Honey locust

Native to North America (from Mexico to Canada), honey locust is a large, spiny, rapidly growing tree. Honey locust has been promoted and planted in Australia as a fodder tree and garden ornamental.

Honey locust forms dense, spiny thickets that can out-compete native vegetation, provide a haven for pests, and injure stock and humans. It is a major threat to the environment and sustainable pasture production.

Scientific name

Gleditsia triacanthos incl. cultivars and varieties

Other names

  • Honey locust tree, McConnel's curse, bean tree, sweet locust, soetpeul, thorntree honey locust, common honey locust, honey shuck, sweet bean locust

Similar species

  • Ornamental honey locust


  • Deciduous, leguminous tree up to 20m tall.
  • Leaves are prolific, green, up to 20cm long, with about 12 opposite paired leaflets.
  • Trunk and limbs of wild trees bear very large crucifix-like spines, up to 15cm long.
  • Flower stalks are creamy, yellow, 10cm long.
  • Pods are brown, 20-30cm long, containing 15-30 seeds surrounded by sweet pulp.
  • Seeds are flattened, brown, about 10mm long.
  • Grafted ornamental, thornless varieties produce thorns at later date or throw thorny progeny.


  • Grows in most soil types, especially on alluvial flood plains along river systems.


  • First reported as a pest in 1955 at Cressbrook Creek (Esk Shire).
  • Has smothered large areas of highly-productive alluvial grazing land near Toogoolawah.
  • Heavy infestations occurred on the Darling Downs in the Clifton-Allora area and at Toogoolawah.
  • Scattered infestations are found around Monto, on the eastern Darling Downs from Toowoomba to New South Wales and in the Arcadia, Stanley, Bremer and Logan Valleys.

Life cycle

  • Flowering starts at 3-5 years and occurs in October-November.
  • Seeds prolifically every 1-2 years.
  • Seeds can remain viable for at least 20 years.
  • Seeds usually produced annually, with large crops occurring every 2 years.

Affected animals

  • Livestock
  • Native animals
  • Humans



  • Out-competes and replaces native vegetation.
  • Provides haven for introduced pests such as foxes, cats and rabbits.


  • Sharp spines can injure livestock and damage equipment and vehicles.
  • Forms dense thickets, particularly along waterways, preventing stock access to water.


  • Sharp spines can injure humans and wildlife.

How it is spread

  • Seed spread by grazing stock, floodwaters, and ornamental plantings.


Mechanical control

  • Bulldozing breaks plants at or above ground level. Once broken, honey locust will vigorously produce regrowth from broken bases and roots. Follow up with some other form of control such as cultivation or herbicide to prevent regrowth after bulldozing.
  • On arable land, bulldozing followed by deep ploughing can control dense infestations, but only if followed by regular cropping and/or spot spraying of regrowth. If cultivation is abandoned, reseeding from nearby trees can be a problem.

Herbicide control

  • Herbicides are effective.

See the Honey locust fact sheet (PDF, 1.4MB) for herbicide control and application rates.

Biological control

  • No known biological control agents.

Legal requirements

All species of Gleditsia are prohibited invasive plants except for G. tricanthos, which are restricted invasive plants under the Biosecurity Act 2014.


  • This is a prohibited invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014. It must not be kept, moved, given away or sold without a permit.
  • The Act requires that all sightings to be reported to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours.
  • By law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risk of name spreading until they receive advice from an authorised officer.


  • This is a restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit.
  • The Act requires everyone to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO). At a local level, each local government must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in its area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

Further information