The honey locust and the mimosa are two shade trees that are not commonly used as landscape trees, but are both great for use as lawn accent trees. Mimosa trees, due to their invasive nature, require some extensive cleanup, especially when planted near homes, as fallen flowers, leaves, and seed pods can lead to unwanted seedlings that need to be removed before they establish themselves and become much harder to uproot.
However, with a little extra effort, the mimosa will be a lovely addition to your property. Thornless varieties of the honey locust tree are also excellent choices for lawn accent trees, though they are susceptible to a large number of potential disease issues. Both trees can be used as lawn accents and can be lovely additions to any property. Though the two trees share some common characteristics, they are easily distinguished from each other upon closer inspection.
How to Tell Honey Locust and Mimosa Trees Apart
Though the honey locust and the mimosa tree are often confused for each other due to many shared characteristics, there are several ways in which the two trees can be identified and distinguished from each other. The honey locust’s green foliage, which turns to a bright golden yellow in the fall, is one way that you can distinguish the two, as the mimosa tree has deep-green foliage that does not turn color in the fall, but simply falls to the ground after the first frost. There is, however, a variety of the mimosa tree called the golden mimosa, which has golden yellow foliage instead of green, which could cause some confusion.
The easiest way to tell the two trees apart is by comparing their size, as the honey locust grows quite a bit taller and wider than the mimosa at full maturity. The honey locust tree grows up to 60 to 80 feet tall with a similar spread, while the mimosa tree reaches heights of only 20 to 40 feet with a 20 to 50 foot spread.
Another way to distinguish the two trees is by comparing their blooms, which are different in both color and form, as well as the time in which the blooms appear. The honey locust tree’s blooms are present from May to June, and are rather inconspicuous. The small blooms are greenish-yellow or greenish-white, and as they fade, long, flat, dark brownish-purple seed pods sprout up in their place.
The blooms of the mimosa tree appear from June to July and blanket the tree in pink. The fluffy, powder puff pink flowers are prominently featured, and very distinguishable from the blooms of the honey locust.
Honey Locust Versus Mimosa Trees: Similarities
Although the mimosa tree and honey locust tree are distinct varieties with plenty of differences, they do have some things in common. You’ll find a list of the similarities between mimosa and honey locust trees below.
- Both mimosa and honey locust trees are host plants that are susceptible to infestation by the mimosa webworm, Homadaula anisocentra. These small caterpillars build their webs in tree branches from midsummer until the beginning of fall, September or October. They sometimes build their cocoons in the foliage of trees to pupate and emerge in moth form. The chrysalises are sometimes built in groups and look like puffed rice.
- The honey locust and mimosa tree are both part of the same plant family: Fabaceae, which is colloquially known as the legume family.
- Although the USDA Hardiness Zones where you can grow mimosa and honey locust trees are not exactly the same, there is some overlap between them. You can grow both trees in zones 6 through 8. Growing zones for the mimosa tree are zones 6 through 9, while the honey locust tree can be grown in zones 3 through 8.
- The blooming period for these two tree types is not exactly the same, but you can find both mimosa and honey locust trees blooming in June. Mimosa trees will continue blooming through July, while honey locust trees begin blooming in May and end in June.
- While it’s possible to grow mimosa trees in partial shade, both mimosa and honey locust trees share a preference for being grown in full sun (receiving at least six hours of sunlight each day).
- The mimosa tree and honey locust tree both have a medium/moderate need for water.
- Both mimosa trees and honey locust trees produce seed pods that resemble those of bean plants after their flowers have faded. The seed pods of mimosa trees can be up to seven inches long and stay on the tree into the winter season. Honey locust trees are known for their large seed pods, which can be up to 18 inches long. The seed pods of the honey locust tree can be twisted into spirals, while those of the mimosa tree remain flat and straight.
- The mimosa tree and honey locust tree are both tolerant of deer, extreme heat, and drought.
