The specimen in my 1968 collection is labelled Black Locust, and it is possible that I found a Black Locust growing in someone’s yard way back then. It’s a lot more likely that the specimen came from the farm and is actually our native Honey Locust. The specimen in the 1968 collection is just a single leaflet - too little material to allow a positive identification now. The specimen pictured here is definitely a Honey Locust. While the vitex evoked sunny Mediterranean shores in my youthful imagination, the locust said Africa. It said Serengeti. The notion had to come from something I read, though I have no idea at this remove what it might have been. I'm tempted to say that it was Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, but I'm sure that I read that book at a much later date. It could just have been a photo of an acacia in an African landscape in my geography book. The feathery, open form of the tree with its whorls of finely divided leaves and it's long, sharp thorns set it apart from the general run of broad-leaved hardwoods. That was enough to make it special, a symbol of another world.
Speaking of those long, sharp thorns, I consulted Texas Trees, A Friendly Guide, by Paul W. Cox and Patty Leslie, to confirm my suspicions about the identification of my old specimen. There the thorns of the Honey Locust are referred to as “awesome”. They point out the many uses the thorns can be put to by a resourceful people. I understand their admiration, but I would have said "cruel". I came within a gnat’s eyelash of stepping on one while collecting the specimen for this lumen print. If I had stepped on it in my plastic shoes - shoes that would have offered me no defense - I fear I would have had even more colorful names for those devils..