Gleditsia Triacanthos (American Acacia), a Great Honey Plant
Today let's talk about Gleditsia vulgaris, or Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos). This plant is sometimes called the American acacia as it is native to arid regions in the south-eastern part of North America. This topic will be especially important for those who want to make a practical, reliable, and ornamental hedge around their garden or diversify their range of honey plants for bees as well as for plant collectors.
Gleditsia is a long-lived (up to 300 years) plant, with durable wood, a powerful root system, and attractive foliage. Its leaves fold in pairs at night, which makes it look exotic. Small greenish inconspicuous flowers collected in clusters and lost among the leaves have a pleasant honey scent and are literally moist with nectar!
Gleditsia’s fruit is a pod up to 0.5 m long with seeds up to 1.5 cm long. The numerous long pods remaining on the branches until January well after leaves fall give it an ornamental look. However, the most curious thing about Gleditsia is its thorns. They are especially huge if the trunk is damaged or branches have been trimmed, and they grow up to 30 cm in a few days! The thorns are branched, first green, then brown and woody, often collected in clusters, and they provide a good protection against enemies (deer and hares).
Gleditsia is a hardy, drought-tolerant plant. It prefers direct sunlight and loose soils (it can even grow on poor sands), since its root system is deep and needs good aeration. The plant will suffer if grown on cold moist clay soils. In case of clay soil, it would be best to plant Gleditsia on the hill with a southern slope. Gleditsia can even grow on saline soils. It is wind-resistant and is used as a drought-tolerant windbreak plant in southern Russia and Ukraine. According to the confirmed data, Gleditsia vulgaris tolerates winters in Minsk, Gomel, Orel, and Samara. If protected from wind, it can withstand temperatures of -35 ° C without being damaged.
Planting and Care for Gleditsia
You can start Gleditsia from seeds or buy seedlings. Seeds do not need stratification; dry seeds can be easily stored for several years while withstanding temperatures below zero. In spring, just pre-soak seeds in very warm water for several hours and frequently change water to keep it warm. The seed should increase 2-3 times in size. If it’s not swollen after 3 or 4 hours of soaking, it will absorb the required amount of water from soil after sowing (Gleditsia’s germination rate is usually very high, over 90%). Start seeds in a standard potting mix: one part of peat (or black soil) and two or three parts of sand. Put seeds 1 cm deep. If started out in the garden, sprouts may appear throughout the summer and even the following year. In this case the first-year seedlings should be mulched with a thick layer of straw. You can save time and effort by purchasing a three-year-old seedling.
A seedling with a closed root system can be planted throughout the entire vegetation period (remember to shade it during its first year). A seedling with an open root system is best planted in early spring, after the temperature reaches + 5 to + 10 ° C. Seedlings respond to fertilizing by rapid growth – a two-year-old seedling can reach 1 meter. As with any subtropical pinnate plant, heat and sunlight are the major development factors.
Gleditsia ’s Useful Properties
If you plant the prickly Gleditsia in a hedge (space the seedlings 0.5-1 m apart) and skillfully prune it, you can create an absolutely impenetrable barrier several meters high, which will also smell of honey and be a treat to bees. When growing this "acacia" as a shrub, it is better to use grafted seedlings. In the southern regions, Gleditsia is considered a valuable honey plant, with a yield of about 250 kg of honey per hectare of plantings. These figures can be even higher as the data available have been collected for windbreak forest belts where Gleditsia only grows 5-7 m high.
In the southern regions, Gleditsia starts blooming in May and in the temperate climates in mid-June. Blooming lasts for 2 or 3 weeks. In the moderate climates, the weather in late June is usually very good and Gleditsia will be a successful addition to beekeepers’ honey plants. Besides being a decorative honey plant perfect for fencing, Gleditsia produces beautiful and durable wood. You can use Gleditsia trunks left after thinning your hedge as trellises for grapes or actinidia.
If you want to create a practical, reliable and ornamental hedge around your garden, diversify a range of your honey plants and enrich your plant collection, try Gleditsia. It will transform both your garden and your country for future generations.