Why trees are the bees knees Part 1 - Black Locust

Some of you will now that we kept bees back in England and that we want to start beekeeping again here too. So I have been keeping an eye out on potential fodder for our bees and seeing how I think they will do. Two trees have stood out for me in the 4 months we have been here. One evening we were walking up into the village and were stunned by these tall, airy trees that were dripping in white, wisteria-type flowers and absolutely humming with bees. Frantic googling revealed them to be Black Locust trees.

The Black Locust tree (Robinia Pseudoacacia) has hints of the bible about its name as Jesuit missionaries named it as the tree that supported St John in the wilderness. The fact is that this tree is native to the eastern USA and so could hardly be the tree from the New Testament. (facts and missionaries have seldom been on first name terms though).

Nowadays, it has been spread by man around the globe and it is easy to understand why.

As a member of the pea family it fixes nitrogen in its root system and is being increasingly seen as a useful soil enricher as the price f nitrogen fertiliser rises.

It can provide a massive nectar crop for bees from its perfumed flower raecemes and is the source of lots of “Acacia Honey”. However it does not yield vast amounts every year but has a bumper crop about every 5 years.

It is not a shade tolerator or a shade provider, so you can still grow crops beneath it in an agroforestry mix.

It coppices well producing very hard straight trunks that grow very quickly from its large root system. This makes it a very useful provider of poles and handles. In fact, fence posts made of Locust can last in excess of 50 years in the ground without being chemically treated first. How great is that?

As a fuel in a woodburning stove it gives out comparable heat to anthracite making it a very hot burning wood and yet there is little visible flame or smoke (particularly useful in the UK under Mr. Gove`s new crackdown on wood burners )

What a brilliant tree!