TREES & plants


Foliage of honey-locust

The native species of honey-locust has large thorns on its stems and bark. For this reason, thornless honey locust, also known as Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis, is most commonly sold. For the sake of species diversity, it should only be planted after careful consideration of alternatives.  The species may be difficult to find in nurseries. Most nurseries will carry the thornless form. 

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

Botanical name: 
Gleditsia triacanthos
All Common Names: 
honey-locust, honeylocust
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae)
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks, 
  • City parkway, 
  • Wide median, 
  • Restricted sites
Landscape Uses: 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet), 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
Mature Height: 
30-70 feet
Mature Width: 
30-70 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8, 
  • Zone 9
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Tolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Commonly planted, 
  • Dangerous thorns
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color, 
  • Persistent fruit/seeds
Season of Interest: 
  • Early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Broad, 
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Fast
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Migrant birds
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Prune in fall or winter.

Disease, pests, and problems

This species is heavily armed with thorns on the trunk and branches.
A wide range of diseases and pests can affect this tree: honeylocust plant bug, spider mites, leaf spots and canker.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 2

Bark color and texture 

Bark shows some red-brown in early years and matures to a gray brown.  The older bark is broken up into long strips that are raised along the sides.  The bark and stems are heavily armored with long, sharp thorns.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate leaves may be pinnately compound or bipinnately compound with many small, oval leaflets.  Fall color is yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flowers are greening and held in short clusters.  They are not showy.  Flowering occurs in late spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit are pods (legumes), dark reddish-brown and 8 inches or more long.  At maturity, the pods may be curled or twisted.

Gleditsia triacanthos or Honey-locust