Black locusts are known for their patterned bark, lacy leaves, and beautiful flowers. They capture nitrogen from the atmosphere and grow up to four feet a year. They are a member of the pea family, and native throughout the United States. Black locusts flower from late April to early June and thrive in locations where most other trees cannot. This resilience is because of their unique ability to replenish the nutrients of sandy soils around them. Because of this, the trees are often planted over old strip mines to rebuild the poor soil.
While Black locusts help troubled ecosystems, they don’t survive near taller trees, and can become invasive in open fields. These tendencies are a reminder that site selection is important for each of our plantings. Showing there is a proper place for every plant in an ecosystem, and in the case of the Black locust, Madison Square Park is a perfect home. As it contributes nutrient-rich soil for hundreds of other plants in the park and has continued to thrive since the 1800s.