Identification & Description:
A decidious shrub growing to 6m by 6m at a medium rate. It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from April to May, and the seeds ripen from September to November. The scented flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Midges. It is noted for attracting wildlife. We rate it 3 out of 5 for usefulness.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soil. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist or wet soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure. It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.
Related to crab apple trees, hawthorns in general are thorny little trees with much less showy, less variable flowers. Comparatively few are cultivated for either beauty or their fruit. Some are valued for the tough wood’s specialized uses. They bloom from April into early June. The fruit is most showy in October and early November.
The Hawthorn is the badge of the Ogilvies and gets one of its commonest popular names from blooming in May. Many country villagers believe that Hawthorn flowers still bear the smell of the Great Plague of London. The tree was formerly regarded as sacred, probably from a tradition that it furnished the Crown of Thorns. The device of a Hawthorn bush was chosen by Henry VII because a small crown from the helmet of Richard III was discovered hanging on it after the battle of Bosworth, hence the saying, ‘Cleve to thy Crown though it hangs on a bush.’ The Hawthorn is called Crataegus Oxyacantha from the Greek kratos, meaning hardness (of the wood), oxcus (sharp), and akantha (a thorn). The German name of Hagedorn, meaning Hedgethorn, shows that from a very early period the Germans divided their land into plots by hedges; the word haw is also an old word for hedge. The name Whitethorn arises from the whiteness of its bark and Quickset from its growing as a quick or living hedge, in contrast to a paling of dead wood.
This familiar tree will attain a height of 30 feet and lives to a great age. It possesses a single seed-vessel to each blossom producing a separate fruit, which when ripe is a brilliant red and this is in miniature a stony apple. In some districts these mealy red fruits are called Pixie Pears, Cuckoo’s Beads and Chucky Cheese. The flowers are mostly fertilized by carrion insects, the suggestion of decomposition in the perfume attracts those insects that lay their eggs and hatch out their larvae in decaying animal matter.
Habitats and Possible Locations
Hedge, Woodland, Secondary, Sunny Edge, Dappled Shade, Deep Shade.
Coffee; Fruit; Leaves; Tea.
Fruit – raw or cooked. A dry and mealy texture, they are not very appetizing. The fruit can be used for jams and preserves. The fruit pulp can be dried, ground into a meal and mixed with flour in making bread etc. The fruit is about 1cm in diameter. There are up to five fairly large seeds in the centre of the fruit, these often stick together and so the effect is of eating a cherry-like fruit with a single seed.
Young leaves and young shoots – raw. A tasty nibble, they are nice in a salad.
Young leaves are a tea substitute.
The roasted seed is a coffee substitute.
Charcoal; Fuel; Hedge; Rootstock; Wood.
A good hedge plant, it is very tolerant of neglect and is able to regenerate if cut back severely, it makes a good thorny stock-proof barrier and resists very strong winds. It can be used in layered hedges.
The plant is often used as a rootstock for several species of garden fruit such as the medlar (Mespilus germanica) and the pear (Pyrus communis sativa).
Wood – very hard and tough but difficult to work. It has a fine grain and takes a beautiful polish but is seldom large enough to be of great value. It is used for tool handles and making small wooden articles etc. The wood is valued in turning and makes an excellent fuel, giving out a lot of heat, more so even than oak wood. Charcoal made from the wood is said to be able to melt pig iron without the aid of a blast.