Wildlife Growers Fruit Tree Nursery
Here at Wildlife Growers, our all-time favorite book is “Tree Crops: a permanent agriculture” written by J. Russell Smith in 1950. Chapter VII, titled, “A Stock-Food Tree — The Honey Locust” is a must-read for anyone interested in growing deer and pig food. The writing attests to the value that early American farmers placed on honey locust pods as supplemental food for their cows and pigs, but stops short of mentioning white-tailed deer.
We believe thornless honey locust trees can provide another deer attractant and protein and energy source for your property. However, they also can be absolutely worthless to your deer and an utter waste of your money. The devil is in the details! All honey locust trees sold by most other nurseries (even wildlife nurseries) were developed as ornamental street trees without any regard for their pod production characteristics. In fact, most were bred to bear few fruit or fruit without pulp. Please don’t waste your money on these trees. In North America, there are only 4 named varieties of thornless honey locust available for sale that were developed for heavy crops of nutritious pods.
In 1927, The Journal of Heredity hosted a contest to encourage Americans to search for the best pod-producing honey locust trees in their areas, and to submit pods from those trees for quality testing. The focus at that time was to promote ground honey locust pods as a more economical alternative to wheat for flour production. Many trees with large sweet-tasting pods were identified, but only ‘Ashworth’, ‘Calhoun’, ‘Hershey’, and ‘Millwood’ remain. Because like apples and pears, honey locust do not produce true from seeds, these varieties must be grafted onto thornless rootstock. At an early age, grafted trees begin bearing heavy loads of larger than normal pods filled with a green fleshy pulp consisting of about 30 percent sugar. At the green stage of ripeness, deer absolutely love the pods. Unfortunately, pods don’t drop from the tree at this stage, except during strong winds. Instead, they remain on the tree until after the green pulp ferments and the pods turn brown or black. The pods begin dropping in about mid-September and continue through late winter. At this time, they likely are attractive to deer because the fermented pulp contains a high level of alcohol, providing a good energy source. From our experience, deer visit honey locust trees regularly when the pods are dropping, but they are a less-preferred food source than other fruits. We believe their true value lies in their long duration of availability. All deer on your property will know where the trees are located, and increase their visits as apples, pears, and persimmons begin playing out. Time your hunts accordingly and your honey locust orchard just might become your “Honey Hole”.
Average Number of Pods/Pound
Wild Tree = 45
Calhoun = 30
Hershey = 16
Last year, we had so much demand for our grafted honey locust trees that we sold all of our standing inventory and almost all of this year's production. We are working diligently to work out a production system that can keep up with demand. We appreciate your business and ask that you be patient as we determine how to better supply your needs. -- David A. Osborn, Owner