Black locust

Black locust

name = Black Locust

image_width = 240px
image_caption = Flowers
regnum = Plantae
divisio = Magnoliophyta
classis = Magnoliopsida
ordo = Fabales
familia = Fabaceae
subfamilia = Faboideae
tribus = Robinieae
genus = "Robinia"
species = "R. pseudoacacia"
binomial = "Robinia pseudoacacia"
binomial_authority = L.

Black Locust ("Robinia pseudoacacia") is a tree in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family Fabaceae. It is native to the southeastern United States, but has been widely planted and naturalized elsewhere in temperate North America, Europe and Asia and is considered an invasive species in some areas. A less frequently used common name is False Acacia, which is a literal translation of the specific epithet. It was introduced into Britain in 1636.


With a trunk up to 0.8 m diameter (exceptionally up to 52 m tall [cite web | url = | title = New tuliptree height record | publisher = Eastern Native Tree Society | accessdate= 2008-09-22] and 1.6 m diameter in very old trees), with thick, deeply furrowed blackish bark. The leaves are 10–25 cm long, pinnate with 9–19 oval leaflets, 2–5 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad. Each leaf usually has a pair of short thorns at the base, 1–2 mm long or absent on adult crown shoots, up to 2 cm long on vigorous young plants. The intensely fragrant flowers are white, borne in pendulous racemes 8–20 cm long, and are considered edible. The fruit is a legume 5–10 cm long, containing 4–10 seeds.

Although similar in general appearance to Honey locust, it lacks that tree's characteristic long branched spines on the trunk, instead having the pairs of short thorns at the base of each leaf; the leaflets are also much broader.

Native from Pennsylvania to northern Georgia and westward as far as Arkansas and Oklahoma, but has been widely spread. Reaches the height of seventy feet with a trunk three or four feet in diameter, with brittle branches that form an oblong narrow head. Spreads by underground shoots. The leaflets fold together in wet weather, also at night; some change of position at night is the habit of the entire leguminous family.

* Bark: Dark gray brown tinged with red, deeply furrowed, surface inclined to scale. Branchlets at first coated with white silvery down. This soon disappears and they become pale green, afterward reddish brown. Prickles develop from stipules, are short, somewhat triangular, dilated at base, sharp, dark purple, adhering only to the bark, but persistent.
* Wood: Pale yellowish brown; heavy, hard, strong, close-grained and very durable in contact with the ground. Sp. gr., 0.7333; weight of cu. ft., 45.70 lbs.
* Winter buds: Minute, naked, three or four together, protected in a depression by a scale-like covering lined on the inner surface with a thick coat of tomentum and opening in early spring; when forming are covered by the swollen base of the petiole.
* Leaves: Parallel, compound, odd-pinnate, eight to fourteen inches long, with slender hairy petioles, grooved and swollen at the base. Leaflets petiolate, seven to nine, one to two inches long, one-half to three-fourths of an inch broad, emarginate or rounded at apex. They come out of the bud conduplicate, yellow green, covered with silvery down which soon disappears; when full grown are dull dark green above, paler beneath. Feather-veined, midvein prominent. In autumn they turn a clear pale yellow. Leafs out relatively late in spring. Stipules linear, downy, membranous at first, ultimately developing into hard woody prickles, straight or slightly curved. Each leaflet has a minute stipel which quickly falls and a short petiole.
* Flowers: May or June, after the leaves. Papilionaceous. Perfect, borne in loose drooping racemes four to five inches long, cream-white, about an inch long, nectar bearing, fragrant. Pedicels slender, half an inch long, dark red or reddish green.
* Calyx: Campanulate, givvous, hairy, five-toothed, slightly two-lipped, dark green blotched with red, especially on the upper side teeth valvate in bud.
* Corolla: Imperfectly papilionaceous, petals inserted upon a tubular disk; standard white with pale yellow blotch; wings white, oblong-falcate; keel petals incurved, obtuse, united below.
* Stamens: Ten, inserted, with the petals, diadelphous, nine inferior, united into a tube which is cleft on the upper side, superior one free at the base. Anthers two-celled, cells opening longitudinally.
* Pistil: Ovary superior, linear-oblong, stipitate, one-celled; style inflexed, long, slender, bearded; stigma capitate; ovules several, two-ranked.
* Fruit: legume two-valved, smooth three to four inches long and half an inch broad, usually four to eight seeded. Ripens late in autumn and hangs on the branches until early spring. Seeds dark orange brown with irregular markings. Cotyledons oval, fleshy.cite book
last =Keeler
first =Harriet L.
title =Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them
publisher =Charles Scriber's Sons
date =1900
location =New York
pages =97-102


