Black Locust – Potential
Genus: Robinia – Family: Fabaceae
Black locust signals a time of potential, when our action or inaction could have long-lasting consequences. It is important to seek truth and discernment in order to act wisely.
Black locust is a pioneer species that grows and spreads easily. Its wood is one of the cleanest to burn and its roots produce nitrogen-fixing bacteria that can amend depleted soils. To some it is seen as an invasive weed to others it is the tree that built America.
Native Americans saw black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia as a premium wood for bows because of its strength and flexibility. Black locust trees were harvested to build homes and ships for European settlers. George Washington admired its beauty so much that he planted them at Mount Vernon. As a young man, Abraham Lincoln, split rails and fence posts from black locust logs. Black locust is a deciduous tree native to eastern North America.
The term “locust” was originally used to describe the edible pods of carob trees that resembled the edible insects called locusts or grasshoppers. All locust trees in the Robinia genus have toxic pods, leaves and bark. These toxic dark pods inspired its name of black locust. The only edible portion of black locust trees are their large fragrant blossoms that taste like fresh peas. Since black locust trees have thorns it was originally associated with the acacia tree, a legendary hardwood tree originally from Africa. The word acacia means “thorn” in Greek. Pseudoacacia means “false acacia.”
Honey locust Gleditsia triacanthos, should not be confused with locust’s in the Robinia genus. Both the Robinia and Gleditsia genus of trees belong to the Fabaceae (legume/pea) family, which also includes acacia, carob, mimosa and tamarind to name a few. Unlike black locust, the honey locust produces desirable and edible seed pods. Its common name of honey locust is actually derived from the sweet taste of its pods. Native Americans have used honey locust pods as a source of food and medicine for thousands of years. Other species of Gleditsia are also valued in Chinese herbal medicine.
One of the lessons of the black locust spirit is to use discernment before determining the potential effects of ingesting wild edibles.
Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) officially named black locust Robinia pseudoacacia. The genus name Robinia is based on the royal French gardener Jean Robin (1550-1629) who originally introduced the black locust to Europe from America in 1601.
Message: The spirit of the black locust urges us to live to our fullest potential, to travel and experience life in all its complexities. By expanding our world, we expand our worldview and thus our knowledge base. Knowledge is an important aspect when practicing discernment. This is a time of new ideas and intellectual pursuits.
Challenge: Lack of adventure or desire to explore.
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