The honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos L.) is a legume tree up to 25-45 m high. It is deciduous with a long leaf retention period. It has a deep taproot growing down 3-6 m deep and few lateral roots that make it suitable for agroforestry systems (Postma, 2005). In young plants, stems bear very large, flat thorns and the young trees form very dense thorny thickets (FAO, 2012). The older tree has an erect, short trunk, 50-90 cm in diameter, which is many branched and forms a large open and spreading crown (Seiler et al., 2011; Orwa et al., 2009). The branches are covered with clusters of large and flat thorns (Orwa et al., 2009; Ong, 2001). The leaves are sparse, alternate, 15-20 cm long, pinnately compound, bearing bright green leaflets that are oblong, small (25-40 mm long x 15 mm broad) and sparse (Seiler et al., 2011; Orwa et al., 2009; Postma, 2005). The inflorescence is a fragrant, pending raceme, up to 7 cm long (Seiler et al., 2011). The small and greenish-white flowers can be male (preponderant), female or hermaphrodite and are generally found on different branches of the same tree (Seiler et al., 2011; Orwa et al., 2009). Fruits are flat, curved, many seeded pods, 15-40 cm long, dark shining brown and leathery, that become twisted as they mature. The pods contain 0.5-1.5 cm long, smooth beanlike seeds embedded in a pulpy tissue (Seiler et al., 2011; Ong, 2001). Pods mature during late summer and early autumn and are shed from the tree during winter without opening (FAO, 2012).
The honey locust tree has many uses. The sweet pulp has always attracted animals and people alike, when better sweets are not available. The pods are readily eaten by many wild and domesticated animal species, including cattle, goats, deer, squirrel, rabbits, quail and starlings (Duke, 1983). The pods are edible and can be used as a vegetable. The pod pulp is fermented to produce alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage (Ecocrop, 2012). Roasted seeds are used as a coffee substitute (Orwa et al., 2009). Pods and foliage are a valuable fodder for all classes of livestock and the honey locust tree is particularly suited as a fodder tree in drier areas. The flowers are a source of nectar for bees, which gives the tree its vernacular name. The hard timber is used for firewood, construction and various crafts (Ecocrop, 2012; Orwa et al., 2009). The trunk, pods and bark are used in ethno-medicine. The honey locust tree is used for environmental purposes (see Environmental impact), as an agroforestry species and as an ornamental species in gardens, parks and along highways (Orwa et al., 2009).