Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Black locust blossoms

Flowers of Robinia pseudoacacia


Here in south central Kentucky, black locust (Robinia psudoacacia) is blooming. Several stands of young black locusts grow along the lane that leads uphill from the highway to our house. I enjoy the lovely fragrance of the blossoms each spring, and enjoy the memories of them until spring arrives again.

Bees are also drawn to the fragrance of the nectar-rich blossoms. An acre of honeylocust is said to produce 800 to 1200 pounds of honey. Moreover, the black locust blooms late enough in spring that the blossoms are rarely damaged by frost; thus, black locust is a reliable annual source for bees.

The benefits of planting black locust for honeybees have long been recognized. The following quotation from G. W. Demaree of Kentucky was included in a 1919 beekeeping manual:

"The time of year in which it blooms, nearly filling the interval between the late fruit-bloom and the white clover, makes it an exceedingly valuable auxiliary to the honey harvest in the Middle States, if not elsewhere. It is a most profuse honey-bearer, rivaling the famous linden in quality, and only inferior to the product of the latter in color.

Locust honey cannot be said to be dark in color. It is of rich pale-red color, when liquid; but when in the shape of combhoney, its appearance, if removed from the hive when first finished, is but little inferior to that of superior clover honey. It becomes exceedingly thick, if left with the bees till the cells are thoroughly sealed, and its keeping qualities are therefore most excellent.

The trees are planted by the side of fences, in waste places, and on poor, worn out lands. They may be propagated from the seeds, or by transplanting the young trees from one to three years old. If the ground is plowed in the spring, and the locust seeds planted on the hills with corn, or with other hill-crops, and cultivated the first year, the young trees will grow with great rapidity, even on very poor lands."

Source: First Lessons in Beekeeping (p. 123) by Camille Pierre Dadant. Published in 1919 by the American Bee Journal of Hamilton, Illinois.

4 comments -- please add yours:

Polly said...

You are right about the black locusts helping bees. My dad has bee hives on his farm and they always do very well because of the black locust blooms.

I really enjoy your blog.

Genevieve said...

Thanks for visiting, Polly. I hope you'll continue reading Tree Notes. (It shouldn't be too hard to keep up -- I don't have time to post as often as I would like!)

Deborah A. Miranda said...

Black locust blossoms are also DELICIOUS when eaten straight off the tree or in salads. The earlier the better, though; I'm told they get a little off after a few days. No wonder the bees love 'em - these are right up there with redbud blossoms for eating, in my opinion. -- love this blog,by the way. We live on 68 acres in the Shenandoah Valley - trees are a huge part of our lives.

Genevieve said...

Deborah, I have driven through the Shenandoah Valley in spring -- it is beautiful.

I can imagine that black locust and redbud blossoms would be tasty enough. After all, they both belong to the legume family and we humans eat various sorts of legumes.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

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Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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