Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Gleditsia Triacanthos

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch


Gleditsia triacanthos autumn (01/11/2011, London)

Gleditsia triacanthos autumn (01/11/2011, London)

Position: Full Sun 

Flowering period: Spring

Soil: Well drained

Eventual Height: 25m

Eventual Spread: 15m

Hardiness: USDA Zones 3a – 7b

Family: Fabaceae

Gleditsia tricanthos is a fast growing deciduous tree with an open, oval shaped growth habit . The leaves are pinnatley compound on older trees, but bipinnatley compound on younger trees, in which the leaflets themselves are pinnately compound. The leaflets are 1.5-2.5 cm long and are bright green, turning yellow in autumn. The branches of the tree can be quite spiny, producing thorns of between 3cm and 10cm long emerging from the younger stems. The bark is gray with elongated plates. The flowers are strongly scented and cream colored, appearing in late spring in clusters emerging from the base of the leaf axils. The fruit are a flat legume or pod that matures in early autumn. The pods are generally between 15 – 20 cm in length.

Gleditsia tricanthos, commonly known as the Honey Locust, is native to Central North America. The tree typically has a life-span of 120 years. It has been cultivated in Britain since the early 18th century. This golden leafed selection of this species,  G. tricanthos ‘Sunburst’, was raised in 1954 and is virtually thornless in comparison to the species variety. In windy weather this tree may shed some of it’s smaller branches, in storms it may shed some of it’s larger limbs.

The etymological root of the binomial name Gleditsia is named after Johann Gottlieb Gleditsch who was the 18th century director of the Berlin Botanic Gardens. Tricanthos is derived from the Greek tri ‘three and acanthos ‘spine’.  

Gleditsia triacanthos autumn leaf (01/11/2011, London)

Gleditsia triacanthos autumn leaf (01/11/2011, London)

The landscape architect may Gleditsia tricanthos useful as an attractive street tree due to it being a provider of light shade and it’s tolerance of urban pollution and compacted soils. Once established this tree is drought tolerant.

Ecologically, this tree is very attractive to pollinating insects. 

The variety Gleditsia tricanthos ‘Sunburst’ was awarded the prestigious Royal Horticultural Societies annual Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

G. tricanthos prefers a fertile well drained to moist soils. It will tolerate dry, compacted soils.

Maintenance: This tree requires little maintenance.

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