The farmhouse I grew up in had locust trees out front. Heady fragrance and exotic flowers in June added to the general euphoria of end of the school year. In the late summer, I was fascinated by the castoff exoskeletons of moulting cicadas, clinging to the Locusts' deeply ridged bark. During the dormant months I loved their scraggly profile against winter skies, or shadowed on snow, and the rattling pea-like seed pods which remained like a promise.
|L: locusts in ice C: mom|
Although she is as drawn, as I always am, to their awkward, "lacily disjointed" silhouette in the sky, she admitted the research became a bit of a slog.
|north of Grafton|
The Black Locust gets around. It's a native to the Appalachian mountains and Ozark plateau region, and was 'discovered' (never mind that the local first people valued the wood for bows and arrows, and the toxic resin for medicinal purposes) by European naturalists in the early 1600s in Virginia. Specimens returned to England and Europe for the landscaping market over the next centuries.
|King's Mill Road near Stirling|
|north of Belleville|
-it's related to legumes (those pods are a give-away,) with nitrogen fixing properties
- it propagates by seeds (those pods again) but most commonly by suckering
- it is a bad tree, considered an invasive species and a 'tree killer'
-photos and distribution map here, courtesy of UoGuelph
- and lots more
And how did the Black Locust make its way to Canada West in the years following the American Revolution? I'll quote Sherry Hambly, from a history of a church in York Mills: "Apparently, the 'acacia' trees planted around it were transplanted from Long Island by an early settler, Cornelius Von Nostrand, who came to the area in the late 1700s." And we think we know the occasion.
The Experimental Farm in Ottawa established a Black Locust in its arboretum in 1890 (wonder how many there are now?)
|Bowerman's Church, PEC|
|Hazzard's Corners Church|
I've just been reminded that ancient Black Locusts surround very old Hazzard's Corners church, north east of Madoc. I was fortunate to visit a few years ago, in June. The scent was almost too heady for a sedate old Methodist churchyard.
Hazzard's Corners champion Grant reports that the trees seemed to have perished in a heavy frost a few years ago, but clearly they bounced back. Further proof, if proof were further required, that they are a hardy breed, indeed.
By May our doughty Black Locusts will be in pinnately compound leaf, by June in intoxicating flower. And all summer and fall their messy spreading branches and crinkled ancient bark will herald the appearance of yet another worthy heritage house to admire.
|near Charleston Lake PP|