Honey Locust Thorns

Every year honey locust seeds drift into my garden. I pull up dozens of the little trees. Some I reach for and find I have a handful of honey locust thorns.

Some seedlings come up armed with half inch needle thorns. Most do not. The grown trees are the same.

honey locust tree
From a distance a honey locust tree looks like a tree. What sets them apart is the hazy look around the trunk caused by the thorns. Even the thorns don’t keep deer or goats from chewing on the bark so this tree is protected as the goats do value the shade in the summer as a favorite lay up spot in this pasture during hot weather.

Somewhere I read that, although honey locust trees have both male and female flowers on them, some have more female ones. These are the ones covered with thorns. I’m skeptical.

The prize winner of the honey locust thorns was a whopping sixteen inches long. Most are half that. Those on twigs and small branches may be a mere two or three inches long.

thorns make useful tools
Anyone who has ever driven a rubber tire over a honey locust thorn knows they are hard as nails and very sharp. Only trees that have been attacked by deer or goats make huge numbers of long thorns.

Small thorns are generally a single barb pointing up. Longer thorns have side thorns on them. The small ones are the most dangerous.

Honey locust branches are easily broken off, especially when they are small. These barbed booby traps sink down into the grass. The thorns last for years, hard and sharp. Any foot or tire that goes over them may regret it.

small honey locust thorns
This small two inch thorn may not look that fearsome. It will flatten a tractor tire. If you are a four inch tall Carduan, it will be very useful as a weapon. Think about porcupine quills. Not too many would be predators want a mouthful of thorns.

On a honey locust trunk the thorns grow in clusters. The color varies. Old thorns weather into a dull grey. New thorns are shiny reddish brown. Others are intermediate.

Scattered clumps of short thorns adorn a honey locust trunk. Then a deer or a goat comes by and starts nibbling. The number and length of the thorns increases. Some trees end up with their trunks so lined with thorn clusters its hard to see the bark. It does deter the goats.

honey locust thorns
This honey locust hasn’t been bothered much. It has small thorn clusters up to four inches long. The tree is in an old cow pasture that is hayed, but no livestock. If deer browse on the bark, more thorn clusters will appear and the thorns will be much longer. The tree got its name because of the sweet pulp inside its seed pods. The flowers drip with nectar as well and attract lots of insects.

Why the interest in honey locust thorns? As I write “The Carduan Chronicles” I find these small aliens need to defend themselves and hunt for game. These thorns are ideal.

The thorns are hard, sharp, fairly easy to get, come in a variety of lengths. They will definitely discourage a predator that doesn’t want a mouthful of thorns. They can double as a spear to bring down small game animals. Then there are the various other uses: walking stick, digging stick, lever.

Honey locust thorns are very useful indeed.