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Black Locust Uses

 
Ben Falk
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Location: Mad River Valley, VT
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Would love to add to an ongoing list friends and I are making (we eventually would like to make an ode-to t-shirt.).

(Robinia pseudoacacia)/black locust uses:


  • [li]Soil-building (nitrogen fixation, fast and widespread root penetration)
    Building materials - fast and about as rot resistant as it gets
    Living fence
    Snow fence
    Security fence
    Nectary (they say an acre of BL can make more honey than anything)
    Animal fodder (super high in protein and other nutrients
    Windbreak
    Fuelwood and coppice[/li]
    [li][/li]
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    maikeru sumi-e
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    It's my understanding it makes good fodder for goats, but what about other animals? I've heard it's deadly to chickens. In many respects, it's a wonderful tree.
     
                                        
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    It's good for bow-making.
     
    Matt Ferrall
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    Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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    unlike most hardwoods which shrink and expand with the elements,Black Locust wood is(I have read)hard enough to use in cord-wood construction.Im working on a black locust cob-wood building right now so we shall soon(1-2yrs)see!
     
    Charlie Michaels
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    edible blossums too
     
                                
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    The edible blossoms should not be understated. They're like tree-candy in the spring. Yum!

    The black locust is a significant tree for reforestation, I'd say. Here in part of its native range (Southern Appalachians) when you walk through the forests -- many of which have been logged at some point over the last century -- you see many standing dead locust trees. If you see a standing dead locust tree, the Cracked-Cap Polypore Ganoderma appalanatum is probably growing on it. What seems to happen is the Locust grows up fast, then all the other trees reach the canopy and shade it out, killing it and then feed on its slowly decaying biomass...

    Also the locusts here get eaten up starting around June and are largely defoliated by August. Haven't been around long enough to know if this is a new trend, but that's what seems to be happening.

    These are my layman's observations and conjectures.
     
    Guy De Pompignac
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    Location: SW of France
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    Great fodder for rabbits :

    http://ojs.upv.es/index.php/wrs/article/view/332/319
     
    Charles Kelm
    Posts: 170
    Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
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    I didn't know anything about this BL until I got a pickup truck load of it from an ad on Craigslist.  I did some research and found out how great it is for firewood.  I have a very swampy property for half of the year.  There are many dead and dying cottonwood trees which I am planning to use in hugelkultr projects.  In their place I hope to plant black locust.  I guess I will have to build the earth up there in order to keep the new trees out of the standing water.
     
    Jamie Jackson
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    As a joke at the end you could add "tire-popper".  We love our block locust trees but when neighbors come over, that's what they call them. 
     
    Charles Kelm
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    Sparticle - how is it popping their tires... the hard seeds?
     
    Jamie Jackson
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    The thorns on the trees.  I guess when the branches fall where they drive? 
     
    maikeru sumi-e
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    permaguy wrote:
    Great fodder for rabbits :

    http://ojs.upv.es/index.php/wrs/article/view/332/319


    Good to know. I'm trying to compile a list of what animals thrive and don't thrive on black locust.

    Mmm, tire popper? I'll remember that...<evil laugh>.
     
    Charles Kelm
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    Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
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    Anybody know the pros and cons of the THORNLESS HONEYLOCUST (Gleditsia tricanthos inermis) versus BLACK LOCUST (Robinia pseudoacacia)?
     
    Guy De Pompignac
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    maikeru wrote:
    Good to know. I'm trying to compile a list of what animals thrive and don't thrive on black locust.

    Mmm, tire popper? I'll remember that...<evil laugh>.



    I'm interested in such a list, if you could share
     
                                
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    PermForLife wrote:
    Anybody know the pros and cons of the THORNLESS HONEYLOCUST (Gleditsia tricanthos inermis) versus BLACK LOCUST (Robinia pseudoacacia)?


    depends on what you want to do. honey locust is widely represented as a "nitrogen-fixer" but there is doubt about that.
     
    Mick Cressman
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    Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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    I've also read that honeylocust doesn't fix nitrogen, but it grows well on nitrogen-poor soils and it produces a high protein "bean" in enormous quantities.   Looks like a duck, sounds like a duck.  Here's a link that, among other things, briefly describes the state of research on the matter

    http://faculty.virginia.edu/honeylocust-agroforestry/agroforestry/HoneylocustAgroforestry.htm

    From the link:
    "Further research now being conducted will most likely confirm the ability of honeylocust to fix nitrogen although at lower levels than nodulating leguminous species."

    Myself, I'm putting in Honey  over Black simply because the sweet pulpy pods seem more useful to me than the dry, small-seeded, crunchy ones.
     
