Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Robinia neomexicana, New Mexico Locust

Robinia neomexicana, New Mexico Locust Robinia neomexicana, New Mexico Locust Robinia neomexicana, New Mexico Locust Robinia neomexicana, New Mexico Locust Robinia neomexicana, New Mexico Locust

Scientific Name: Robinia neomexicana
Common Name: New Mexico Locust

Also Called: New Mexico Honey Locust, Rose Locust, Southwestern Locust; (ES: Uña de Gato, Robinia)
Family: Fabaceae or Leguminosae Family

Synonyms: (Robinia subvelutina)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: Up to 30 feet (9 m) tall, however, much shorter when observed in thickets (10 feet (3 m).

Growth Form: New Mexico Locust is a tree or large shrub, plants are spiny and form thickets.

Leaves: New Mexico Locust has green leaves, pinnately compound; the leaves have a pair of sharp thorns at the base.

Flower Color: New Mexico Locust has showy purple, white or purplish-pink pea-like flowers that hang in dense clusters, flowers are fragrant and the fruit is a 3 inch (7.6 cm) hairy pod containing several seeds.

Flowering Season: April or May to July or August across it's range.

Elevation: 4,000 to 8,500 feet (1,219 - 2,591 m) across it's wide geographic range.

Habitat Preferences: Along streams, sides of canyons and in conifer forests where they may form thickets, often with Gambel Oak, Quercus gambelii; prefers rocky, sandy and clay soils.

Recorded Range: New Mexico Locust is native to the southwestern United States in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas and perhaps Wyoming. This species is found primarily in Arizona and New Mexico and in Nevada.

It is also native to northern Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Robinia neomexicana.

North America species range map for New Mexico Locust, Robinia neomexicana:

North America species range map for New Mexico Locust, Robinia neomexicana:
Click image for full size map.

U.S. Weed Information: Unknown
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: Unknown
Wetland Indicator: Unknown
Threatened/Endangered Information: Unknown

Genus Information: In North America, USDA Plants Database lists 4 species and 11 accepted taxa overall for Robinia. Worldwide, World Flora Online includes 57 accepted species names and a further 9 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

The genus Robinia was published in 1753 Carl Linnaeus, (1707-1778).

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona and Nevada each have 2 species of Robinia and California, New Mexico, Texas and Utah each have 3 species. Data approximate, subject to revision.

There are 2 varieties in Robinia neomexicana;

  • Robinia neomexicana var. neomexican, New Mexico Locust (Recorded Range above)
  • Robinia neomexicana var. rusbyi, Rusby's Locust (SE Arizona and western NM only)
  • Comments: New Mexico Locust is a rhizomatous tree or shrub that grows alone or as a co dominant under-story plant with Gambel Oak and other higher elevations species (pines and firs).

    Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
    New Mexico Locust, Robinia neomexicana, has attractive flowers, the flowers, their seeds and plants may be visited by hummingbirds and/or small mammals including rodents and granivorous birds in search of food, nectar and protection through cover.

    The flowers are known to attract bees and hummingbirds, nectar insects and fruit eating mammals and birds.

    Beneficial Value to Butterflies, Honey Bees and Insects
    New Mexico Locust, Robinia neomexicana, has attractive flowers, the flowers and their plants may be visited or used by butterflies, moths, flies, honeybees, native bees and other insects in search of nectar, food or shelter and protection.

    New Mexico Locust, is a larval host, adult food or visited by;

  • Autochton cellus, Golden Banded-Skipper;
  • Erynnis funeralis, Funereal Duskywing;
  • Epargyreus clarus , Silver-spotted Skipper;
  • Euclea dolliana, Slug Caterpillar Moths;
  • Eurema mexicana, Mexican Yellow;

  • Learn more at Butterflies and Moths of North America, (BAMONA).

    ****Special Value to Native Bees****
    According to The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, New Mexico Locust, Robinia neomexicana, is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of Native bees. Click here for more information on their Pollinator Conservation Program.

