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All things Black Locust

 
Posts: 136
Location: Romania
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In romania the black locust honey is sold as black locust honey.,,Salcam ,,means black locust in romanian and the honney is sold as ,,miere de salcam,,.
The name acacia honey,only the english speakers foreigners call it that way.
No acacia species grows in Romania( outdoor) so we dont have popular names for acacia.
This romanian song translates as ,,black locusts gone  crazy,,  (Au innebunit salcamii)and its about the flowering time.
Now you have it,a song about black locusts :).
 
pollinator
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tel jetson wrote:

Frederik Grøn Schack wrote:As far as I remember, they honey from black locust is sold as acacia honey, even though the tree is not an acacia.



not an acacia but passed off as one... hmm. maybe you could call it a pseudoacacia. what do you think?



Especially that the real Latin nae is Robinia pseudoacacia, so I'm all for it. ;-)
 
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I cut down a standing dead black locust last week it was real straight and about 100' tall, with less than 1/2 dozen branches, a bunch of it was rotted, like a sponge inside,The real rotten stuff will become a hugelkultur, but the outside of much of the trunk was solid, and will feed the stove this winter, had large locust fungi growing out of it.
200 years ago and beyond locust trees were prized for ship masts.
 
Posts: 489
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Bruce, are you open to some experiments on the hugelkulturing of that tree?

For fungi or bacteria to break down most things, they want water and possibly oxygen.  And both fungi and bacteria can create fairly complicated molecules in their effort to breakdown the wood so that it becomes food for them.

Generic 5% vinegar is too expensive where I live, and so I am currently in the middle of trying to make 3 gallons of "vinegar" by fermenting sugar water.  Or perhaps I should call it dilute orange juice?  Minute Maid has an orange juice with plant sterols, and yeast need plant sterols to build cell walls to withstand high ethanol environments.  I'm hoping for 15% EtOH or more at the end of the wine step, and then I will let bacteria turn it to vinegar.

I recently ran across a paper which talked about bread yeast.  I didn't read the entire paper.  But what I got from the snippet I read, is that instead of making ethanol and carbon dioxide while eating sugar; bread yeast (or this particular bread yeast) when given a sunburn (exposed to UV light) before being added to the "food", produced a mixture of acetic acid and citric acid.  It may be that it also produces ethanol and carbon dioxide.

It might be that acetic acid and citric acid will help in breaking down black locust in a hugel faster.  Lots of bacteria (I have no idea about fungi) can drive a significant portion of their metabolism around sulfur, instead of oxygen.  So perhaps their are paths involving microflora and microfauna and sulfur which will break down black locust faster?

But, the idea of sunburning some bread yeast before a predicted rain, and sprinkling it over a hugel not yet completed so as to build up some amount of acetic and citric acid seems to be an easy thing to do; if it actually helps in breaking down "tough" trees like black locust.
 
Gordon Haverland
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Has anyone ever noticed a correlation between the (possible) lack of sprouting of black locust, and what the ground cover is?  I am thinking that perhaps some kind of allelopathy might reduce the sprouting of black locust roots.

Root sprouting seems to be related to gibberelins and abcissic acid (sp?).
 
bruce Fine
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gordon, the hugelkultar will be across street at neighbors, I have very deep  fertile soil everywhere, there was a sawmill on property for decades and sawdust amended the soils,  across street not so much, for some reason they have lots of oak trees, I have very few, but appreciate the advice, If she doesn't see it here I'll clue her into your suggestions
 
Gordon Haverland
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Trying to follow up on allelopathy being a control mechanism for sprouting in black locust isn't going well for me.  Too many things I don't know.

I think BugWiki (which at least in part, seems to be a  home for information on species deemed invasive) had a page on black locust which for me had a couple of points of interest.

By and large, it appears that trying to kill black locust with herbicides is difficult, and it may be that the only people who can do so are tree professionals.