- Both mimosa trees and honey locust trees will happily grow in a wide variety of soil types and conditions.
- Although the look of the blooms from honey locust and mimosa trees is not similar, both blossoms are showy and are often used in cut floral arrangements.
Honey Locust Versus Mimosa Trees: Differences
These two tree varieties have lots of differences between them. Below is a list of traits that honey locust and mimosa trees do not share.
- The original growth territory of honey locust and mimosa trees does not overlap. Mimosa trees come from a native range that stretches from Iran to Japan, while honey locust trees are found growing naturally in the central and eastern parts of North America.
- The mature size of mimosa and honey locust trees is quite different. Mimosa trees can reach an eventual height between 20 and 40 feet tall, with a spread between 20 and 50 feet. Honey locust trees can grow up to between 60 and 80 feet tall, with a spread that is also between 60 and 80 feet.
- The blooms of mimosa and honey locust trees don’t look at all alike. Mimosa trees have pink and white blooms that look something like a powder puff or firework, made up of lots of individual straight strand-like petals. There is a variety called the golden mimosa tree (Acacia baileyana), which produces golden yellow blossoms instead of the traditional pink variety. The blooms of golden mimosa trees are nto tinged with white like the pink blooms of the standard mimosa tree, and they resemble the flowers of dandelions. Honey locust tree blossoms can range from greenish yellow to a shade of greenish white, and they grow in clusters.
- When it is in bloom, the mimosa tree is known for its ability to attract butterflies. While a pollinator or two may visit a blooming honey locust tree, they do not have the same ability to attract lots of pollinators.
- In addition to the tolerance of deer and drought that mimosa and honey locust trees share, honey locust trees have additional tolerances for wind, salinity (salt in water or soil), clay soil and air pollution. They can also be grown near black walnut trees, since they are not affected by juglone toxicity. Mimosa trees will tolerate alkaline soil conditions and poor soil.
- Only the mimosa tree is considered invasive in some areas. The honey locust tree is not considered invasive in any of its growing zones. The mimosa tree’s invasive status is due to its ability to grow quickly and to spread beyond the spot where it is planted. As is common with invasive species, the mimosa tree is also tolerant of a whole spectrum of soil conditions.
Additionally, if the mimosa tree is damaged or cut, it can sprout again from that spot and grow vigorously to catch up. Its ability to spread is aided by birds, which sprinkle the seeds around as they play in the branches of the tree.
It is especially difficult to control the growth of mimosa trees from seed because of the impermeable coats of the seeds, which permit mimosa seeds to stay viable for a period of years during their dormancy. The mimosa tree produces extremely large numbers of seeds, and in addition to being spread by wildlife, the seeds can be spread via the movement of wind and water while they are still within their seed pods.
- Aside from their shared susceptibility to the mimosa webworm, honey locust and mimosa trees are also vulnerable to other plant diseases and insects that are not shared threats. Honey locust trees can struggle with borers, canker, leaf spot, powdery mildew, rust, and witches’ broom. Mimosa trees tend to have issues with wilt, and the wood of mimosa trees is not particularly strong, so it is easy for mimosa trees to become damaged in strong winds or when conditions are snowy or icy.
- Honey locust trees have large thorns that can pose problems when gardeners are working with the tres. Mimosa trees do not have any thorns of their own.
The mimosa tree has earned a bad reputation for its invasive nature, but if you are willing to expend a little extra effort in pulling up unwanted seedlings a few times per year, the reward is well worth the investment, as these trees provide a wonderful fragrance and a nice blanket of shade to relax beneath when the weather is nice. Honey locust trees, while larger, provide a similarly enjoyable fragrance during their blooming period, and both trees are great choices for lawn accents for any property.
Learn More About Mimosa Trees and Honey Locust Trees
Hallie Wiseley Craig says
It’s quite sad to witness the active promotion of a known invasive plant. Would you also recommend kudzu as a ground cover? SMH