Hawthorn Tree | Crataegus

Crataegus, commonly known as Flowering Hawthorn trees, are popular for their spring flowers in shades of white, pink and red and the autumn berries. Hawthorn trees are beneficial to wildlife, useful for tough or exposed positions and can be used on boundaries as a deterrent.

Hawthorn trees are of great benefit to British wildlife, with the thorny foliage providing a protected zone. Mature Hawthorn trees can support more than 300 types of insects. Their fruits are eaten by birds, such as thrushes and waxwings (who disperse the seeds in their droppings) and small mammals. The white flowers provide a good source of nectar for bees.

Crataegus is a large genus of shrubs and trees well suited to planting as ornamental trees, street trees and garden hedging. The common Crataegus monogyna has white flowers as do a number of other varieties, but there are also red and pink flowering Hawthorn trees. Haw refers to the fruit but it is actually the Old English name for hedge. It is a common misunderstanding that the phrase: 'Ne'ver cast a clout till May is out' means do not shed your winter clothes until the month of May ends but it actually refers to the appearance of flowers on Hawthorn trees (or Maythorn) as the symbol of summer starting - Hawthorn is the only British tree to be named after its flowering period.

Common Names include: Hawthorne tree, Maythorn, Thornapple, May-tree, Whitehorn and Hawberry.

Culinary and Cultural Uses of Hawthorn Trees

  • The berries from Chinese Hawthorn (Crataegus Pinnatifida) are called shanzha and are used to make jellies, jams, juices, alcoholic beverages and snacks known as haw flakes and tanghulu. In South Korea they are called sansachun and used to make liquor.
  • In the U.S the three native varieties of the hawthorn tree are known as mayhaws and the jelly made from the fruit is a delicacy.
  • In Iran the fruits are called zalzalak and they are eaten raw as a snack.
  • The leaves of the hawthorn tree, which are edible when young and tender, go well in salads.
  • On Manitoulin Island in Canada the red fruits are called hawberries. In the Pioneer days, white settlers survived by eating hawthorne fruits during winter as they were the only food source available. Now people born there are called haweaters!

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