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Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Honey Locust
Gleditsia triacanthos

Planted for land reclamation on mining waste[200].

The gum from the seeds has been suggested as an emulsifying substitute for acacia and tragacanth[269].

The heartwood contains 4 – 4.8% tannin[240].

Wood – strong, coarse-grained, elastic, very hard, very durable in contact with the soil, highly shock resistant[46, 61, 82, 149]. It does not shrink much but splits rather easily and does not glue well[227]. It weighs 42lb per cubic foot[227]. Largely used for making fence posts and rails, wheel hubs, farm implements etc and in construction[46, 61, 82, 149].

  • Medicinal Use

    The pods have been made into a tea for the treatment of indigestion, measles, catarrh etc[222, 257]. The juice of the pods is antiseptic[222]. The pods have been seen as a good antidote for children’s complaints[257].

    The alcoholic extract of the fruits of the honey locust, after elimination of tannin, considerably retarded the growth, up to 63% of Ehrlich mouse carcinoma[269]. However, the cytotoxicity of the extract was quite high and the animals, besides losing weight, showed dystrophic changes in their liver and spleen[260]. The alcoholic extract of the fruit exerted moderate oncostatic activity against sarcoma 180 and Ehrlich carcinoma at the total dose 350 mg/kg/body weight/mouse. Weight loss was considerable[269].

    An infusion of the bark has been drunk and used as a wash in the treatment of dyspepsia[257]. It has also been used in the treatment of whooping cough, measles, smallpox etc[257].

    The twigs and the leaves contain the alkaloids gleditschine and stenocarpine[4]. Stenocarpine has been used as a local anaesthetic whilst gleditschine causes stupor and loss of reflex activity[4].

    Current research is examining the leaves as a potential source of anticancer compounds[222].

  • Edible Use

    Seed – raw or cooked. It can contain up to 30% sugar[160]. Young seeds taste like raw peas[183]. Seeds are not always borne in maritime regions because the tree prefers long hot summers[11]. The oval seeds are about 8mm long[227]. They contain 10.6 – 24.1% protein, 0.8 – 4.3% fat, 84.7% carbohydrate, 21.1% fibre, 4% ash, 280mg calcium and 320mg phosphorus per 100g[218].

    The seeds have been roasted and used as a coffee substitute[269].

    Seedpods – the pulp is sweet and can be eaten raw or made into sugar[149, 159, 183]. The render young seedpods can be cooked and eaten[183]. The pulp in older pods turns bitter[227]. The seedpods are up to 40cm long and 4cm wide[227].

    A sweet, pleasant tasting drink can be made from the seed pods[257].

    The seed pulp has been used to make a drink[257].

  • Cautionary Notes

    The plant contains potentially toxic compounds[222].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in spring in a greenhouse[78]. The seed should have swollen up, in which case it can be sown, if it has not swollen then soak it for another 24 hours in warm water. If this does not work then file away some of the seed coat but be careful not to damage the embryo[78]. Further soaking should then cause the seed to swell. One it has swollen, the seed should germinate within 2 – 4 weeks at 20¡c. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual deep pots and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer. Give the plants some protection from the cold for their first few winters outdoors.
Succeeds in most soils, acid or alkaline[160, 200], so long as they are well-drained[202]. Requires a sunny position[11]. Tolerates drought once established[1] and atmospheric pollution[200]. Salt tolerant[200]. The honey locust is speculated to tolerate an annual precipitation of 60 to 150cm, an annual temperature range of 10 to 21¡C, and a pH in the range of 6 to 8[269]. Trees are rather tender when young, but they are hardy to about -30¡c once they are established[200]. They grow best in southern Britain[11]. The honey locust is often cultivated in warm temperate zones for its edible seeds and seedpods[202], trees start to bear when about 10 years old and produce commercial crops for about 100 years[227]. Wild trees seldom live longer than 120 years[229]. Trees are shy to flower and therefore do not often produce a worthwhile crop in Britain due to our cooler summers[202]. There are some named varieties[183]. The sub-species nana produced lots of viable seed in the hot summer of 1989 at Kew[K], it also had a very good crop in 1994, 1996 and in 1999[K]. The sub-species inermis had a very good crop of pods in the autumn of 1996[K]. ‘Ashworth’ has pods with a very sweet pulp that has a melon-like flavour[183]. The flowers have a pleasing scent[245]. A very ornamental tree[1], the flowers are very attractive to bees[149, 269]. Trees have a light canopy, they come into leaf late and lose their leaves early[11] making them an excellent canopy tree for a woodland garden. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Unlike most plants in this family, honey locusts do not fix atmospheric nitrogen[160, 226].
Eastern N. America. Occasionally naturalized in C. and S. Europe.

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*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.