This week the air in my neighborhood smells so sweet. The black locust trees are in bloom.
Black locusts (Robinia pseudoacacia) are common in Pittsburgh because they’re one of the first trees to grow in poor, disturbed soil. Our area has a lot of habitat for them, generated by people and nature — bulldozers and landslides.
Black locusts are ugly in winter with gnarly bark and twisted branches but they are sweet in May. The trees are in the pea family and it is evident in their flowers. Here’s what they look like in bloom.
The flowers are attractive to bees and birds. I’ve seen rose-breasted grosbeaks use their large beaks to grab the base of the flowers, then twirl to make the petals fall off. They swallow the nectar end.
Black locusts usually reach their peak on May 12 but they’re late this year. Look for these beautifully scented trees before the flowers fade in about 10 days.
Enjoy the sweet smell of trees.
(photos by Kate St. John)