If you catch them at the right time—after the white, pea-like blobs open, but before they age into fusty insipidity—they smell divine.
The fragrance is worth the year’s wait.
Black locusts trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) are native to the U.S.;
are host plant to moths and butterflies (one list includes Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, Eastern Comma, Red-Spotted purple, and Viceroy butterflies);
and they offer fragrant nectar to pollinators—including HUMMINGBIRDS.
Humans consider the wood useful,
but tidy humans consider the tree a “weed.”
So, look for black locust where tidy people do not reign:
sidewalks, interstate easements, dumpster plots, the woods,
and my backyard.
And if you find one, look along the trunk for another native “plant:” the big, beautiful bracket fungus that commonly grows on Black locust.
Small brackets look like hooves.
Big brackets look like upside-down knickknack shelves:
If situated low enough, compare the top and bottom of this polypore for texture and colors.
The botanical name for the fungus is Phellinus robiniae. Note robiniae is related to the tree’s genus, Robinia? They are linked in name and relationship.
In winter—even without leaves, even if you know zilch about bark—the sight of an upside-down knickknack shelf is a good clue you are looking at a Black locust tree.
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Black locust tree page (with different list of faunal associations) at NC State.
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About the author:
My Instagram feed is 100% nature, and most of it the Sidewalk kind.
No shots of my teacup unless there is a plant or animal floating in it.
I’m not fond of facebook, but some people are on it who aren’t on Instagram, so I post nature things there from time to time.
Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist in Nashville, the hackberry-tree capital of the world.
She writes about everyday natural wonders amid every habitat loss, and her essays have appeared in Brevity, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, City Creatures, The Fourth River and other journals.
Her current project is a book of linked essays called Paradise in a Parking Lot.
5 thoughts on “Sidewalk Nature: Black locust blooms”
I look forward to your blog so much! Thank you!
Wow, thank you for the kind words! -Joanna
Thank you, Marti! (I just this minute found your comment..) It was great to see you at the plant sale!
Could you recommend any tree and wildflower identification books? I have some land with lots of plants I don’t know. Especially the milkweeds!
Hi, Marti. Sounds like a great project. If you are in Tennessee, I HIGHLY recommend the field guide “Wildflowers of Tennessee and the Ohio Valley . . .” by the Tennessee Native Plant Society (editor Dennis Horn). For tree ID there are many good field guides, but also some free pdfs online that might get you started (from Universities and gov. agencies). Like: https://ag.tennessee.edu/tnyards/Documents/treeidguide.pdf; https://www.apsu.edu/field-biology/center/TheNutTreesofLBL.pdf; https://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=utk_agexfores
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