But, a generic observation is that if black locust "takes over" something like a clearing in a forest, it is typically replaced as the dominant species within 15-30 years.  And that requires the use of no chemicals, just other trees succeeding a pioneer species.  In terms of black locust "invading" a forest, I don't think it is going to happen.  Black cherry can invade a forest and take over.  But black locust does not want any competition for sunlight.  It can take over an "edge", it isn't going to take over a forest.  The solution to getting rid of black locust seems to be the planting of trees which compete for sunlight.

While black locust (which tends to weakly shade) is good for bees, a tree which is better for bees and has strong shade is basswood (a linden).

BugWiki (or whatever) also seemed to suggest that sprouting from the roots is driven by temperature fluctuations.  The article also went on to mention that black locust roots tend to be shallow and there is no taproot.  If avoiding temperature fluctuations is useful to stop sprouting, then putting 6+ inches of wood chips on the ground might be a good thing to do.

Again from this article,  in terms of growing fence posts, it seems that black locust needs to get to be about 4-5 years old before it starts sprouting.  Other sources say that to grow fence posts, the first cutting is probably going to take place about 4-5 years after planting the seed.  And I think BugWiki pointed out that at least in one instance, the sprouts after coppicing grew to 10 feet in the next year (and to 14 feet after 3 years).  So, it may be that if you are starting black locust from seed (at some high density like every 4 feet), that when you harvest your first crop of fence posts, when you have selected which sprouts are going to be allowed to grow the next year (or so), I think what you then do is cover the ground in wood chips to keep the black locust from doing more sprouting.  If sprouting still happens, you probably want to cut these excess sprouts at ground level by moving away the wood chips, and then burying again.

Black locust isn't supposed to like clay, but it really doesn't like wet clay.  And typically my problem is dry clay.  So, if I have to cover the ground with wood chips to suppress sprouting, that will eventually help the soil.  But, a person might be able to help things along a bit, by coplanting tillage radish within the black locust once a person starts covering the ground with wood chips.  The following spring, when the tillage radish rots away, it leaves behind a hole which will fill with debris (wood chips).  This should accelerate the rate of organics being incorporated into the soil, and reduce the chance of black locust roots drowning in water if wet.

 
Mihai Ilie
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Gordon,tomorrow il take a picture with a big black locust roots and post it here for you.It doesnt have a taproot indeed but it grows in heavy clay really well .
As for bees ,i have a forest of Tillia 1,5 km away from my apiary.They are good trees but sometimes they become toxic for the bees.They are equally good for beekeeping here as black locust but black locust makes more honney thats superior in taste and costs double than linden honney.
 
Gordon Haverland
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Thank you for the information about the roots, growing in clay, etc.

I will have to look into this toxicity issue for tillia.

I think that putting a deep wood chip mulch on the ground would be good for black locust from a bunch of points of view, not just trying to suppress root sprouting.  I think a person needs to look at the base of the trunk as well, and you can't pile the mulch up against the trunk.  If you made quadrilateral pieces (truncated isosceles  triangles) to produce  sort of a "cone" around the base of the tree, that would keep the mulch from touching the trunk, and shade the base of the trunk.  A low density wood like western red cedar, would insulate that area as well.  Or, make those pieces of of foam insulation  (possibly with skins of fibreglass?).

For most people in this forum, I think the black locust pods will ripen every year.  For me, I suspect most years they won't ripen.  Last year, we had a killing frost on Aug 8 or 9, but we often have a killing frost early in September.  So, the argument about seed production contribution to "invasiveness" is less of an issue here.  If I can get a handle on the sprouting, that defeats much of the rest of the argument.
 
Gordon Haverland
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The Royal Society published a review article on bee deaths related to Tilia in Sept of 2017 (Koch and Stevenson authors).  They seem to have disproven that the bees died from mannose in the tilia flowers.  They looked at many different possible causes, and it seems that there are many different things that seem to be contributing to bee deaths on tilia.

 
steward
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getting a bit far afield here, but this reminds me of bees and sunflowers. all sorts of insects seem to love sunflower pollen and nectar, but they collect it at their peril: I've seen plenty leave behind legs and wings that get stuck to the flowers.
 
Gordon Haverland
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I don't think it is too far afield vis a vis tilia.  It is far a field wrt black locust.

