Our Thorn trees are Honey Locust trees, but looking a them the thorns are what we see most of the time. They are found in fence rows or in areas which are not disturbed, like the area just northeast of the beaver pond and along the northern boundary of the park grounds.
Honey locust, Gleditsia triacanthos L.
Leguminosae -- Legume family
Robert M. Blair
Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos), also called sweet-locust or thorny-locust, is a moderately fast growing tree commonly found on moist bottom lands or limestone soils. Because it has proven very hardy and tolerant of drought and salinity, it is widely planted for windbreaks and soil erosion control. The thornless variety has been planted to replace the elm in many urban areas. The wood is dense, hard, and durable but used only locally. Honeylocust pods are sweet and eaten by livestock and wildlife. The tree is relatively short lived, reaching the age of 125 years.
Honeylocust is found scattered in the East-Central United States from central Pennsylvania westward to southeastern South Dakota, south to central and southeastern Texas, east to southern Alabama, then northeasterly through Alabama to western Maryland. Outlying populations of the species may be found in northwestern Florida, west Texas, and west-central Oklahoma. It is naturalized east to the Appalachian Mountains from South Carolina north to Pennsylvania, New York, and New England. Honeylocust attains its maximum development in the valleys of small streams in southern Indiana and Illinois.
Throughout its range, honeylocust generally occurs only as a minor component of natural forest stands. It is included in four forest cover types in the United States. It is an associated species on lowland sites in Bur Oak, especially in the more southerly portions of the type range, and in Willow Oak-Water Oak-Diamondleaf Oak. It is a minor associate in Sweetgum-Willow Oak and Sugarberry-American Elm-Green Ash. Mesophytic species commonly associated with honeylocust include red maple, persimmon, blackgum, pecan, boxelder, Kentucky coffeetree, black walnut, oaks, elms, ashes, and hickories.
Honeylocust fruits are readily eaten by cattle and hogs. The beans of some cultivars contain as much as 12 to 13 percent protein, and the pods contain up to 42 percent carbohydrates. Livestock also eat the young vegetative growth and both the fruit and plants are eaten by snowshoe hares and cottontails. Fruits are also eaten by gray squirrels, fox squirrels, white-tailed deer, bobwhite, starlings, crows, and opossum. Honeylocust is a source of honey during the short flowering period in spring.
Both the common honeylocust and its thornless varieties are planted for erosion control and for wind breaks; the thornless varieties are widely planted as shade and ornamental trees. In many urban areas thornless honeylocust has been planted as a replacement for the American elm.
The wood of honeylocust possesses many desirable qualities but is little used because of its scarcity.
The sapwood is generally wide and yellowish in contrast to the reddish-brown heartwood, providing an attractive grain. The wood is dense, very heavy, very hard, strong in bending, stiff, resistant to shock, and is durable when in contact with soil. It is used locally for fence posts, and also as lumber for pallets, crating, and general construction.