Black Locust Trees - Strong, Durable & Rot Free
As the strongest timber in North America, black locust trees helped build early Colonial towns and hardened the navy that decided the War of 1812, yet today few Americans have heard of it. The extreme resistance to rotting is perhaps the black locust's best-known attribute, and it was on poles of black locust that the first buildings were erected. Some of these poles are still in use today; as sound as the day they were driven into the ground. (Wesley Greene - garden historian for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
A Black Locust tree plantation earns between $30,000 and $50,000 per acre. Thinned trees and branch cuttings are sold as wood pellets.
America's Super Tree
Although virtually forgotten, the benefits of the black locust tree and black locust wood are seemingly endless; long-life in the ground, bee-attracting flowers for honey production, the highest tensile beam strength of any American tree including Ironwood, ability to reclaim land and stabilize erosion-prone hillsides because of a rebar-like interlacing root system, improves soil by fixing plant loving nitrogen to its roots and one of the highest BTU (British Thermal Unit) – (Utah State University)
Black Locust - Chemical Free Rot-Resistant Wood
Black Locust resistant to decay due to high levels of organic chemicals called tyloses and extractives, mainly polyphenols. Tyloses are bulges of plant tissue that block cell vessels making them watertight. Extractives are chemicals that are deposited in the heartwood of certain tree species as they convert sapwood to heartwood. These extractives also have anti-fungal properties that help the wood resist rot.
Toxic Pressure Treated Lumber
In the 1930’s, a process was developed to inject chemicals (see Red List building materials) with water-resistant properties directly into wood. Before that, `soaking wood in creosote was the preferred method for preserving lumber, particularly below ground. According the EPA, the main ingredient for pressure treated lumber is chromated copper arsenate (CCA), a type of arsenic, which is a carcinogenic. Over time, the chemicals have a tendency to leach into their surrounding environment including ground water, which may cause. (Environmental Protection Agency). Although the EPA has restricted the use of these chemicals for residential use, CCA is still used in industrial and agricultural industry. (wikipedia.org)
Black Locust blossoms produce such delicious honey that the trees where introduced to Europe about 40 years ago (however, it blooms only 10 days per year, making the honey rare as well as delicious).
Black Locust Is One Tough Tree
Black Locust tree seedlings grow rapidly, are highly resilient in a variety of soils, and grow back even faster from its stump after harvest. By using the existing root system to grow new tree shoots, a Black Locust tree plantation becomes a sustainable resource for a variety of wood products.
Black Locust Wood
- Black Locust 4 x 4; 6 x 6; and 8 x 8 structural timber
- Black Locust Wood Hardwood flooring
- Black Locust Round fence posts
- Black Locust Wood Landscape timber
- Black Locust Organic honey production
- Black Locust Wood Split rail fencing
- Black Locust Wood pellets
Fast Growing Black Locust Tree Seedlings
Fast growing black locust tree seedlings are a great choice for landowners looking for a faster return on investment. Our Black Locust tree seedlings are tall and clear grained and grown to a height of 10 feet. Our tall Black Locust tree seedlings have mature, well-developed root systems, which increase the percentage of survivability after transplant.
In some countries, Black Locust is being promoted as an alternative to tropical hardwoods; many of which are endangered. European governments are leading the way by blocking the importation of tropical wood, in an effort to curb log poaching and unsustainable harvesting.
"see teak, rosewood and mahogany"
Black Locust North American Growing Zones
Black Locust native growing areas are concentrated in the Eastern United States, with the highest concentration in the state of Ohio. Although native to Eastern North America, Black Locust may also be grown in micro-climate areas of the Western States and Canada, principally the central interior of British Columbia, Canada and Washington State.
Black Locust Plantations
Currently, there are no Black Locust tree plantations in North America. This valuable wood was virtually forgotten when the last of the virgin forests where logged a century ago. Tree Plantation has initiated an effort to aggressively re-establish this tree and market this superior wood product worldwide.
Support Our Campaign To Grow Black Locust
Black Locust plantation costs average between $300 and $800 per acre depending on how many acres are planted for any given project – the more acres the lower the cost. An average of 800 trees per acre is common. A thinning program should be initiated during year 10 cutting every second tree so the remaining trees size up. On average, the thinned trees will increase two times diameter compared to a plantation without thinning. An open, sunny spot is essential for maximum growth and yield. Although Black Locust will grow in shade, it may take 3 to 4 times longer to mature into a sizeable sawlog.
Calculate the number of trees per acre and spacing between Black Locust trees
Note* It is important to transplant seedlings that are at least 3 years old and more than 3 feet tall so they will survive the first and second winters after transplant. It is also advisable to use tree shelters or security fencing to protect young locust tree seedlings from grazing deer. Starting a Black Locust plantation with tall 12 to 15 foot tree seedlings would eliminate the need for shelters and fencing. For a healthier plantation, it is advisable to mono culture this tree species, which means no intermingling with other tree species. Under story plants will naturally populate the forest floor creating diversity and improving the health of the plantation.
Old Is New Again
The fact that old growth forests where logged long ago combined with the push to use Black Locust wood instead of endangered tropical wood has created a shortage of this valuable tree worldwide. This is a huge opportunity for tree farmers living in temperate climatic zones.
The following comments where collected from a national wood products discussion forum using Black Locust in the United States.
Comment from contributor A:
I am a wood-flooring contractor and have installed a couple black locust floors. Not only is it tough (second only to osage orange as the toughest native wood) and resistant to moisture (much better than white oak) and rot (way better than cedar), it is gorgeous! If you haven't seen it, picture the grain of oak and color it with gold and add a glow that shifts in the light. Black locust is tougher than hickory, which is tougher than hard maple, which is tougher than oak. I have gotten it for only slightly more than the price of oak. I only wish there was a supply of the lumber in my area. I'd make everything out of it. It has a very low rate of expansion and contraction, making it very stable for furniture and woodwork (interior or exterior). Hard to work? Well, it's not balsa. Whaddaya expect when it's practically the most durable and stable wood available? Use sharper tools.
