Interesting Facts About Black Locust: Toxic To Humans And Livestock

The Black Locust is native to the Eastern United States. It was brought to the Western United States (California) by gold miners, who grew the plant for mining timbers. Once in California, it was planted because the wood made excellent railroad timbers.
Black Locust was later brought overseas to France in the 1600’s. In France the wood was used for shipbuilding, the flowers were used in cooking, and the fruit was used as a coffee substitute.
Black Locust is a very hardy and competitive plant. It adapts well to a variety of soils and can survive droughts and harsh winters. It reproduces by root suckering and stump sprouting to form clones, which are all connected by a fibrous root system. Because of this, Black Locust can be hard to control. Even though it grows very fast (it can reach heights of 50-100 feet), it rarely lives to be 100 years old.
Here are some interesting facts about black locust:
1. Black locust reproduces both sexually via flowers, and asexually via root suckers. Insects pollinate the flowers, mainly Hymenopteran insects. The physical construction of the flower separates the male and female parts so that self-pollination will not typically occur.
The seedlings grow rapidly but they have a thick seed coat that means that not all seeds will germinate. The seed coat can be weakened via hot water, sulfuric acid, or be mechanically scarified and this will allow a greater quantity of the seeds to grow. The seeds are produced in good crops every year or every-other year.
2. The bark, leaves, and wood are toxic to both humans and livestock. Important constituents of the plant are the toxalbumin robin, which loses its toxicity when heated, and robinin, a nontoxic glucoside.
Horses that consume the plant show signs of anorexia, depression, incontinence, colic, weakness, and cardiac arrhythmia. Symptoms usually occur about 1 hour following consumption, and immediate veterinary attention is required.
3. Today the Black Locust is primarily used to stop soil erosion and it is also important in bee keeping. It is often planted near hives so the bees can get nectar from flowers and make honey. The wood is also important, and it is used in shipbuilding (yachts), furniture, and fence posts.
4. The Black Locust is a very hardy plant, but it’s susceptible to damage from two native insects: the locust borer and the locust leaf miner. The Locust Borer only attacks the Black Locust. It tunnels into the trees trunk and branches and weakens the tree, making it susceptible to wind damage.
5. Black locust has nitrogen-fixing bacteria on its root system, so it can grow on poor soils and is an early colonizer of disturbed areas. With fertilizer prices rising, the importance of black locust as a nitrogen-fixing species is also noteworthy.
The mass application of fertilizers in agriculture and forestry is increasingly expensive; therefore, nitrogen-fixing tree and shrub species are gaining importance in managed forestry.
6. Black locust is a major honey plant in the eastern US, and has been planted in European countries. In many European countries, it is the source of the renowned acacia honey. Flowering starts after 140 growing degree-days.
However, its blooming period is short (about ten days) and it does not consistently produce a honey crop year after year. Weather conditions can have quite an effect on the amount of nectar collected, as well; in Ohio for example, good locust honey flow happens in one of five years.
7. In Romania, the flowers are sometimes used to produce a sweet and perfumed jam. This means manual harvesting of flowers, eliminating the seeds and boiling the petals with sugar, in certain proportions, to obtain a light sweet and delicate perfume jam.

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