The Honey Locust tree, scientifically known as Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Inermis’ and not Robinia pseudoacacia (Black Locust), is a remarkable tree native to the central United States and a naturalized species in many parts of Europe, including the UK. The ‘Inermis’ in its scientific name refers to its nearly thornless variety, distinguishing it from other varieties of Honey Locusts.
Honey Locust trees can grow quite large, reaching heights of up to 20-30 meters. They’re fast growers and can live for well over a century, providing they’re situated in an environment that meets their needs. The trees exhibit a fast growth rate which is beneficial for gardeners desiring quick canopy development or landscape transformation.
Unlike many trees found in the UK, the Honey Locust has a unique, open branching structure and small, delicate leaves which cast a light, dappled shade below. This feature can help to provide shade without completely blocking sunlight, allowing for more diverse under-plantings.
The tree flowers in late spring to early summer, producing tiny, greenish-yellow flowers which, though not visually significant, emit a delightful fragrance that can fill a garden. The tree’s long, twisted seed pods, which give the tree its name due to the sweet pulp they contain, are its most notable fruiting feature.
In terms of landscape use, Honey Locusts are excellent as shade trees and are frequently used in urban environments due to their tolerance to pollution and compacted soil. They’re also employed as a high canopy cover in permaculture food forests, thanks to their light shade and nitrogen-fixing capabilities.
Honey Locust trees are beneficial to wildlife as well. Their fragrant flowers attract bees and other pollinating insects, while the seed pods provide food for various wildlife, including deer and birds.
While the Honey Locust is not as commonly found in the wild in the UK as the native trees, they’re often planted in urban areas for their tolerance to adverse conditions and their elegant form. They are frequently found in cities and towns across the UK.
An interesting fact about the Honey Locust tree is its use in permaculture. As a nitrogen-fixing tree, it can improve soil quality by adding nitrogen back into the soil, promoting the growth of other plants nearby.
Overall, the Honey Locust is a resilient, fast-growing tree that can be a great addition to British gardens, not just for its unique aesthetics, but also for its wildlife and permaculture benefits. Its adaptability to urban conditions also makes it a practical choice for city landscaping.