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Black Locust

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Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) is fittingly described as “a lumber yard in a single species” by whole systems designer Ben Falk. Garden historian Wesley Greene goes even further and calls it “the tree on which the US was built”, for its role in helping to build Jamestown and harden the navy that decided the War of 1812.

“It’s one of the most rot resistant woods one can grow in the temperate region and effectively replaces our lost chestnut in this regard.” – Ben Falk

Another common name is false acacia. You might have heard of “acacia honey”. That’s honey from bees who have foraged on the black locust tree.

Black Locust tree

Why We Like It

There are a bunch of properties that makes the black locust stand out from other trees.

  • It puts nitrogen in the soil from the atmosphere (nitrogen fixing), thus nourishing it.
  • It grows fast, 3-5x faster than chestnut. (take note: it’s classified as an invasive species in New York state)
  • It has an edible flower (the rest of the tree should be considered toxic, especially the bark).
  • The wood is very rot resistant and makes excellent lumber and fence posts
  • It also makes incredibly hard and durable wood for tool handles furniture, flooring, paneling, and more.
  • It’s one of the best forage sources for bees.

Because it is so unusual the rot resistance of this species is alone reason enough to grow it and it’s featured in New England farmyards for the past couple hundred years for this reason alone – as fence post producers. – Ben Falk, WholeSystemsDesign.com

Interesting fact: As a young man, Abraham Lincoln spent much of his time splitting rails and fence posts from black locust logs.

Black Locust blossoms

Black Locust blossoms along Federal City Road at Interstate 95 in Lawrence Township, New Jersey

Where To Get It

United States

Raintree Nursery ($3.75, or $2 each when you order 10+)
Cold Stream Farm (Various sizes. From $2.41 when buying 4+)
Willis Orchard (from $8.95 depending on size)

Europe

Agroforestry Research Trust (£4 / ~$6.2)
Seeds: Agroforestry Research Trust (£2.15 / $3.36 for 40 seeds)


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