The northern range of the Honey Locust tree runs through Indiana. We ran into a large patch of these trees during our recent walk through McCloud Nature Park.
These trees have an alien look to them with long spikes and large brown pods. The spikes are 3 inches long on average up to as much as 8 inches! However, they are not dense enough to prevent deer and other animals from chewing on the bark. The young green thorns are soft. As the thorns age they harden and change to red. At the end of the life cycle, the thorns become brittle and turn ashen in color.
The pods start out as bright green then dry and ripen turning brown or maroon. The skin is tough and seals the pulp inside. Native Americans made use of the sweet pulp as a food. Beans found in the pods are a source of tannin.
(Click on any picture to open the gallery for a closer look!)
Honey locust wood is high quality and used in furniture, posts and rails. Red hardened thorns were sometimes used as nails in the recent past (you would not want to take one of these in a foot or a hand, or anywhere else for that matter.)
Although honey locust finds use as an ornamental tree (including some sub-varieties that are without thorns), farmers consider these nuisance plants because they spread quickly and grow in very dense groups.