We’ve just finished planting twenty-five Black Locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) which will form part of a living fence around our property at the roadside. Let me count the ways that this feel virtuous!
Not only will the trees, planted on 2-foot centers, grow rapidly into living fence posts, but the lateral growth can be woven into a thorny hedgey-fency thing. Well, a fedge. Energetically, if not functionally, nothings says “please stay over there” like a fence of thorns.
Black Locust happens to be a “pioneer species” that often shows up to colonize poor or degraded soils; it is nitrogen-fixing, literally sucking nutrient out of thin air and depositing it in the soil via little nodules (and a bunch of other mind-blowing biological magic). This is a roadside, remember, so we’ll take all the soil building we can get.
BTUs. That pretty much tells the tale. Black Locust is renowned for the amount of fuel potential packed into every cubic inch of wood. We burn wood for heat and for cooking so prunings and coppice wood from this living fence may well end up being more than 50% of the supply of cooking fuel for the small firebox of our 1928 Duchess Atlantic wood cooker.
Black Locust happens to offer an unsurpassed level of bee fodder as well. My research indicates that an acre of black locust in bloom produces more nectar for honey bees than an acre of pretty much anything else, especially anything perennial.
Also known as “nature’s pressure-treated lumber,” we will periodically harvest thin pole wood from these trees for various rot-resistant purposes around the property. Far superior to cedar and friends in this regard.
Black locust is renewable, almost too renewable some might say! While runners and suckers of black locust may present a conundrum to some, in the spirit of turning a problem into a solution, I see it as propagation stock to plant more fence or barter useful trees for something we don’t have.
So the act of planting one row of baby Black Locust trees has achieved at least seven or eight objectives today. I’d say that has earned us some hammock time.
PS: Some of you may consider this an “invasive” species. I would say that it is “successfully opportunistic” in that it is quite good at expressing its traits of repairing damaged places and filling disturbance-created niches. Disturbance usually created by humans, mind you. This plant has so much to offer us in becoming truly resilient and sustainable, it’s quite hard to vilify, really.