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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)

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median,
  • Restricted sites

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

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


  • Dry sites,
  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil,
  • Road salt

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

Seasons 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.

Location of Gleditsia triacanthos (Honey-locust) at the Arboretum