Honey locust

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Honey locust stool
MFA# 2000.792


A thorny tree, Gleditsia tricanthos native to regions in North and South America, Africa, and Asia. The honey locust produces a high quality wood that polishes well and has been used occasionally for specialty furniture. The thorns were once used as nails. Currently, honey locusts are mainly grown as an ornamental tree as its slow growth minimizes their potential for commercial use.

Other locust tress in South America include a timber from the Hymenaea courbaril tree that is native to the tropical region of South and Central America. The dense orange-brown color wood from the South American locust tree is used in furniture, cabinetry, and shipbuilding. A natural resin, South American copal gum is also commercially produced from this tree.

Synonyms and Related Terms

1) Gleditsia tricanthos; févier épineux (Fr.); acacia de tres espinas (Esp.); espinheiro da Virgínia (Port.); honeylocust

2) Hymenaea courbaril; jatobá (Port.); West Indian locust; Courbaril Plum; Locust Gum tree; South American locust

Honey locust Gleditsia triacanthos

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Medium tree growing to 20-30 m
  • Bark = gray brown, smooth when young with clusters of thorns
  • Leaves = alternate bipinnate
  • Flowers = small hanging clusters
  • Fruit = edible flat pods (15-20 cm long) with dark brown shiny seeds maturing in early fall
  • Density = 55-66 ppcf
  • Heartwood with medium reddish brown with light yellow sapwood
  • Grain is straight with medium uneven texture and moderate luster

Working Properties

  • Difficult to work because of its density, though produces good results
  • Turns, glues, stains, and finishes well.

Resources and Citations

  • Virginia Tech Dendrology website at www.fw.vt.edu/dendro/dendrology/main.htm (accessed Oct. 8, 2005)