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Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)


Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) is a deciduous tree native to the mid-western and eastern United States, but has been planted extensively throughout. It is a host plant for one butterfly and two moths. The greenish yellow-white flowers come out in the late spring to early summer.

Taxonomy and History of Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

Herbarium specimen of honey locust (Gledtisia triacanthos).
Herbarium Specimen — Gleditsia triacanthos L. collected in United States of America by The New York Botanical Garden (licensed under CC by 4.0)


Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) was described and named by Carl Von Linnaeus in 1753 in Species Plantarum. It has kept the same name since. This plant is a member of the Bean Family (Fabaceae).

Honey Locust Description and Alternative Names

Pods of honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos).
Honey Locust Pods — Wouter Hagens, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Honey locust is a deciduous tree that can grow to up to 100 feet tall, but is often shorter. The alternate, bipinnately compound, entire leaflets range from 0.5 to 1 inch in length and 0.75 to 1.5 inches in width. The branches and trunk is thorny with thorns up to 4 inches in length. The tree blooms in the late spring with greenish yellow-white flowers.

Alternative Names

This plant is also known as thorny locust and thorny honeylocust.

Range and Habitat

Open riverine floodplain.
Floodplain Habitat — Leonhard Lenz, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


Range Map of Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) in the United States and Canada.

This species is native from the mid-west to eastern United States, but has been planted extensively throughout. In Canada, it is found in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.


Honey Locust grows in river valleys, but is very adaptable and can be aggressive in a multitude of habitats. It can be found in a lot of planted settings as a landscape tree.

Insects and Other Wildlife it Supports

Honey locust moth on beige background.
Honey Locust Moth — Meganmccarty, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Pods from honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos).
Honey Locust Pods — AnRo0002, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Host Species

This tree is a host to the Silver-Spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus), the Honey Locust Moth (Syssphinx bicolor) and the Bisected Honey Locust Moth (Sphingicampa bisecta).

Other Wildlife Value

The flowers attract bees and other butterflies and the beans on the inside of the pods are eaten by many small mammals. A tea can be made from the beans.

Interesting Facts

The genus name, Gleditsia, is in honor of Johann Gottlieb Gleditsch, a German botanist. The species name, triacanthos, refers to the three branched thorns. (Missouri Botanical Garden). The wood of honey locust is tough and is used for fence posts and railroad ties.

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