    The genus “Robinia” was named in honor of Jean Robin (1559-1629) of Paris; Mr. Robin was a French botanist, herbalist, gardener and curator of the botanical garden of the Paris Faculty of Medicine.

    The genus Robinia was published in 1753 Carl Linnaeus, (1707-1778).

    The species epithet neomexicana (neomexica'na:) means of or from New Mexico.

    The taxon Robinia neomexicana was described in 1854 by Asa Gray, (1810-1888).

    Ethnobotany - Native American Ethnobotany; University of Michigan - Dearborn
    New Mexico Locust, Robinia neomexicana is used by southwestern United States indigenous peoples for such purposes described below.
  • Apache, Chiricahua & Mescalero Food, Vegetable; Raw pods eaten as food.
  • Apache, Chiricahua & Mescalero Food, Winter Use Food; Pods cooked and stored.
  • Apache, Mescalero Food, Dried Food; Flowers boiled, dried and stored for winter food use.
  • Apache, Mescalero Food, Unspecified; Fresh flowers cooked with meat or bones and used for food.
  • Apache, Mescalero Other, Hunting & Fishing Item; Wood used to make high quality bows.
  • Apache, White Mountain Food, Vegetable; Beans and pods used for food.
  • Hopi Drug, Emetic; Used as an emetic to purify the stomach.
  • Hualapai Fiber, Furniture; Branches used to make cradleboards.
  • Hualapai Other, Hunting & Fishing Item; Wood, cured for a year, used to make hunting bows.
  • Jemez Food, Unspecified; Flowers eaten as food.
  • Jemez Food, Unspecified; Large clusters of flowers eaten without preparation.
  • Keres, Western Other, Hunting & Fishing Item; Branches used in making arrow shafts.
  • Tewa Other, Hunting & Fishing Item; Wood used to make bows.

  • See complete listing of ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    Date Profile Completed: 09/07/2015, updated 03/18/2022
    References and additional information:
    Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.; Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search; accessed on-line; 02/23/2022 and 03/16/2022.
    World Flora Online; A Project of the World Flora Online Consortium; An Online Flora of All Known Plants - (accessed on-line; 02/23/2022 and 03/16/2022.)
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN. Published on the Internet; accessed on-line 02/24/2022 and 03/18/2022. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    Encyclopedia of Life; New Mexico Locust, Robinia neomexicana - accessed on-line 03/18/2022.
    Ferrer-Paris, José R.; Sánchez-Mercado, Ada Y.; Lozano, Cecilia; Zambrano, Liset; Soto, José; Baettig, Jessica; Leal, María (): A compilation of larval host-plant records for six families of butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea) from available electronic resources. figshare.; accessed on-line 03/18/2022.
    Edward Baker; Ian Kitching; George W Beccaloni; Amoret Whitaker; Steen Dupont; Vincent Smith; John S Noyes (). NHM Interactions Bank.; accessed on-line 03/18/2022.
    Aggie-Horticulture, Ornamental Plants New Mexico Locust, Southwestern Locust, Hojalito; (accessed on-line 03/18/2022)
    Martin and Hutchins 1980, Kearney and Peebles 1969; Editor: S.Buckley, 2010; from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; accessed 02/25/2022.
    Wikipedia contributors. "Robinia neomexicana." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Jan. 2022. Web. 18 Mar. 2022; accessed on-line 03/18/2022.
    T. Beth Kinsey, Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers and Plants; Robinia neomexicana – New Mexico Locust - accessed on-line 03/18/2022.
    Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Fact Sheet for New Mexican locust Fabaceae Robinia neomexicana A. Gray; accessed on-line 02/22/2022.
    Seiler, John, Peterson, John, North American species range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information.
    Etymology: Michael L. Charters California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - (accessed on-line; 02/25/2022)
    IPNI (2020). International Plant Names Index. Published on the Internet, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries and Australian National Botanic Gardens. [Retrieved on-line; 25 February 2022 and March 16, 2022].