Robinia pseudoacacia, commonly known as the black locust, is a tree of the genus Robinia in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family Fabaceae. It is native to the southeastern United States, but has been widely planted and naturalised elsewhere in temperate North America, Europe, Southern Africa, Australia and Asia and is considered an invasive species in some areas.
A less frequently used common name is false Acacia, which is a literal translation of the specific epithet. It was introduced into Britain in 1636. With a trunk up to 0.8 m diameter (exceptionally up to 52 m tall and 1.6 m diameter in very old trees), with thick, deeply furrowed blackish bark. The leaves are 10–25 cm long, pinnate with 9–19 oval leaflets, 2–5 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad. Each leaf usually has a pair of short spines at the base, 1–2 mm long or absent on adult crown shoots, up to 2 cm long on vigorous young plants.
The intensely fragrant (reminiscent of orange blossoms) flowers are white to lavender or purple, borne in pendulous racemes 8–20 cm long, and are edible. In France and in Italy Robinia pseudoacacia flowers are eaten as beignets after being coated in batter and fried in oil.
The fruit is a legume 5–10 cm long, containing 4–10 seeds. Although the bark and leaves are toxic, various reports suggest that the seeds and the young pods of the black locust are edible. Shelled seeds are safe to harvest from summer through fall, and are edible both raw and/or boiled. Due to the small nature of Black Locust seeds, shelling them efficiently can prove tedious and difficult.
The name locust is said to have been given to Robinia by Jesuit missionaries, who fancied that this was the tree that supported St. John in the wilderness, but it is native only to North America. The locust tree of Spain (Ceratonia siliqua or Carob Tree), which is also native to Syria and the entire Mediterranean basin, is supposed to be the true locust of the New Testament.
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