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Plant Profile: New Mexico Locust (Robinia neomexicana)

Also known as southwest and desert locust, this deciduous  multi branched shrub or small tree is native to areas in southwestern US where it can be an understory tree or grow in pure stands in forest openings.  It is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, that also include mimosa, lupines, and beans.  Plants grow 10-25′ tall  and have  4-6″ long pinnate leaves that are blue-green and divided into 7-15 lance-shaped leaflets up to 1.5″ long.   A pair of sharp spines are located on each side of the leaf scars.   From spring to early summer fragrant white to pink pea-like flowers appear  in dense drooping racemes 2-4″ long and give way to  bean-like fruits that persist into winter. The  plants tend to root sprout and may form dense thickets and are very drought tolerant and therefore useful in water saving gardens  The genus name, Robinia, honors Jean Robin (1550-1629) the gardener of  Kings Henry IV and Louis XIII of France.  The specific epithet, neomexicana, is the Latinized form of New Mexico, one of the locations where the plant is found.

Type: Deciduous flowering shrub or small tree

Outstanding Feature: Flowers; drought tolerance

Form: Rounded

Growth Rate: Rapid

Bloom: Dense racemes 2-4″ long of white to pink pea-like flowers from spring to early summer

Size: 10-15′ H

Light:Full sun to part shade

Soil: Average, dry to moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 5-10

Care: Low maintenance

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seeds (may need soaking in hot water for 24 hours to soften seed coat)

Photo Credit: Wikipedia