Water Locust Tree – Gleditsia aquatica

Water Locust Tree – Gleditsia aquatica
Family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 / Habitat: River
swamps and slough margins

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Summer: The pinnately compound leaves (one large stem with many small leaflets) allow filtered sunlight, making an attractive canopy that is practical for growing grass or other plants below. Fall: Color in the fall is variable but is usually a shade of yellow and can be very nice. The large seedpods ripen and become a maintenance consideration for most of the fall and winter months. Wildlife cherishes the sweet pods from which the tree gets its name. The thorny specimen (Gleditsia triacanthos) from which this variety arose is one of the thorniest trees found. Thorns can protrude directly from the trunk and be a foot or more in length. Crews have been busy two decades at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign taking down diseased honeylocust trees that were once planted to replace the declining American elms.

The native thorny species is found in Illinois, on either side of the Mississippi River from Nebraska to Texas and from Pennsylvania to Alabama. Fence rows and pastures are common locations.

Water Locust Bark

Water Locust

Gleditsia aquatica is distinguished from common honey locust in that the pods are only about 5 cm in length and with 3 or fewer seeds.

Leaf: alternate, pinnately or bipinnately compound with 14 to 20 oval to elliptical leaflets each 3/4 to 1 inch long, overall leaf 6 to 8 inches long.
Flower: Greenish white flowers displayed in 2 inch long racemes, appearing after the leaves.
Fruit: Flat, brown, almost round pods, 1 to 2 inches long, each containing 1 to 3 seeds.
Twig: Slender to moderate, zigzag, grayish to red-brown, conspicuous thorns, lateral buds sunken.
Bark: Smooth, grayish brown, often mottled, lenticels present, later splitting.
Form: Small to medium sized tree to 50 feet with a spreading, open crown.

1. Colorado State University, "Sunburst Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Sunburst’)"
2. Sunburst Honey Locust, Morton Arboretum acc. 366-56*1, photos by Bruce Marlin

Tree Encyclopedia / North American Insects & Spiders is dedicated to providing scientific and educational resources for our users through use of large images and macro photographs of flora and fauna.

Family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
The Fabaceae, or legumes, are mostly herbs but include also shrubs and trees found in both temperate and tropical areas. They comprise one of the largest families of flowering plants, numbering some 400 genera and 10,000 species. Peanuts, beans, peas, wisteria and locust trees are among the family.
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