Black Locust in Blossom: Northern Woodlands Magazine

Trees: Locust

Black locusts seem to bloom around Mother’s Day each spring. The drive from Baltimore to Washington, DC is a parade of locusts in full flower on US Route 95. The trees produce a robust number of hanging clusters of very fragrant white flowers which appear at all branch levels. The tree seems to spread very aggressively, sending out pea-like seed pods (legumes) all over the ground. Many have deemed the behavior of the locust as invasive, because of its rapid dispersion. This fast-growing native tree can form thick colonies of brittle wood saplings. Sharp spines on the branches, make it impossible to climb without gloves. As I discovered as a child, the thorns seem to be especially prevalent on sucker branches.

Of the two most prevalent species, black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) and honey locusts (Gleditsia triacanthos), the honey locust is the preferred one by landscapers. The honey locust grows as much as 20 feet in the first 10 years and can eventually grow to 70 feet tall. Unlike many other fast-growing trees, though, the honey locust does not have invasive roots or weak wood. It is a long-lived tree that tolerates wind storms and ice. It also tolerates salt, foot traffic, pollution and compacted soils.[1]

The honey locust tree has attractive gray-brown bark and an open, graceful canopy with tiny, oval leaves. Unlike large-leaved trees, the lacy leaves of honey locust allow sunlight to filter to the ground below so grass and plants can grow. The fruit of the honey locust is a pod, which has edible pulp on the inside.

Second Spirit Mythology

Some Second Spirit Native American tribes have a myth around the locust blossoms that translates as follows. The winter and spring months have particularly bright moons. The lunar gods take a knife and cut a slice off the edge of the moon every night, as the months progress. Each May they hang the moon slices on the locust tree, which are bright as the moon against the green branches. Those same moon slices dry up in the summer and drop in the fall as hardened slivers of the moon.[2]




[1] https://www.gardeningchannel.com/all-about-locust-trees/

[2] Many moons ago, I heard that this was an Iroquois myth, but have not been able to find a corroboration source for the myth.