Predation by birds and wasps was one of the things looked at in the paper, and some of the bee deaths could be attributed to such.  Your connection to sunflower is similar in that it is a hazard that is not part of the flower host.

The paper URL is https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsbl.2017.0484
 
Gordon Haverland
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Still reading papers.

A hint of something.  It might be that there are bacteria and/or fungi in the native range of black locust, which have a significant to strong negative effect on them.  To grow elsewhere; where this microflora/fauna issue isn't a problem; "releases" the plant to be "invasive".

One report.  Not statistically significant.

 
Mihai Ilie
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Here are the pictures with the big black locust growing on yellow clay soil and the roots with my foor for size reference.

It seems that it does have a taproot.Also note how the roots engulfed an old fence post that fell to the ground.

And the last picture is the reason why this tree died.It was strangled by the steel ropes ,sadly.
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Gordon Haverland
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Nice pictures.

I have a fairly large willow that seems to be part of someone's idea about being a corner post.  Several strands of barbed wire in it.
 
Gordon Haverland
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I spent a day or so looking for "management" of Black Locust.  By and large, it seems that management means to "quickly kill" black locust.

There are some historic articles which pop up about black locust management, one is mid 1900s (1940?).  I am not sure if I seen one which is pre-1900.  Certainly this mid 1900's document is the most well rounded document on management that I have seen.  But there must be more information out there, that this book doesn't cover.

The tendency to regard management as "quickly kill", seems to be driven by a huge desire to call black locust invasive.

Personally, even if climate were not changing, I would tend to call it aggressive or annoying.  But how does one label something as invasive, when we have no idea what the equilibrium distribution of plants is in a location?  Or quasi-equilibrium.

The "small farms group" (?) at Cornell seems to be a bit better than most.  They talk about coppice and pollard.  A blog by someone who I think works at this Cornell place, talks about cutting shoots over and over again (lawn mower) and brings up  shading the shoots out with tarps.

One blurb seemed to suggest that if a person plants black locust where extensive mulching will be done, that it might lead to the roots being even more "surface oriented".  It may be that what they are talking about, is that fine roots from the black locust might migrate into the surface mulch, to "mine" that for nutrients.  Which doesn't necessarily mean that the tree is any less well anchored to the ground.

I was using seamonkey for surfing, and how I have it set up, it won't let me easily look at PDFs I run across.  So, I saved a number of PDFs, but haven't read them.  At least 2 were from eastern Europe.

I seen nothing about temperature extremes with respect to root/stump sprouting.  Or anything about growing black locust with extensive mulching.

I did see some (one? two?) mentions that some of the insect problems for black (and honey) locust, may come from their only slight shading.  That it may be advantageous (in a plantation or similar), to interplant with trees which cast more shade, to protect the trunks of the trees from pests.
 
Gordon Haverland
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I may have aimed my shotgun at my foot and pulled the trigger.  So to speak.

If people have questions (or hopes to answers) as to whether Black Locust is invasive versus something like just being aggresive, that would be useful to know.

I have a need to produce a tall windbreak, and black locust is part of that.  I have fence posts in need of replacement, and black locust and Osage-orange are part of that.  I have a need for outdoor wood, and honey locust is part of that.

But, I am facing some possibly not completely thought out resistance about black locust.  And the answer may be to set up a "fairly long" term experiment.

For me, does adding wood chips to an array of black locust "sprouts" (from coppicing), reduce or eliminate further sprouting?  Is this a function of mulch depth?

How long does it take to "shade out" black locust that has been started (and experienced one coppicing)?

Are there other things a person can try to "kill" black locust?


The above is worded in terms of how I see most people seeking to "manage" black locust.


How else should "manage" be thought?

 
tel jetson
steward
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Gordon Haverland wrote:How else should "manage" be thought?



you could manage a stand of black locust for quality or quantity of wood, for shoot production, for flowers/nectar, for seeds, for density as a windbreak, for canopy density, for adding biomass or nitrogen to a plot, for visual appeal.
 
Posts: 7
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tel jetson wrote: goats would probably be a decent biological control if black locust suckers and seedlings start getting out of hand. one place there aren't any little locusts is in the long-term goat paddock. there are three big trees, but no seedlings or root suckers. there are poultry in there, too, and so I guess there's also a chance they're eating the seeds.