Black locust is a major honey plant in eastern USA, and, having been taken and planted in France, is the source of the renowned "acacia" monofloral honey from France. Flowering starts after 140 growing degree days.

In Europe it is often planted alongside streets and in parks, especially in large cities, because it tolerates pollution well. The species is unsuitable for small gardens due to its large size and rapid growth, but the cultivar 'Frisia', a selection with bright yellow-green leaves, is occasionally planted as an ornamental tree.

Black locust has nitrogen-fixing bacteria on its root system; for this reason it can grow on poor soils and is an early colonizer of disturbed areas.

In 1900 it was reported that the value of "Robinia pseudacacia" is practically destroyed in nearly all parts of the United States beyond the mountain forests which are its home, by the borers which riddle the trunk and branches. Were it not for these insects it would be one of the most valuable timber trees that could be planted in the northern and middle states. Young trees grow quickly and vigorously for a number of years, but soon become stunted and diseased, and rarely live long enough to attain any commercial value.


The wood is extremely hard, resistant to rot and long lasting, making it prized for fence posts and small watercraft. As a young man, Abraham Lincoln spent a lot of time splitting rails and fence posts from black locust logs. Flavonoids in the heartwood allow the wood to last over 100 years in soil. cite web
title =Black Locust: A Multi-purpose Tree Species for Temperate Climates
url =
] In the Netherlands and some other parts of Europe, black locust is the most rot-resistant local tree, and projects have started to limit the use of tropical wood by promoting this tree and creating plantations. It is one of the heaviest and hardest woods in North America.

Black Locust is highly valued as firewood for wood-burning stoves; it burns slowly, with little visible flame or smoke, and has a higher heat content than any other species that grows widely in the Eastern United States, comparable to the heat content of anthracite".citeweb|url=|title=Heating the Home with Wood] It is most easily ignited by insertion into a hot stove with an established coal bed.Fact|date=February 2007 For best results it should be seasoned like any other hardwood, however black locust is also popular because of its ability to burn even when wet. citeweb|url=|title=UN Food & Agriculture Organization's notes on Black Locust] In fireplaces it can be less satisfactory because knots and beetle damage make the wood prone to "spitting" coals for distances of up to several feet.Fact|date=February 2007 If the Black Locust is cut, split, and cured while relatively young (within ten years), thus minimizing beetle damage, "spitting" problems are minimal.

It is also planted for firewood because it grows rapidly, is highly resilient in a variety of soils, and it grows back even faster from its stump after harvest by using the existing root system.citeweb|url=|title=OSU: Managing Your Woodlot for Firewood]

With fertilizer prices rising, the importance of black locust as a nitrogen-fixing species is also noteworthy. The mass application of fertilizers in agriculture and forestry is increasingly expensive; therefore nitrogen-fixing tree and shrub species are gaining importance in managed forestry. citeweb|url=|title=UN Food & Agriculture Organization's notes on Black Locust]


Like the honey locust, the black locust reproduces through its distinctive hanging pods. Black locust's pods are smaller and lighter, and thus easily carried long distances by the wind. Unlike the pods of the honey locust, but like those of the related European "Laburnum," the black locust's pods are toxic. In fact, every part of the tree, especially the bark, is considered toxic, with the exception of the flowers. However, various reports have suggested that the seeds and the young pods of the black locust can be edible when cooked, since the poisons that are contained in this plant are decomposed by heat. Horses that consume the plant show signs of anorexia, depression, diarrhea, colic, weakness, and cardiac arrhythmia. Symptoms usually occur about 1 hour following consumption, and immediate veterinary attention is required.


