Robinia - Encyclopedia


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ROBINIA, or Locust-Tree, a genus of about six species native of the United States and Mexico, belonging to the suborder Papilionaceae of the great family Leguminosae. It was named by Linnaeus in honour of Jean Robin (1550-1629), herbalist to the king of France and his son and successor, Vespasien Robin (1579-1660) by whom the best-known species, Robinia Pseudacacia, was introduced into Europe, in the Jardin du Roi at Paris in 1636. This tree, the bastard acacia, or false acacia, and often called erroneously acacia, is now widely cultivated as an ornamental tree in this country and on the European continent. It grows from 30 to 60 ft. high, and bears long, graceful, compound leaves with 9 to 17 bright green oblong leaflets, and white fragrant flowers in loose pendulous racemes, recalling the laburnum in habit. There are many varieties in English gardens varying in the method of growth, the presence or absence of thorns (persistent spinose stipules) on the branches and the colour of the flower.

In the eastern United States, where it is native, it grows from 70 to So ft. high with a trunk 3 or 4 ft. in diameter. It is one of the most valuable timber trees of the American forest. The wood is heavy, very hard, strong, close-grained and durable, and is extensively used in shipbuilding, also for posts and other purposes where durability in contact with the ground is essential.

Like many plants of the same family, the leaves show sleep movement, folding together at night and in dull or wet weather; for this reason it is less injurious than many trees to plants growing in its shade, as the rain is able more quickly to reach the ground beneath.

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