Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Our Locust Tree

locust tree

The Deer Hunter and I were taking a rest underneath the Apple tree the other day. As we set enjoying the shade I noticed the locust tree that grows at the edge of our backyard.

I said “Just look at that tree! Can you remember when it was about chest high?” The Deer Hunter said he could and that he’d always made sure to leave it alone when we did any sort of clean up because there weren’t many locust around our house.

In days gone by locust trees were the choice wood for fenceposts or really for anything that needed to last in the weather. I’ve also heard folks say they liked to use locust for firewood.

Several years ago Blind Pig reader Rooney Floyd sent me a great story about the strength of locust:

Today’s blog, “Sayings by way of John Parris”, reminded me of a clever Appalachian saying I read about by way of an outstanding woodcarver and sculptor named Grainger McKoy.  He was once asked what he was going to carve next.  He replied, “Maybe what I’ll carve next is my tombstone. Carve it out of locus wood. My old friend, Beddingfield, from up in the mountains told me once that ‘a locust post will wear out two holes’. That ought to make a good tombstone”. 

—Rooney Floyd


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  • Reply
    July 15, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    Here in MA, I seem to remember black locust specifically mentioned in some old property agreements – a person would be entitled to so many locust posts from a piece of land, for example. I wish I had a source for locust posts, but on the other hand, then I’d have to dig the holes. It’s hard enough pounding t-posts into the stony soil here!

  • Reply
    July 15, 2020 at 1:42 pm

    We do burned locust and Ash for firewood. They are the best. My dad would also use them for fence posts. People would want to buy them from him. They do lasts.

  • Reply
    July 15, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    When we had a place cleared for our house to be built there was locust trees every where the dozer just pushed them up in a pile some came back up and have grown to be good size, I don’t mind them if they are controlled but those little thorns are bad if one bites you, when they bloom is such a good fragerance.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    July 15, 2020 at 10:53 am

    I’ve found intact locust posts that were once used to fence in pastures at many old home sites which were taken when the park was created 90 years ago. You have to figure some of them were in the ground for at least a decade before that.

    The other wood used which you’ll still find some of is chestnut; it was used for fencing and for structures. One chestnut foundation log for the Randall home, which was decades old when the Park was created, is still there, resting on cornerstones.

  • Reply
    Ken in s w mo.
    July 15, 2020 at 9:32 am

    When I still lived in W.N.C. I had about 40 bee hives and when the Locus bloomed I would move a few of them to a cove that had several Locus tree’s to get the money.It would be almost water clear and I had no problem selling it It was about as good as Sourwood honey.

  • Reply
    July 15, 2020 at 9:24 am

    “Wear out two holes” I remember salvaging locust and cedar posts from old fences when we wanted to move a fence line. In the new fence we turned them upside down and put the good end in the ground. They may have worn out two holes. Locusts make good bridge stringers also.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    July 15, 2020 at 9:20 am

    I love trees as well. I have planted over 600 black walnut, 300 bald cypress and numerable evergreens in the last 10 years. I am 72 and will never live to see them full grown, but I think my family will. I have 300 sycamore to plant in the creek to slow erosion and another 50 cypress. to plant somewhere.

    I dig up seedlings and replant in areas where they can grow. I have numerous locusts that I have replanted. There are locust gate posts on this old farm that I know are at least 75 years old. They out lasted the wire nailed to them.

    I do hate tree of heaven and will cut, pull,or poison everyone I find. They came from China and will push every thing else out of the forest. Sounds like China. They grow to 100 feet in height. I scored trees this spring in an area I didn’t know had them because they were so tall. And another thing the wood and leaves stink to high heaven as well. The wood is good for nothing as it rots in one year and btu content is low so it doesn’t make good firewood.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 15, 2020 at 8:52 am

    One time I cut a live locust to make fence posts for the garden. One of the posts started to grow sprouts and lived for two more years. It might still be growing this very day if I hadn’t moved the fence.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    July 15, 2020 at 8:40 am

    I have a large locust tree out close to the main road and sometimes I sit on the porch and watch the many different kind of birds light in the top. Behind the house over in the holler a locust tree uprooted during a spring storm and I plan on cutting it for firewood. Locust is one of my favorites for splitting by hand. I haven’t decided yet but I may cut the top section for post. That would only be a start for fencepost I’m going to need to fence my garden. The deer love my raised beds, they don’t have to bend over so far to eat.
    Tipper, loved the saying.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 15, 2020 at 7:54 am

    My Grandma had two locusts in her front yard. i suspect the old timers grew their own for the yard back when nursery trees were not available. They make a good yard tree; fast growing, has a high light shade, has beautiful bloom, it fixes nitrogen in the soil and the leaves are fine and light and will not smother grass. One of its few drawbacks is the roots will sprout and create a thicket if not managed. And unfortunately the locust borer shortens its life span in the eastern US. For some reason it is particularly prone to show up in burned areas.

    The wood is dense and hard but has a beautiful color in the heartwood. The density is why it makes such good firewood and posts. I don’t know if it is still done but at one time locusts was used as a bearing for rotating shafts because it was so durable and got smoother in use. Mr. Floyd would have needed sharp tools and patience to carve a headboard from it. But it would have been rather durable.

    • Reply
      aw griff
      July 15, 2020 at 9:08 am

      Ron, have you ever had locust bloom honey? It’s a dark flavorful honey.

      • Reply
        Ron Stephens
        July 15, 2020 at 9:44 am

        Not as I know of AW. Dad kept bees but locusts were not at all plentiful in SE KY so there was not much of a supply of bloom within their flying range.

        • Reply
          aw griff
          July 15, 2020 at 10:43 am

          Well Ron it appears I wasn’t eating locust honey either. I was told it was locust honey. Maybe it was ironweed honey which is dark. I only had one stand of bees located on the family farm and someone stole them. I’m sure Ken in S W MO. knows what he is talking about.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    July 15, 2020 at 7:52 am

    What a great place to take a rest. We have two magnificent cedars in our backyard and a fantastic oak in the front. There is nothing better than passing some quiet time listening to the wind in their tops.

    Like my dad says, “trees are good people.”

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    July 15, 2020 at 7:41 am

    I think you are a tree loving family! I got lots of Hickory Nut trees 4 in my yard. They’re beautiful and the critters love the nuts. Now when I mow nuts trying to send me sliding over the hill and at raking time, it’s all I can do not to wish them away in my anger. I got tons of white oak around here too. I love a good old locust and Catawba ( cigar ) trees too. Actually there are no trees I don’t love…. here’s to tree huggers everywhere ( and yes I have hugged a tree before and won’t rule out a hug later.) SHOW A TREE LOVE TODAY!

  • Reply
    L Roddey
    July 15, 2020 at 7:30 am

    I know Grainger ,, if he did carve his own tombstone it would be the finest ever !

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 15, 2020 at 6:47 am

    I love the ways we express things, I guess it would, for sure, take a long time to wear out two holes. All my life I heard that locust was the best and strongest wood. It was the wood of choice for fence posts. It would come automatically to the Deer Hunter to never cut down a locust tree unless he was building a fence!

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