False Acacia

Robinia pseudoacacia

Also known as Black Locust, Locust tree and Acacia this tree has a confusing set of names. The leaves look like those of a true acacia hence that connection. The locust part comes from another confusion that the fruits were the “ locusts” eaten by St. John the Baptist in the desert. This is highly unlikely as the tree is native to the eastern states of North America and not found in the Middle East.

The best stands are to be found in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. In Europe it only reaches forest status in the Balkans, Hungary and around the estuary of the Danube. John Tradescant the Younger, who lived locally in Lambeth, introduced it to Britain around 1600.In the past young Acacias were encouraged to produce one leader and then they were cut back each year to produce a mop-head. This could account for the look of our avenue. This was done because young and old branches break easily and larger old branches, often shed. Apart from these problems the tree is resistant to pollution and grows well in impoverished soil. This accounts for it being a common park tree.

The winter silhouette shown here is typical of its fame for “fork lightning” branching. This reaches its peak in the “tortuosa” variety that looks the most frenetic of all trees. A marvellously “wired” specimen exists beside the largest cafe in Kew gardens.