Yep! Like yours, our goats LOVE black locust. They'll strip the bark from BL saplings even up to 5" diameter trees. The bark changes significantly when the locust gets older, and at that point the goats will ignore it, but until then they act like it is candy, and will run straight to the locust stands in each pasture as we rotate them through. They'll eat locust leaves and bark here even before they eat the grass, and at the same rate as multiflora rose and autumn olive.

Black locust does seem pretty resilient here in USDA zone 7, and it definitely responds to cutting/pruning by growing suckers all over the stump and surrounding roots, but our goats sure can kill it. Their bark-stripping work is the only reason we even have pastures at all, and not just locust groves. So long as the locust is young (under 5" diameter), and the goats get access to it at least twice in a year, it only takes a couple years to kill the tree. Maybe the bark-stripped trunks and branches keep demanding energy from the roots, and use it up, killing the roots instead of promoting suckering from them.

Of course, here in Virginia, there are always more locusts being planted; the seed pods are very popular with wildlife, so we always get new tiny seedlings popping up for the sheep and goats to munch on. Maybe we just need more chickens!
 
Gordon Haverland
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Somebody in some black locust related thread here, had a problem transplanting a young black locust.

I was doing some research into tree roots, and one study apparently found a 4 year old black locust (from seed) which had a root down 4m.

Which might have some impact on transplanting black locust.

I don't know if this was the perfect soil for a black locust, but it was probably a good soil for a black locust.
 
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HI,   I would love some seed. I am trying to tree my lot on all sides. I may have Red bud and Golden chain this fall. Both need scarifide to sprout.  New here , learning about natural growing. Mail to Gramz, At po box 806, Selah Wa.   Need chicks, have 25 so far..my kids want me to move to town. But I love my plants, edible weeds and trees..Chickens love it too.
 
master gardener
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I made this video of my young black locust tree.

It's been growing really fast so far, over 7 feet tall (2 meters) its first year!

 
Posts: 37
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Aaron Tusmith wrote:This is a close-up of a batch of black locust seeds I processed this morning. They look very cool with their different sizes, colors, and patters, seeds are amazing.



I'm surprised to see that much seed variety ! I had a walk today and took some pods off a few trees growing in a nearby park and they all looked alike. The biggest seed pod was 10cm and the biggest seed was a bit over 5mm, they're all black with a tiny white spot where they attach to the pod. Wikipedia and PFAF say that the raw seeds are toxic, but that the toxic component is a toxalbumin named robin that can be destroyed with heat. I'll boil a seed or two and give it a taste without swallowing it to see if I detect bitterness. I've kept every seedpod with 10 seeds or more and further selected to only keep seeds that are bigger than 4mm and will try germinating them.

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Patrick Marchand
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I boiled the seeds in water until they where mushy and while they didnt taste bitter, they didnt taste much of anything ! The texture was kind of ..grainy ? I wonder if that's just to do with the size and if a breed with bigger seeds would be more interesting, but in it's current state, I dont see it being much use except maybe as a flour? I'll do more research on the hungarian bred varieties, maybe they found out interesting traits.
 
pollinator
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I can say that these seeds had just been washed in warm water. I had collected a bag full and crushed the pods in order to separate them from the seeds by removing the material that floated to the top, (the seeds sink). I suspect this saturation brought out their unique colors and varieties as opposed to the usual shiny black seeds found in a typical pod.

As for processing the seeds for food? I've never researched and methods with black locust seeds so I'm very curious.
 
pioneer
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I wanted to share the experiment that I'll be embarking on this year, now that I've foraged a bag full of black locust seeds, and since I didn't see anything like it mentioned in the thread.

I've been observing and debating what to do for the management of the property I'm stewarding. Much of the property is too steep for swales to be practical, and even if they were, I'd have to hand dig them... and that just didn't sound like a good use of my time and energy. I also toyed with the idea of creating terraces, perhaps by chopping and dropping on contour and allowing them to build up over time. And then I came across what might be the most practical example of Mayan and Incan agricultural techniques in, of all places, the latest Tomb Raider game (which was consulted on heavily by archaeologists studying those cultures.)



