Clearly, the black locust is still alive and kicking today, but how? 

Well first, we have to go back to a time long ago when plants were making a transition from living underwater to living on land.  In order to do this, there were some challenges that plants had to overcome.

·         First, since they were no longer submerged in water, plants had to evolve structures that kept themselves from drying out.

·         Secondly, plants had to discover new ways of acquiring nutrients, and they also had to find a different way of holding themselves upright.

·         Lastly, plants had to figure out how to deal with the increase in sunlight they would receive on land.                
                                                                     Steven J. Baskauf, 2003.

Leaves of Black LocustTo solve these problems, plants (including the black locust) have evolved multiple structures to thrive on land successfully.  First, they have a waxy cuticle that holds water inside the plant to keep it from drying out.  Also, to deal with the greater amount of sunlight, plants have developed leaves to increase surface area for photosynthesis.  Two other very important structures that have developed in plants are the xylem and phloem.  These structures provide support for the plant, allowing it to stand upright, while also allowing for the transport of sugars and water throughout the plant.   

More specifically, the black locust itself has developed a few special mechanisms of its own in order to survive.  One such structure that has evolved on Robinia pseudoacacia in order to protect itself are thorns located next to each of the tree’s white blossoms.  This is depicted in the photo below.  However, an even more important component in warding off predators is the toxicity of the tree’s seeds, young leaves and the inner bark.  This is due to three chemicals called robin, robinine and robitin.  But don’t worry, the only way anoyone could get sick is from ingesting these toxins in large amounts.

Thorns on Black Locust
Steven J. Baskauf, 2002

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 Banner Photo Credit: Steven J. Baskauf, 2002. From Bioimages