Comment from contributor B:
My parents have several dozen of these trees on their property. As a child I marveled at the coarse bark and the tall, lanky stature of these wonderful trees. After a bad ice storm toppled a few, my father cut all but one for firewood (the rest cracked and split as they came down). He dragged it to his sawmill across the road in the spring and sawed some dimensional lumber from it and placed the lumber in his basement. That was 15 years ago. A few months ago I nabbed a few boards and made a picture frame with an 8x10 photo of his mill inside. The colors that came out in that wood after a semi-gloss varathane was applied were amazing. The green and yellow hues were beautiful. The wood was a bit boxy when ripped on the table saw and it planed up nice with my 15" Makita floor planer. The finished product was better than I could imagine. If anyone has any of these, keep them standing; take deadwood or storm knockdowns. I have taken a few sprigs from the ground (they seem to spread like weeds!) and planted them at my house some 65 miles away and they are growing great. I have not seen these trees elsewhere in Nova Scotia and have no idea where they came from.
Comment from contributor C:
Posts made of locust wood are good for grapevine supports in vineyards. Locust wood lasts longer than pressure treated wood, and it does not leak harmful chemicals into the soil as pressure treated wood does, such as arsenic, which can be absorbed by the plant and therefore into the fruit. Vineyard posts are usually 8 feet long and about 4.5 inches in diameter. In a vineyard, 1.5 to 2 feet of the post is put into the ground, depending on the soil, and two to three wires are run between the posts on which the grapevine is tied. Locust can also be used for fence posts. There is no need to use a waterseal. Great for the environment - great for the grapes.
Comment from contributor D:
As a bandmill sawyer, last year I started sawing Black Locust, and what a surprise, it saws just as easy as cherry, and the grain and color is out of this world. I sawed a couple hundred board feet the other day to use as a floor for a kiln, due to the moisture resistance. It's the most under-rated lumber out there.
Comment from contributor E:
I have about 20 cords of black locust logs from a land-clearing job we did last summer. It's a wonderful species for firewood – it burns hot and long if properly seasoned. It's also very rot resistant and commonly used for fence posts and exterior construction on farms. It's a fast growing pioneer tree here in the northeast - meaning it's one of the first species to appear in fields left fallow. It will seed itself in these old pastures and grow in fairly dense stands that are very straight and tall (sometimes over 100 feet). At least it used to before the beetle borers showed up.
Comment from contributor F:
I live on Long Island near the abandoned Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital. The hospital itself was established pre-1890, and the grounds (400+ acres) were apparently planted with many Black Locust trees, many of them now over 75-80 feet in height. Some of the older ones were cut down by N.Y. State in its infinite wisdom, and I was able to take out about a cord and a half of Locust as firewood. Let me tell you, once properly split and dried, that wood is among the best I have ever burned in my heatilator-equipped fireplace. It burns slowly, and very hot. The key mechanism here is to make sure it is properly stacked and dried; this will keep spitting during burning to a low level. While splitting the wood one can't help but notice a beautiful gold-green sheen to the heavy, straight veined splits. The wood is as hard as any I've ever worked with, and it is of the highest quality!
Comment from contributor G:
I was fascinated by your blog on black locust, which I’m in love with. I’m a 75 year old (ouch) amateur cabinet maker and have just completed a desk from black locust, and before that a six foot long sideboard. It is absolutely fabulous wood to work with and to look at when finished. I gather it is also called false acacia. I live in (West) Vancouver BC , and in a huge windstorm in 2006, this tree was blown down. I got most of the trunk and had it milled. Apparently acacia, as many call it, was planted along the Fraser R as fuel for the paddle wheelers in the 19Cent, and is occasionally milled around here. I agree with others that this tree should really be promoted for all its potential uses.
Comment from contibutor H:
I love your website and I especially love black locust trees. I have been calling it acacia and got some wood by accident. We live in West Vancouver BC, and in 2007, and unknown tree near us blew down in a huge storm. I immediately recognized it as good wood, but I didn't know what it was. Ultimately I made a side board and a desk from it, and it is one of the best woods I have ever worked with. I would like to encourage its planting throughout Vancouver, assuming the climate is suitable.
Comment from contibutor I:
We have found at least 5 advantages for the lazy grower like myself. First, is fast growth, outgrowing in dry clay almost all other species. Second, the tree is not easily damaged by extreme foraging for two reasons, the short thorns on many trees discourage some foraging, but you also have a wonderful hidden asset, even if the tree is completely stripped of bark by winter foraging deer, the runners and underground storage of food insures it will grow back even stronger the following season, not just stronger but often taller and with friends. Third, that root net insures reforestation even after harvest, mechanical damage, or fire. Fourth, the root net provides a degree of allelopathy, thereby suppressing other competing weed trees like Eleagnus and red cedar. And so far, we have had less attack by insects and fungus compared to oak, walnut, persimmon, and pine. Plus it smells good in the Spring.
Invest In A Black Locust Tree Plantation
Depending on market conditions, Black Locust earns gross revenue between $30,000 and $50,000 per acre in year 30 and double that in year 50. In year 10, thinned trees may be sold and/or converted into high BTU wood pellets. Black Locust is a relatively fast growing species. If a tree has room to grow, on a heavy watered site in full sun, it is possible to gain one full inch of radial growth in just 6 years. This is equal to two inches of diameter growth. That’s four inches of diameter growth in 12 years.
The best time to plant a Black Locust tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now!