The name "locust" is said to have been given to "Robinia" by Jesuit missionaries, who fancied that this was the tree that supported St. John in the wilderness, but it is native only to North America. The locust tree of Spain, which is also native to Syria, is supposed to be the true locust of the New Testament; the fruit of this tree may be found in the shops under the name of St. John's bread.

"Robinia" is now a North American genus, but traces of it are found in the Eocene and Miocene rocks of Europe.

ee also

* List of plants poisonous to equines

External links

* [ "Robinia pseudoacacia" images at]
* [ "Robinia pseudoacacia" images at Forestry Images]
* [ "Robinia pseudoacacia" - US Forest Service Fire Effects Database]
* [ "Robinia pseudoacacia" at USDA Plants Database]
* [ Black Locust - US Forest Service Silvics Manual]
* [ Black Locust] (as an invasive species)
* [ "Robinia pseudoacacia" 'Frisia']


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • black locust — noun 1. strong stiff wood of a black locust tree; very resistant to decay • Hypernyms: ↑wood • Substance Holonyms: ↑yellow locust, ↑Robinia pseudoacacia 2. large thorny tree of eastern and central United States having pinnately compound leaves… …   Useful english dictionary

  • black locust — baltažiedė robinija statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Pupinių šeimos dekoratyvinis, medieninis, vaistinis, medingas nuodingas augalas (Robinia pseudoacacia), paplitęs Šiaurės Amerikoje. atitikmenys: lot. Robinia pseudoacacia angl. black… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • black locust — black′ lo′cust n. pln a North American tree, Robinia pseudoacacia, of the legume family, having pinnate leaves and clusters of fragrant white flowers • Etymology: 1780–90, amer …   From formal English to slang

  • black locust — 1. Also called false acacia, yellow locust. a North American tree, Robinia pseudoacacia, of the legume family, having pinnate leaves and clusters of fragrant white flowers. 2. See honey locust. [1780 90, Amer.] * * * …   Universalium

  • black locust — noun Date: 1787 a tall tree (Robinia pseudoacacia) of eastern North America with pinnately compound leaves, drooping racemes of fragrant white flowers, and strong stiff wood …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • black locust — noun A tree, Robinia pseudoacacia, in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family Fabaceae, native to the southeastern United States, but widely planted and naturalized elsewhere in temperate North America, Europe and Asia; considered an invasive… …   Wiktionary

  • black locust — /blæk ˈloʊkəst/ (say blak lohkuhst) noun the durable wood of the American tree Robinia pseudoacacia …  

  • Locust (disambiguation) — Locust can refer to:In nature* The locust, a swarming grasshopper. * The cicada, often referred to as a seven year locust. * The magicicada, often referred to as a 13 year or 17 year locust. * Various plants, especially of the genera Gleditsia… …   Wikipedia

  • Locust tree — can mean:* Any of a number of tree species in the genera Gleditsia or Robinia * Honey locust, a leguminous tree with pods having a sweet, edible pulp * Black locust, a leguminous tree with toxic pods but useful for making honey * Or less commonly …   Wikipedia

  • locust — [lō′kəst] n. [ME < L locusta, prob. akin to lacerta, LIZARD] 1. any of various large grasshoppers; specif., a migratory grasshopper often traveling in great swarms and destroying nearly all vegetation in areas visited 2. SEVENTEEN YEAR LOCUST… …   English World dictionary

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