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Black Locust Notecard



Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

This large member of the pea family has spreading, ferny foliage and in late spring produces pendant spikes of fragrant blossoms from which honeybees make a delightful honey. This fast-growing tree can each 80 feet or more, occasionally growing to 120 feet, the trunk being 3-4 feet thick. Its bark matures to a dark, dull brown-grey, networked by deep, broad ridges. Locust trees are characteristically twisted in form; locust hedgerows are visually captivating landscape features. Locust trees can quickly move into abandoned fields, spreading by seed or adventitious roots, forming dense groves.

The black locust tree is presently naturalized over much of the eastern United States, occurring in some western states into British Columbia. It had also been imported throughout Europe. Pioneers early learned the high qualities of the black locust. Its timber is exceedingly strong, producing perhaps the strongest wood in all of North America outside of the tropics. Of particular note is its durability: it can outlast any other Northern American species in contact with the soil and makes excellent fenceposts. Varieties of black locust which are exceedingly straight were once sought for ships’ masts. One variety in particular, known as “Shipmast Locust,” was cultivated for its straight trunk. Locusts such as “Shipmast” are distinctly more valuable as an alternative to replace our current reliance on toxic chemicals to produce our decay-resistant pressure treated lumber.

artwork by Camille Doucet © 2002

text by Steve Sierigk