Gleditsia triacanthos

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: honey locust 
Type: Tree
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: Central and eastern North America
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 60.00 to 80.00 feet
Spread: 60.00 to 80.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Greenish-yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Street Tree
Flower: Showy
Fruit: Showy
Other: Thorns
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Clay Soil, Black Walnut, Air Pollution


Best grown in organically rich, moist, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerant of a wide range of soils. Also tolerant of wind, high summer heat, drought and saline conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Gleditsia triacanthos, commonly called honey locust, is native from Pennsylvania to Iowa south to Georgia and Texas. It typically grows 60-80’ (less frequently to 120’) tall with a rounded spreading crown. Trunk and branches have stout thorns (to 3” long) that are solitary or three-branched. The 4-8" long leaves are bipinnately compound and made up of small (up to 1" long), elliptic to lanceolate leaflets. The leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. Inconspicuous, greenish yellow to greenish white flowers appear in racemes in late spring (May-June in St. Louis). Flowers are followed by long, twisted and flattened, dark purplish-brown seedpods (to 18” long) which mature in late summer and persist well into winter. Seedpods contain numerous flattened, round seeds surrounded by a sweet, sticky pulp. Species plants are generally not sold in commerce today because the thorns and seedpods are considered to be significant liabilities.

Genus name honors Johann Gottlieb Gleditsch (1714-1786), director of the Botanical Garden, Berlin.

Specific epithet comes from the Greek acantha meaning thorn and tri meaning three in reference to the three-branched thorns on species plants.

The common name honey locust refers to the sweet, sticky pulp that surrounds the seeds.


Honey locust is susceptible to a large number of potential disease problems, including leaf spot, canker, witches’ broom, powdery mildew and rust. Borers and webworms are common insect problems in some areas. Leaflets are too small to rake, which is good, but seed pods are unattractive on the tree and messy when they fall. Thorns on species plants can be just plain nasty.


The species is not recommended for landscape usage due to its numerous thorns. Thornless/seedless varieties and cultivars are recommended for lawns and sometimes as street trees.