Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

Between College Hall and Haggard Hall Map

Two dozen of these graceful trees line the parking lot north of College Hall. In late spring and early summer its delicate compound leaves open to provide a light green canopy of speckled shade, in season enlivened by small, inconspicuous yellow flowers. In the fall it turns a nice golden yellow. In all seasons it displays an interestingly textured bark, consisting of large plates that seem to invite you to tear them off. (Don't try). But note that if you decide to inspect a "type" honey locust up close, be very careful to watch out for thorns - they are everywhere, they are long (up to one inch), they are tough and sharp, and they come in compound groups of three (hence the species name). In the fall the honey locust provides a wealth of curious, dangling brown seed-pods, resembling exuberant pole beans in shape. These can be messy, apparently. The author's introduction to G. triacanthos came in Eaton, CO, where two huge specimens flank the main door to the City Hall. When asked about them, a clerk replied "You mean those damned honey locusts? I spend all fall cleaning up after them, and every time I go out there they scratch me!"

With so nasty a reputation, it is no wonder that many thornless hybrids have been developed; for instance, Jacobson discusses no less than 38. Ours are surely some form of thornless (or nearly thornless) hybrid, because on close examination they seem to have only a few stubby, harmless blunt protrusions where spines ought to be found. Our trees are young and only about 20 ft. tall. Trees over 100 in height are known in their native range (central and eastern United States). The tallest tree in Washington State, at 90 ft, is located in Redmond.