(Species: Crataegus - Family: Rosaceae)
Hawthorn and its origins
Crataegus is a large group of deciduous shrubs and trees that grows widely throughout the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere in Europe, North America and Asia. It is part of the rose family.
The word originates from the Greek 'kratos', which means strength, and alludes to the tough wood.
Seasonality: Hawthorn in flower and fruit
The stems and branches of hawthorn are spiny and the leaves are serrated, dark green and sometimes colour in the autumn. Scented white flowers appear in late spring and are followed by red berry-like fruit called 'haws'.
Several species and many cultivars are used in garden cultivation. Crataegus monogyny, the common hawthorn or quickthorn, is widely planted as dense, impenetrable hedging in the country as well as in the garden. Hawthorn hedgerows provide valuable food and shelter for birds and small mammals, especially in winter; nectar-feeding insects colonise the flowers in summer and caterpillars of moths and butterflies feed on hawthorns too.
C laevigata Paul's Scarlet is less spiny than the species and has double, carmine-red flowers; it makes a good specimen tree or large shrub. C persimilis Prunifolia is a compact, broad-canopied tree that is renowned for its abundance of showy, dark red fruit, its profusion of white flowers as well as rich autumn colour.
How to plant Hawthorn
Hawthorn will thrive in any reasonable garden soil and prefers sun or part shade. It is unfussy once established, but like all newly planted shrubs, needs watering in the early stages.
Pruning is not necessary, but hedges can be trimmed in summer, after flowering.
Propagation of Hawthorn
It is hard to propagate hawthorns from cuttings that are rootless, so seed is the preferred method. Seed needs to be stratified first, i.e. left outside in trays over winter for an enforced period of cold and moist conditions.
Sow in spring outdoors, either in containers or in rows in fertile soil.
Did you know?
Hawthorn is claimed to contain many substances that benefit the heart, and has long been used to treat circulatory disorders and respiratory illnesses.
In folklore it was said to heal the broken heart.
Hawthorn has been considered to have magical powers since ancient times. Branches were carried by the ancient Greeks in wedding processions and the hawthorn tree was supposedly the source of Christ's crown of thorns.