Leroy the Honeylocust
The Story of Leroy the Honey Locust Tree
Saturday, December 26, 2009
I have planted Leroy the honey locust tree in the front yard. Leroy has the most interesting history of any shade tree anywhere, and here is that story:
My son Brian planted the honey locust as a seed in a milk carton as a project in I believe it was second grade, and named it Leroy. If my memory about the timing is right, that would have been in the spring of 1989. It grew in the window of our house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. But he was a little negligent in watering it, and it died. So he planted another honey locust in another cup and named it Leroy Junior.
I decided to try to nurse Leroy, and after some time carefully watering it, it sprang back to life. Then I planted both Leroy and Leroy Junior in our back yard. Because of Leroy’s setbacks, Leroy Junior was larger.
Leroy Junior grew and grew to a fairly large tree. Leroy had difficulties, though, mostly because of being set outside when he was still pretty small. First, I accidentally mowed it down. After that, I put stakes up to mark its spot, and it sprang up again. But then rabbits came and ate it. When it grew back, I covered it with mesh. By the year 2000, it had grown to be maybe six or seven feet tall, while Leroy Junior was quite a bit taller—maybe ten to fifteen feet tall.
Because of its interesting history, I decided to move Leroy to our new house, and got special permission from the owners to plant it a month before we actually moved in, because our house hadn’t sold yet, and I didn’t want Leroy to be part of the house sale.
A couple of years later we started to have trouble with our septic system at that house, and we realized that I had planted the tree in the middle of the septic field, which was now soggy with overflow. Leroy was choked by the water and withered away.
I figured it was finally done for, but I wanted to give it a chance, so I moved it to the front of the house. But in that spring, I think it was the spring of 2003, it didn’t bud out, confirming that it had finally succumbed. But when we got back from a vacation in Minnesota in early July, I discovered a little shoot coming out from the base of the tree!
By fall, it had fully leafed out, so I took it with us to Colorado when we moved at the end of October, and planted it in our back yard. It flourished there from the next spring (2004) until late summer 2008. I put it into a pot and moved it down to Mesa in early September.
The long ride to Arizona in the hot truck was rough on it, and when I unloaded the truck, it was dry and withered, and soon all the leaves fell off. I nursed it, and in the spring it sprouted again.
It spent all summer in the pot, and the 110 degree heat in the Arizona summer was also tough on it, and it lost all its leaves by August. I began to be more diligent in watering it, and I again saw sprouts coming from near the base of the tree and from the roots.
In September, 2009, we bought a house, and in November, I planted Leroy outside, in front of the house. The photograph below was taken right after I planted it.
As you can see from the photograph above, it is barely two feet tall now, and the upper part of the trunk is dead. But I’m supposing that it will yet flourish again.
So Leroy has died five times, been transplanted five times, grown in three states, and traveled through two other states. He has survived drought, winter, wild beasts (rabbits), and cesspools, and has grown in plain, foothills, and desert. He has had the most exciting life of any honey locust tree in history.
Leroy update – July 18, 2010
Leroy seems to be surviving the Arizona heat all right, and is growing quickly. The buds start to grow in early March here in Arizona, so he has been growing for over four months now. He is now 4 feet 8 inches tall, and the shoot that I chose for the main stem started growing from his base, so that’s one foot per month!
Update – August 15, 2010
I took the photograph on the right today. He’s about 5 1/2 feet tall, up to my forehead. Notice I’ve let alone the growth at the base to help give growing power to the roots and rest of the tree. I’ve pinched off the growing points of that growth so that the new growth is focused on the main stem.
Update – September 5, 2010
Leroy just hit the milestone of 6 feet tall. That figures out to a growth rate of two inches a week since mid-July. I can literally see it grow some every day.
Of course I have been nurturing it along. I let his base leaf out so that he could get lots of photosynthesis going on, but once I picked out a lead shoot, I began pinching off all the other growing points so that his growth would be focused on growing taller. Over the winter, I will trim all the lower growth and let it start to branch out on the top next year.
Update – May 27, 2012
Leroy is truly thriving in Arizona. I worried that he wouldn’t, but he is now 11 feet tall. I have trained one of the branches to be the main trunk and have cut off all the lower branches. I will let the higher branches, above 6 feet, grow out laterally.
While he seems to do very well in the Arizona heat, I have not seen another honey locust tree while I have been here. Mesquite trees, which are related, also do very well in the desert climate and are quite popular in Arizona.
Update – May 4, 2013
Leroy has had another good year, and is now taller and his trunk is thicker than it has ever been.
Another sign that he is truly coming of age is that I spotted seed pods on him for the first time in his life.
Here is a photograph showing how he is now branching out laterally, and there are two clumps of seed pods.
I have bracing ropes now to help keep him upright, as my lone stake is not strong enough to withstand the strength of some of our monsoon winds here in Arizona.
Leroy, May 2013
Leroy’s seed pods
Update August 1, 2015
This is Leroy’s second season without any support stakes or ropes, and he continues to thrive. He’s now 13 feet tall and has developed a wide crown. He had numerous seed pods this spring.
You can still see the two old stumps that I’ve saved at his base.