Honey locust, thorny locust (Eng); acacia de tres espinas, acacia de tres púas (Spa); acàcia de tres punxes (Cat); arkazia hiruarantza (Baq); espinheiro-da-Virgínia (Por).
DID YOU KNOW...? A substance is extracted from this tree's fruit that is used to thicken and give consistency to jams, ice creams, cakes, creams, toothpastes, soaps, paper, and fabrics.
This is a large, stocky tree that can be up to 40 m tall, with smooth and fissured grey bark. It often has large steely spines that develop in groups of three, with a thick central thorn and two finer, side spines, which is the origin of its Latin name. The leaves are deciduous, alternate, 20-40 cm long, and composed of 8-20 leaflets, always in an even number (even-pinnate). These leaflets are oval, 1-3.5 cm long with slightly crenate or very finely toothed margins, so they may seem entire. The flowers are greenish and are grouped into hanging strands. The fruits are large, showy legumes that often remain on the tree after the leaves have fallen. They are similar to those of the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua), but are somewhat longer and narrower. They measure 20-40 cm in length by 2.5-5 cm in width, and are coffee coloured.
The honey locust is fast-growing and easily adapts to a wide range of conditions. It can withstand pollution and extreme climates, as well as severe pruning. When established in the wild it prefers a cool climate with deep soils. It often invades its surroundings thanks to suckers from the roots. As a species that grows best in full sun rather than thickly wooded areas, it tends to live in more open terrain. Its excellent adaptation to the temperate climate of the Canary Islands has favoured it becoming naturalised in a scattered way, in several places on the midslopes, or medianías (zones between altitudes of 600 and 1500 m), and even in the highest summit zones.
The honey locust is native to central and eastern North America. From 1700 onwards it was introduced as an ornamental into southern and central Europe, as well as other temperate regions of the planet. It can currently be found on some islands in the Canaries, planted as an ornamental, particularly along streets, boulevards and in parks. It has also become naturalised and can be found scattered across Gran Canaria. Included in the Atlas of invasive alien plants of Spain.