Black Locust: A Multi-purpose Tree Species for Temperate Climates*

The leaves are used for livestock feed in the Republic of Korea and in Bulgaria (Keresztesi 1983, 1988). In the highlands of Nepal and northern India, where black locust is naturalized, it is an important fodder tree. Branches above the reach of livestock are cut when other green for-ages are scarce, and the wood is used later for fuel.

Ground black locust tops including woody stems, from first and second harvests, were found to be comparable to alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) with 23-24% crude protein, 7% lignin, and 4.2 kcal/g. Ruminal digestion by cattle was also equivalent (Baertsche et al. 1986). When planted at close spacings, the new growth can be harvested with conventional farm machinery for silage or hay (Fig. 2, 3). The compound leaves can be separated and ground for a high-protein ingredient of commercial feeds. Because black locust thrives on sites too marginal for alfalfa, it merits further study as a forage crop.

Because of its soil-improving properties, black locust is often planted in mixtures. Many species have been underplanted in black locust stands. Success of such planting has been variable and many factors have to be considered carefully (37). On mine spoil in Illinois, black locust was a valuable nurse crop for black walnut (Juglans nigra), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), and yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), but not for cottonwood (Populus deltoides), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), or Osage-orange (Maclura pomifera) (25). On surface-mined land in Kansas, survival, growth, and form of black walnut were impaired when planted with black locust (39).

Black locust was superior to other hardwoods in developing wildlife habitat on mine spoils. It quickly provided cover, and by 10 to 15 years native vegetation had established a dense undergrowth (36). Its seeds are rated low as wildlife food but are used to a limited extent by Northern bobwhite, other game birds, and squirrels (30,42). White-tailed deer browse the young growth, and a study in the southern Appalachians showed that 92 percent of the sprouts were browsed (13). Because older trees are usually infected with heart rot, woodpeckers often construct cavities in them. Nest cavities of the downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, and common flicker have been found (9).

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