Trees For Bees – The Black Locust

black locust tree

Did you know that trees provide most of the surplus nectar and pollen for bees? Or that 5 or 6 trees produce as much nectar and pollen as a whole field of wildflowers?

Most people don’t. That’s unfortunate because planting a tree, especially in an urban area, is one of the most effective things you can do to help save the bees.

The benefits of planting Black Locust for honeybees have long been recognized. Bees are drawn to the fragrance of the nectar-rich blossoms. An acre of Black Locust is said to produce 800 to 1200 pounds of honey. Moreover, the Black Locust blooms late enough in spring that the blossoms are rarely damaged by frost; thus, it is a reliable annual source for bees.

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In Europe the Black Locust tree is considered to be highly prized as an urban street specimen, because it tolerates air pollution very well. The graceful white flower racemes that hang from the branches are extremely fragrant and perfume the air for shopping pedestrians.

The aromatic Back Locust flowers begin blooming in May and are considered edible and tasty like citrus flowers. Ironically, all other parts of the Black Locust tree are poisonous and should not be planted near livestock grazing sites. The lacy leaves are airy and constantly flutter in the slightest breeze. Leaflets can grow about eighteen in number and are attached to a midrib one foot in length. At night the leaves fold up as daylight fades, and likewise, the Black Locust tree leaves will contract during rain. In the Fall the deep green leaves that are silvery green underneath, turn bright yellow, and because of their tiny size do not need raking when fallen on the ground and then disappear in the grass as a fine mulch.

The Black Locust tree is a very fast growing tree that can produce a 4 foot trunk diameter and on old trees can reach 100 feet in height. This fast growing tree characteristic will rapidly enrich poor soils, because the Black Locust tree is a legume, so that nitrogen fixing bacteria grow into root nodules loaded with nitrogen organics. The Black Locust trees are very cold hardy, native American trees that range from the North Georgia mountains to Pennsylvania and then grow Westward to Oklahoma.