Now, obviously this shows that posts were buried and then soil filled in behind, which I've also seen an example of on Youtube, courtesy of Farm to Flavor:



But it got my wheels turning.

Given the scale that I'm working on, and the fact that I'll be doing it alone (or at least mostly alone), I was wondering if there was a less labor intensive way to employ essentially the same technique while capturing other benefits. Like, might there be a species that was rot resistant, had a vigorous root system to anchor it in place, could be pollarded to maintain it at a reasonable height while providing stick fuel, tool handles, biochar, biomass, and nitrogen? Obviously black locust was the very first thing that popped into my head.

So, the plan is to plant the black locust on contour on 6-12 inch spacing (as mentioned previously with regard to using locust as a living fence), and then as they reach pollarding height I'll drop at least the largest diameter stuff on the uphill side of the trees and probably do at least a little bit of hilling up with the native clay as show in the video above (though, I may decide that that's too much work with too little benefit... but the clay seems like it might be pretty helpful for stabilizing the whole thing.) Also planning on planting things like sunchokes, comfrey, achira, etc. on the uphill side to chop and drop and slowly level out the terrace, since they'll continue to grow up and through as the soil level rises and help anchor the soil in place (plus provide a food source at the same time.) I'll also burn a lot of the locust in place for biochar to help retain nutrients, etc. Eventually I'll want to kill most of the trees, except what I'll want to continue to harvest for fire wood, etc. I figure that once they reach a diameter where the trunks are touching, or nearly so, I'll do one last pollard and then make a pass through every week throughout the growing season to remove any new growth. Alternatively, I like the idea mentioned above about covering stumps with tarp to exclude light and kill them. I may pollard a good row of trees and then cover the whole row with a tarp to control resprouting. I could also run goats on the terraces to control the suckers. I'm not sure how long such an aggressive management strategy would have to be employed to kill the trees, but eventually I'd effectively be left with a rot-resistant locust wall/row of posts, that will at least last beyond my lifetime, and possibly several more. And even after the locust itself rots away, as long as perennial root mass is maintained on the terraces themselves, they should remain very stable. But I won't live long enough to ever know for sure.

I also figured that a great way to mark the contours of the property would be to use comfrey. I started a comfrey plant from root cutting in a 15 gallon nursery pot with the idea being that I'd let the plant fill the pot with roots, then dump the pot and chop up the roots. Then I could go out with my A-frame level and drop a piece of comfrey root into the ground at every spot indicated by my level, and that would allow me to easily find the contours in the future so I could quickly drop black locust seeds in the ground between the comfrey plants, and on much tighter spacing than my level is measuring.
 
pollinator
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Black Locust is very common here, I use it for everything. When I first came here 20 odd years ago I made corner posts for the garden that are still there. My gardens are both slightly sloped so I laid locust logs on the downhill and over the years they have formed terraces of sorts. I burn locust almost exclusively for my fire wood. In fall I rake up the little leaves, mix with a little compost and use it for my seed starter the next year. We always pig out on the flowers in spring, fried in a light egg batter, better than morel mushrooms in my opinion and mush easier to find. I grow orchids on the bark and sometimes sell it for that on ebay. The frames of my garage, sheds and chicken coops are made of locust.

I have several groves of them and I believe sometimes a grove is actually one organism where each trunk came up off the roots. I think that because in more than one instance where I cut most to use and left a few for shade trees the tall straight ones slowly fall over. I theorize it is because they are all one plant and a lot of the common root system died off. Or maybe the ones left suddenly had all the root to them selves and just grew too tall to fast. They are spectacular to see, a straight bare trunk 50' or more crowned with a spreading canopy of those ferny little leaves, then they tip over.  Large ones that were growing singularly or where its companions were cut while they were still small don't have that issue.

All together I have about maybe two acres all within hand cart distance of the house and lots more a little farther out. They have provided almost all of my fire wood, all my posts, lots of bean poles and more for those twenty plus years.

