Water Locust Tree

Water Locust (Gleditsia aquatica) belongs to the genus of locust tree in the family Fabaceae which is a pea and bean family. It is native to North America and Asia. Water locust tree is very similar to its relative honey locust. This locust tree can be found in river swamps and slough margins. The leaves are alterante, pinnately or bipinnately compound with 14 to 20 oval leaflets each about 1 inch long. The flowers are greenish white and are about 2 inch long. The fruit is flat, brown and looks like round pod. It is 2 inches long and each flower contains 1 to 3 seeds. The twig is slender to moderate and gray to brown in color. The bark is smooth and grey, often mottled.

Water locust tree is small to medium size and grows up to 50 feet. It grows in a spreading shape and open crown. Water locust tree is related to the Kentucky Coffee tree and the vine Wisteria. It’s a very healthy three that attracts and adds interest and value to landscapes. Water locust trees provide cover for birds and small animals for nesting and hiding from predators. The variety of thorny specimen of water locust tree is one of the thorniest trees found. Thorns grow directly from the trunk and can grow up to a foot in lenght. This native thorny species of locust is found in Illinois on both sides of the Mississippi River. They are usually planted in fence rows and pastures.

Photo By: Pam Fray

Water locust tree is a very common tree in the United States. It provides food and shelter to many animals, attracts wildlife and most importantly it sequesters large amounts of carbon dioxide.