                                        
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    to my knowledge the wood of honey locust is less dense (not as good for firewood)
     
                                          
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    Can't give a reason why but no one here has locust trees near the house or barn due to their propensity for drawing lightening.  Thickets of them grow up and are hard to get rid of if you decide to.  Sure not one of my favorite trees.
     
    Jamie Jackson
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    At our house in NY, apparently a VERY large Black locust was eaten out in the middle by big ants.  We got a wind storm and the tree went into the house.  I mean INTO the house.  Had to get a whole new roof. 
     
    ronie dee
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    sparticle wrote:
    At our house in NY, apparently a VERY large Black locust was eaten out in the middle by big ants.  We got a wind storm and the tree went into the house.  I mean INTO the house.  Had to get a whole new roof. 


    Are you sure it wasn't a Honey Locust? I find many people who have the identity of the locusts backwards.

    I have carpenter ants that love to tear up wood, but not an ant ever touches the Black Locust. The ants and other bugs will treat the Honey Locust like, it was honey.
     
    Jamie Jackson
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    Everyone said it was a black locust.  We don't live there anymore, so no way to check the other trees. 
     
                              
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    How well does it chop and cut?  How does this change as it dries?

    Dan
     
    paul wheaton
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    We lived for 4 years on a farm in SW Wisconsin that had black locust on the property. 

    Pros

    - Can be used as firewood "green".  We would regularly cut black locust in the summer and burn it that winter, and it burns hot and long.  In fact, last winter we heated primarily with black locust cut that summer, and we used about 25% less wood then winters when we used primarily well seasoned red oak.

    - Can be substituted for "treated" lumber in outdoor construction projects.  Our cabin had an outdoor solar shower that was built out of black locust, and without so much as a coat of linseed oil it was still rock solid after 7 years of operation

    - Fixes nitrogen

    - Grows very fast, and fairly straight.  It's not uncommon to get good 15 sections of straight trunk.

    - Goats LOVE it

    Cons

    - VERY invasive.  This tree will take over your property if left to its own devices.  There was a field that the previous owner had given over to the locust, and it is now an absolutely impenetrable thicket of black locust and multi flora rose.  It was creeping into our prairies, and we would have to hit those patches 4 times a year with the brush cutter to keep it down.  It grows right back from a stump.  The only method we have seen to be effective (and I am not advocating this by any means) is cutting them down in fall, when the sap is being pulled back to the roots, and putting a drop or two of round up on the freshly cut stump.  I will never use round up for any reason, but so far, this is the only thing i've seen kill a black locust.

    - VERY dense and difficult to work with.  You need to pre drill for any kind of fastener, nails included, and the drill bit will get to smoking in there. 

    - Tough to split.  I enjoy splitting by hand, but I always broke out the hydraulic splitter for this stuff.  It doesn't really split, or "pop" apart like good hardwoods, it's very fibrous, and the wedge is forcing it apart all the way through it's stroke.

    - Those thorns will puncture tractor tires.


    All that being said, I'm CONSIDERING planting it on my new, locust free property for it's uses as a building material and a heat source.  Also, the leaves are a great treat for the goats.
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Per mrchuck and wildeyes, I found this video about eating, cooking and storing the blossoms (YouTube showed it as related to the one Paul just posted):



    Now I really want to harvest some blossoms this spring!   

    (Though did anyone else think that guy was dangling a mouse by the tail at the beginning, not a flower fritter? Ha!)
     
                        
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    Perhaps if it already growing on your land it is to be used, tolerated. As was pointed out in many places it is not wanted.

    Web link to plants/trees that are alien invaders of some natural areas. I don't think we really want to encourage proliferation in the wrong places. Many items on the list were first used as ornamentals and then escaped into the wild.
     
    John Polk
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    To add to your list of uses:

    Crush leaves in cold water.  Use the tea to kill fleas.

    Although that last video said NOT to eat the seeds, the native Americans would boil the seeds and eat them.

    Because of their rapid growth, they have been utilized for erosion control.

    <img src="http://img600.imageshack.us/img600/3098/luettegalgenberg2542906.jpg" alt="Image Hosted by ImageShack.us"/><br/>
     
    Nacho Collado
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    how are they planted? Using seeds form seedpods or cuttings? and when is the best time to plant them?
     
    gary gregory
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    etomaro wrote:
    We lived for 4 years on a farm in SW Wisconsin that had black locust on the property. 

