Gleditsia triacanthos L.
  • LEAVES: deciduous, alternate, pinnately to bipinnately compound (most leaves bipinnate); leaflets about 1” long x 1/2” wide
  • FLOWER: bisexual, greenish-yellow, small (1/4”), in racemes; flowering April-May
  • FRUIT: llong twisted legume, 6-18” long with hard brown seeds and high-sugar pulp; pods purplish when mature
  • TWIGS: stout, brown, zigzagging; bearing branched thorns
  • BARK: smooth, dark, curling into long hard plates, revolute on larger trees; branched thorns present on trunks
  • FORM: medium to large tree; 50-80’ tall x 2-3' diameter
  • HABITAT: bottomland hardwoods, hardwood flatwoods, clayey uplands
  • WETLAND DESIGNATION: Facultative (FAC): Occurs in wetlands or non-wetlands of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Plain Region
  • RANGE: eastern US  [MAP]
  • USES: wood is strong and durable, utility hardwood, used for fence posts, railroad ties, furniture, utility lumber; thornless variety used as an ornamental
  • WILDLIFE: pods have high sugar content and are eaten by deer and squirrels
  • Best Recognition Features:
    1. tropical-looking tree with many bipinnately compound leaves
    2. branched thorns on stems and branches
    3. long loosely twisted/coiled legume, to 1’ or more in length

    NOTES: water locust (Gleditsia aquatic Marshall) is found in more flood-impact areas including floodplain lakes and shrub swamps; this species has pods that are oval, are only 1.5-2” long, and most leaves are once-pinnate; a high proportion of its thorns tend to be unbranched