurs on soils with pH between 6.0 and 8.0 [8]. Honey-locust grew better on low nitrogen sites than many other tree species [1]. The natural range of honey-locust 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 honey-locust had good survival at 6,900 feet (2,100 m) in Colorado, but the trees were small [8,16]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Honey-locust is intolerant of shade. Reproduction establishes only in open areas, gaps, and at the edges of woods [8]. The ability of honey-locust 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. Honey-locust is a fast-growing member of early seral stands [8]. Hupp [45] classes honey-locust 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 honey-locust 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]. Honey-locust 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 honey-locust appears to be related to the serendipitous combination of openings (disturbance) and seed dispersal. In southeastern Iowa, honey-locust was one of the major dominants in pioneer forests that developed on abandoned fields and pastures [44]. Honey-locust 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, honey-locust 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 honey-locust will eventually be overtopped and shaded out by other species as the stand matures [25]. In Tennessee, honey-locust 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, honey-locust 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, honey-locust 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, honey-locust 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, honey-locust was present in edge plots but not interior plots in an old-growth forest [10]. In Kansas, honey-locust 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 honey-locust 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 honey-locust in the reproduction layer [44]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Honey-locust 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].


SPECIES: Gleditsia triacanthos
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Honey-locust 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, honey-locust 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.), honey-locust, and hackberries (Celtis spp.). In areas farther from gallery forests, fire exclusion leads to increased density of species, including honey-locust, that otherwise persist only at low densities along stream margins of frequently burned prairies [3]. Honey-locust also occurs in bottomland forests that experience fire infrequently. Fire may create openings for honey-locust 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


SPECIES: Gleditsia triacanthos
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Honey-locust 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), honey-locust, 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 honey-locust trees suffered bark damage and subsequent insect injury. Many honey-locust 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 : Honey-locust sprouts after top-kill by fire [39]. In the south-central Iowa study, there was an increase in the number of honey-locust stems in the first season following the April prescribed fire, but the number of honey-locust 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 honey-locust seedling mortality was not reported directly, 100 honey-locust seedlings were present before the fire, and 50 were recorded in each of the 2 years following the fire [2]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :

References for species: Gleditsia triacanthos

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