“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” — Kahlil Gibran.
“People who will not sustain trees will soon live in a world that will not sustain people.” — Bryce Nelson.
“Learn character from trees, values from roots, and change from leaves.” — Tasneem Hameed.
“The best friend on earth of man is the tree. When we use the tree respectfully and economically, we have one of the greatest resources on the earth.”— Frank Lloyd Wright.
The thornless common honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos form inermis) is easy to plant, grows fast with fairly strong branches, is aesthetically-pleasing and is durable enough to cope with most urban settings.
In natural settings, it grows in both the thorned (with thorns up to 12 inches long) and the thornless forms. Throughout much of the South, it is still referred to as the Confederate pintree since its thorns were once used to pin uniforms together during the Civil War.
In general, the thornless honeylocust grows to a height of 30-70 feet and a spread of 30-70 feet at maturity. Its fast rate of growth may produce more than 24 inches per year in height. It tolerates a wide range of soils including acidic, alkaline, moist, dry and salty conditions with a modest tolerance for both flooding and drought. The thornless honeylocust exhibits its distinctively yellow leaves in the fall while attracting the attention of many eyes, both amateur and professional alike.
Other characteristics include pinnately or bi-pinnately compound leaves approximately 8 inches long with 8-14 leaflets which are the last leaves to emerge in the spring, small greenish-yellow blossoms which are particularly fragrant, large brown seed pods resembling twisted leather straps measuring 7-18 inches long, and an oval or round canopy shape.
The thornless honeylocust seed pods and seeds can be consumed by livestock and wildlife including rabbits, deer, and squirrels; and the flowers can provide a good source of food for bees. It is a native tree from Pennsylvania to Nebraska and south to Texas and Mississippi.
It gets the name "honey" from the sweet, honey-like substance found in its pods. And “locust” from the grasshopper-like insect that its seed pods resemble. The Cherokee Indians made bows from its durable and strong wood. Also, fence posts and railroad ties were made from this tree because of its durability and strength.
The thornless common honeylocust can function as specimen plants, street trees, or shade trees and is suitable for high traffic areas in the landscape. Because their canopy is relatively loose and airy, these trees don’t make effective shade trees if heavy shade is your objective. However, this same canopy characteristic makes them effective lawn trees and another choice in finding curb appeal.
An undesirable characterictic of Gleditsia (thorny or thornless) is the mess created when the seed pods drop in fall. The development of podless types was a major breakthrough and elevated thornless honey locusts to preferred elite status as a non-messy tree, ideal for low maintenance landscaping.
Some problems for honeylocusts include insects such as webworm and borers, and diseases such as leaf spot and canker disease. However, honeylocusts are mostly deer-tolerant trees.
Cultivars include Moraine which is a seedless male cultivar with a graceful outline and small dark green foliage that turns golden yellow in the fall and better resistance to webworm. Also, Skyline (Arrowhead) which is a fruitless male cultivar with a pyramidal shape with ascending branches and bright golden yellow foliage in the fall.
And, Suncole (Sunburst) is a deciduous, irregular, fast-growing shade tree with fern-like golden compound leaves and white flowers in spring. Its new foliage is yellow in the spring then transitions to a greenish-yellow and to light green in the summer. In the fall, the leaves return to the yellow color that defined them in spring. It offers good foliage color for two different seasons of the year. Suncole attains a mature height and spread of about 30-40 feet. Its late leafing out in the spring creates a foliar display that is magnificent. Suncole is podless and non-messy.
Shademaster is a deciduous, irregular, non-messy, fast-growing shade tree whose color evolution conforms more to the norm, beginning in spring with green and ending in the fall with a golden-yellow foliage. Other cultivars include Beatrice, Christie (vigorous growth and a symmetrical, full crown), Continental, Emerald Kascade (thornless weeping form with dark emerald-green foliage), Fairview, Green Arbor, Halka, Hartselle, Impcole or Imperial (small, rounded form with spreading branches and the most compact of the popular cultivars), Lake’s No. 1, Majestic, Mandan, Millwood, Orr, Park, Paul Bunyan, Penn, Royal Green, Stephens, Ward, among others.
As the summer heat continues, keep your hanging baskets and potted plants refreshed with water and food. Remember to feed and water the songbirds, and give your pets the care they need. Also, be on lookout for children playing and bicyclists riding along the streets and roadways throughout our communities. And remember to safely share the road with motorcycles. Drive alert and arrive alive. Don’t drive distracted or impaired, and don’t text while driving. Click it or ticket! Help the homeless every chance you get. Share your blessings with those less fortunate. Let’s keep everyone safe and secure while enjoying the great outdoors. And, remember to pray for one another, our nation, and those around the world who are hurting and suffering. God bless each of you
“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” — Proverbs 16:20.
“Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.” — Psalm 37:16-17.
“Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the Lord, and He will deliver you.” — Proverbs 20:22.
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” — John 17:15.
Seagle is a Sustainability Verifier, Golf Environment Organization (Scotland), Agronomist and Horticulturalist, CSI: Seagle (Consulting Services International) LLC, Professor Emeritus and Honorary Alumnus (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College), Distinguished Professor for Teaching and Learning (University System of Georgia) and Short Term Missionary (Heritage Church, Moultrie). Direct inquiries to csi_seagle @yahoo.com.