Honey locust trees (Gleditsia triacanthos) are native to most U.S. states and to the Canadian province of Ontario. The honey locust can reach up to 100 feet tall, with an open, airy crown. The most striking aspect of the tree is the vicious, reddish thorns on the trunk and branches. Thorns grow 3 to 12 inches long, and typically have three points. These thorns keep the tree for being widely used in home landscapes, although it's a very useful tree otherwise.
Uses for Thorny Honey Locusts
Because honey locusts are hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 4, and are drought and salt tolerant, they're widely used for soil erosion and windbreaks, according to University of Maine. These same attributes make them a good choice for parking lots and along streets. Honey locust wood is hard and strong, useful for crates, pallets, fence posts and boat decking. The long, twisted seed pods are a sweet food source for wildlife, including deer and squirrels.
Honey locusts prefer moist, fertile soil, according to the USDA, but can withstand both drought and periodic wetness. Plant them in full sun. They're adaptable to varying soil conditions. Supplemental watering may be needed the first year or two after planting, but after that, they're drought-tolerant enough to withstand all but the worst dry spells. Honey locusts have compound leaves with small leaflets, so little raking is needed in fall. Because the canopy is light and airy, grass grows well under the tree.
Honey Locusts in the Home Garden
Honey locusts' thorns make the tree inappropriate for use in gardens accessible to pets or small children. For home landscape use, the University of Minnesota recommends using the thornless variety of honey locusts, Gleditsia triacanthos inermis. Minnesota recommends the cultivar Imperial, a denser tree with a spreading canopy that reaches 30 to 40 feet high. Shademaster has a strong central trunk and reaches 50 to 60 feet. Sunburst has bright yellow spring leaves.