I loves Black Locust!
 
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Location: Quebec, Canada zone 4a
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I’m going to plant some of these awesome trees next year from seed. Is it better to grow them out in pots for a year or directly planting the seedlings in their permanent spots?
 
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Location: Ione, CA USA (9b)
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I am trying to get a bunch started in raised, air pruning beds. The idea is to let the tap root go down till it hits air causing the roots to grow out rather than down or around as they would in most pots. Then I will transplant to the ground next year...
IMG_0627.jpeg
cloth likned, mesh bottom, raised, air pruning bed
cloth likned, mesh bottom, raised, air pruning bed
 
Donald Smith
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Quick question regarding black locust, when grown from seed, how old do they have to be before they start to make flowers?
 
steward
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Donald Smith wrote:Quick question regarding black locust, when grown from seed, how old do they have to be before they start to make flowers?



It depends, but some I started from seeds in 2014 flowered and produced seeds this past summer (2020). I would have to check, but I think they produced a few flowers the year prior (2019).
 
Mathew Trotter
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Anyone have tips for efficiently threshing the seeds? I picked a big ol' bag of pods the other week, but even after letting them sit and dry out the seeds are still pretty thoroughly attached to the pods, and no amount of stomping and smashing seems to be enough to dislodge more than a few. It won't be the end of the world if I have to pick the seeds out by hand, but I'm really hoping there's a more efficient way to do it before I commit to putting in that much effort.
 
pollinator
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Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
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I have not planted them from seed yet, but just so people know, you can get them very cheap from the VA Forestry online (with enough quantity, about 30 cents/plant).  Now I still got some seed which I will try to sow directly into the ground, I am just choosing to save my air beds for trees that are harder to grow and more expensive.
 
Mike Pulskamp
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Josh, Thank You! That is a great hook-up!
Hopefully they can ship to CA. We have issues...
 
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We might have some of these in Ohio that were put in as ornamentals & naturalized themselves. I am kind of interested, as an old book called Catawba Texts says that my Eastern Siouan ancestors apparently brewed the leaves into beer, which probably means they made tea with it, then let it ferment into beer. Sounds fun.
 
pollinator
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Sadb O'Conner wrote:

tel jetson wrote: goats would probably be a decent biological control if black locust suckers and seedlings start getting out of hand. one place there aren't any little locusts is in the long-term goat paddock. there are three big trees, but no seedlings or root suckers. there are poultry in there, too, and so I guess there's also a chance they're eating the seeds.



Yep! Like yours, our goats LOVE black locust. They'll strip the bark from BL saplings even up to 5" diameter trees. The bark changes significantly when the locust gets older, and at that point the goats will ignore it, but until then they act like it is candy, and will run straight to the locust stands in each pasture as we rotate them through. They'll eat locust leaves and bark here even before they eat the grass, and at the same rate as multiflora rose and autumn olive.

Black locust does seem pretty resilient here in USDA zone 7, and it definitely responds to cutting/pruning by growing suckers all over the stump and surrounding roots, but our goats sure can kill it. Their bark-stripping work is the only reason we even have pastures at all, and not just locust groves. So long as the locust is young (under 5" diameter), and the goats get access to it at least twice in a year, it only takes a couple years to kill the tree. Maybe the bark-stripped trunks and branches keep demanding energy from the roots, and use it up, killing the roots instead of promoting suckering from them.

Of course, here in Virginia, there are always more locusts being planted; the seed pods are very popular with wildlife, so we always get new tiny seedlings popping up for the sheep and goats to munch on. Maybe we just need more chickens!



This is interesting, as I've just been reading about black locust toxicity to goats and had concluded it was probably not a good idea to plant it because of that. What I read was that the leaves were ok when green but toxic if wilted from frost or on cut branches. I also thought the bark and wood were toxic - the only part of the tree that was completely safe being the flowers (which I have eaten as fritters, years ago).

Sounds like your goats are safely eating green leaves, bark and wood of young trees. I think also new twigs of larger trees but not the bark of larger trees.  I may have missed it but what about wilted or dead leaves, and pods? Do those seem safe for goats as well?


 
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