Common Thorn Tree
Species: Gleditsia triacanthos
Risk: Approach with Caution, Partially Edible
The Honey Locust is a common sight in Missouri. This tree should be passed carefully as its entire body, from the trunk to the tips of its branches, is covered in thorns. These thorns can grow anywhere from three to eight inches long and often grow in clusters. Neither the tree nor its thorns carry any harmful poison or toxin.
The leaves of the Honey Locust are doubly compound, meaning they sprout off of a single stem in parallel leaflets. The branches on which they sprout are also covered in thorns. The leaves are safe to touch, although you risk a few pokes should you feel the need to do so.
The only edible part of this tree is the pulp inside the seed pods. The pods fully mature in early Fall. When ripe, the long seed pods become dark brown and begin falling from the tree. Although the seed pods contain edible pulp, these should only be gathered when absolutely necessary.
Careful identification and avoidance of this tree could save you a few nasty pokes. Old and dead branches have a tendency to fall off or be ripped from the tree by the wind. These fallen branches can present a hazard to hikers unaware of their proximity to the Honey Locust. These thorns can puncture shoes and possibly deliver a deep wound. Avoidance is the best policy.
Although the edible seed pods are only available during Autumn, the tree itself remains useful year round. The wood itself is quite sturdy and resistant to rot. The dense canopy under the tree can be used as protection from the sun, provided having dealt with the issue of the thorns. The thorns themselves are possibly the most useful part of the Honey Locust. The thorns have been used as fish hooks, spear heads, nails, sewing needles and small game traps. Gather with caution.