Robinia pseudoacacia, Black Locust

Gardens & Landscapes, Invasive Species, Extension Master Gardener November 10, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Invasive Species: Robinia pseudoacacia, Black Locust

Black locust is a deciduous tree that, while native to parts of the United States, has spread to and become invasive in other parts of the country. Trees grow from 40 to 100 ft. (12 to 30 m) in height. They grow upright in forests but develop an open growth form in more open areas. Leaves are pinnately compound with seven to 21 small, round leaflets per leaf. Leaflets are 1.5 in. (4 cm) long. A pair of long, stipular spines is found at the base of most leaves. Flowering occurs in the spring, when flowers develop in 8 in. (20.3 cm) long clusters. The showy, fragrant, white to yellow flowers give way to a smooth, thin seed pod that is 2 to 4 in. (5.1 to 10.2 cm) in length. The bark of black locust is light brown, rough, and becomes very furrowed with age. Black locust is native to the southern Appalachians, the Ozarks, and other portions of the Midsouth but is considered an invasive species in the prairie and savanna regions of the Midwest, where it can dominate and shade those open habitats.

What are invasive species and why should we be concerned about them? 


Taxonomy: Scientific and Common Names for This Species

Fabales > Fabaceae > Robinia pseudoacacia L.

Synonym(s): false acacia, yellow locust

Robinia pseudoacacia - USDA PLANTS Profile

Distribution Maps

Black locust - The reported distribution of this invasive species across the United States (Source: Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States)

Up-to-the-minute distribution maps and why they are important 

Reporting This Invasive Species

What is the best way and place to report the occurrence of an invasive species? 

How to report an invasive species sighting to EDDMapS - Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System

EDDMapS - Report an invasive species to EDDMapS.

Cooperative Extension Offices - Find your local Cooperative Extension office on this map provided by USDA.

How to Identify

This invasive species can be identified by looking for the characteristics described in the paragraphs that follow.

Tree

A deciduous tree that grows from 40 to 100 ft. (12 to 30 m) in height. The bark of black locust is light brown, rough, and becomes very furrowed with age.

Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, bugwood.org Paul Wray, Iowa State University, bugwood.org

Foliage

Leaves are pinnately compound with seven to 21 small, round leaflets per leaf. Leaflets are 1.5 in. (4 cm) long. A pair of long, stipular spines is found at the base of most leaves.

Paul Wray, Iowa State University, bugwood.org Robert Videki, Doronicum Kft., bugwood.org

Flower

Flowering occurs in the spring, when showy, fragrant, white to yellow flowers develop in 8 in. (20.3 cm) long clusters.

Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, bugwood.org Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, bugwood.org

Fruit

Fruit is a smooth, thin seed pod that is 2 to 4 in. (5.1 to 10.2 cm) in length.

Ken Chamberlain, The Ohio State University, bugwood.org Keith Kanoti, Maine Forest Service, bugwood.org

Native Species That Can Resemble Black Locust

Robinia hispida, bristly locust, Bugwood.org

Richard Webb, Self-employed horticulurist, Bugwood.org Robert Videki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org

Robinia neomexicana, New Mexico locust, Bugwood.org

Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org William M. Ciesla, Forest Health Management International, Bugwood.org

Additional Images for Black Locust

Black locust - Images at Invasive.org

Learning Resources for Black Locust

Robinia pseudoacacia Identification Card - US Fish & Wildlife Service

Robinia pseudoacacia Fact Sheet - US Fish & Wildlife Service

Additional Information, Biology, Control and Management Resources

Control and management recommendations vary according to individual circumstances. Location, habitat, weather, and a variety of other conditions are factors that help determine the best treatment choice. To find the safest and most effective treatment for your situation, consult your state's land-grant institution. If you will use chemicals as part of the control process, always refer to the product label.

United States Land-Grant University System - Find your land-grant university's college of agriculture, Cooperative Extension office, or other related partner on this map provided by USDA

Fire Effects Information System - US Forest Service

Silvics of North America - US Forest Service

Element Stewardship Abstract - The Nature Conservancy

Weeds Gone Wild: Alien Plant Invaders of Natural Areas - Plant Conservation Alliance

Invasive Plant Atlas of New England - University of Connecticut


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.