Winter Trees: Honeylocust

Just after Thanksgiving the tree cutters visited my neighborhood.  Hired by Duquesne Light, they trimmed or cut down every tree they found near the electric lines at Magee Field.

After they were gone I went to check the damage.  Did they cut down the honeylocusts whose pictures I’d taken the week before?

One look at the trunk of a honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) and you know right away you don’t want to touch it.  The tree is protected by huge clusters of branching 3-inch-long thorns quite capable of impaling your hand.

The thorns are diagnostic.  No other tree in Pennsylvania has them(*).

The twigs are distinctive, too.  They’re stout, zig-zagged and tapered but there’s no need to remember that because the thorns stand out.  They’re reddish-brown, thick and branching just like the thorns on the trunk.  Hawthorn trees have thorns but nothing like this.  Theirs are long, slender and unbranched.

Here’s a picture of the twig showing the tip of my thumb while I gingerly hold it against the paper.  The longest thorn is as long as my thumb!


So did the tree cutters take down the honeylocusts?

No.  Of course not!

(photos by Kate St. John)

* p.s. The closely related waterlocust has similar thorns but doesn’t grow in Pennsylvania.

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