    Cons

    - VERY invasive.  This tree will take over your property if left to its own devices.  There was a field that the previous owner had given over to the locust, and it is now an absolutely impenetrable thicket of black locust and multi flora rose.  It was creeping into our prairies, and we would have to hit those patches 4 times a year with the brush cutter to keep it down.  It grows right back from a stump.  The only method we have seen to be effective (and I am not advocating this by any means) is cutting them down in fall, when the sap is being pulled back to the roots, and putting a drop or two of round up on the freshly cut stump.  I will never use round up for any reason, but so far, this is the only thing i've seen kill a black locust.


    I've never known it to be invasive.   We have some 100 year old trees here and I have planted a lot of new ones.   They don't spread and only a few come up from seed each year.   How long are the thorns on the ones you had?    Black locust thorns are at most 1/2" long.
     
    Dan D. Lyons
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    I 2nd the vote for edible flowers!  They are fantastic mixed into a pancake batter for BL fritters or dried for a tasty mid-winter tea.  I've experimented with coppicing some BL here and if you coppice them, the will sucker profusely and not exactly where you want them.  I light thinning or pollarding for fuelwood seems to send out less suckers than a wholesale coppicing. BL is like creeping comfrey and osage orange, handle it with care or it can become VERY invasive.

    I think some posters are referring to honey locust when they think long, sharp thorns. Black locusts don't generally have thorns on the trunk especially on older trees. Younger trees will have trunk thorns of less than 1". Honey locust has a darker, smoother bark and they have long sharp thorn on the trunk and branches. Honey locust also have much bigger seed pods that are long and sometimes curly.  The seeds pods of honey locust are often used as "sweet feed" for livestock and a sedating treat for that cow or goat who doesn't like to be milked.
     
    Xisca Nicolas
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    I have lived as a child in a place full of black locust, that we call acacia in French.

    - "Miel d'acacia" is one the the most valued honey, that does not crystallize. It stays liquid and is yellow, with a mild very sweet taste. The biggest producer in Europe seems to be Hungary. You can store hazel nuts or almonds in it, and it makes delicious treats...

    - The flowers are commonly eaten as "beignet" in spring. Any recipe mixing flour and water + all you want such as eggs will do! Deep the whole blossom in it and direct to the frying pan!
    ... but I prefer sambucus nigra flowers for this use!

    - It can grow in lime (basic pH).

    - It can expand with suckers and regrows after coppicing. Yes it was used for fire. It is invasive and most of the little forest was black locust, and noone complained about it!

    - It is mainly valued as fence posts. Some people had started to think about outdoor furniture instead of teak...

    If someone please can tell about its requirements in water, sun, cold + heat tolerance...
    Sure it can stand cold, but does it NEED it?
     
    andrew curr
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    Charles Kelm wrote:Anybody know the pros and cons of the THORNLESS HONEYLOCUST (Gleditsia tricanthos inermis) versus BLACK LOCUST (Robinia pseudoacacia)?


    The honey locust yields of pods are greater/ac
    YOU could replace the feedlot sector with permaculture if YOU wanted in 20 years (That is about when YOU will run out of oil)
     
    Akiva Silver
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    One exceptional use for black locust is that they allow a lot of light to penetrate their canopy creating an ideal place for other young trees and shrubs to grow. They are pioneers coming into fields and paving the way for trees like oak and hickory. I always thought they would make a nice over story for a shade tolerant crop like currants or gooseberries.
    By the way, did your trees arrive safe and sound Ben?
    Akiva
     
    Rebecca Norman
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    Akiva Silver wrote:One exceptional use for black locust is that they allow a lot of light to penetrate their canopy creating an ideal place for other young trees and shrubs to grow.


    I always read this, but our one black locust that has reached any size gives a very solid dark block of shade, very attractive on a roasting sunny summer day. And we're planning to pollard it next year -- Our pollarded willows give MUCH denser shade than the unpollarded ones.

    Do you know if a pollarded black locust usually gives denser shade than an unpollarded one? And by the way, do black locust poles from pollarding make the same kind of dense hot firewood that split logs do?
     
    Steve Hoskins
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    We have BL canopy over gooseberry and currant that was abandoned for years and thrived.
    Same with hops growing up them.

    They bud and leaf out later than many other trees, which allows much needed spring sunlight penetration. Then they seem to provide just the right summer shade, provided they are spaced properly.

    We have also had to cut down a few heart rotted hazard trees that were close to the house.

    It's our primary fire wood.
     
    paul wheaton
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    Spring rolls with black locust blossoms: "The beautiful flowers have an indescribable ambrosia scent, and a flavor that's like the sweetest of sweet peas mixed with flowers and a hint of vanilla. They are one of the freshest tastes I can think of, spring-like and bright-tasting"



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