Although the Locust, known also as the False
Acacia, is little planted now, it is only paying
the penalty for having had its merits enormously
exaggerated. William Corbett, on his return from
the United States of America about 1820, preached
salvation to the timber grower through the planting
of Robinia. So great was the demand thus created
that Corbett himself started a nursery for the
propagation and supply of the trees, which could
not be produced fast enough to meet the demand.
It was thought to be an entirely new introduction,
though it had been grown in this country as an
ornamental tree for nearly two hundred years!
Its wood is hard, strong, and durable, but liable
to crack, and of limited utility.
The Locust is a tree of light and graceful proportions,
its branches being long and slender. The leaves
are long and narrow, broken up into a large number
of small oval leaflets. The stipules which are
found at the base of the leaf-stalk in many plants,
are in this genus converted into sharp spines.
The flowers, of similar pea-shape to those of
the Laburnum, are white and fragrant. They are
in long loose racemes, which droop from the axils
of the leaves in May. The seed-pods are very thin,
and of a dark brown hue.
This was one of the first American trees to be
brought to Europe early in the seventeenth century,
and the name of Locust came with it. It was then
thought to be identical with the African Acacia.
Linnaeus named the genus in honour of Jean Robin,
a French botanist, whose son, an official at the
Jardin des Plantes, was the first to cultivate
the tree in Europe. The American missionaries
believed it was the tree upon whose fruits, with
the addition of wild honey, John the Baptist supported
himself in the wilderness.
It is also known as Silver Chain and as White