Sunday, October 17, 2010

Common Hawthorn

Common Hawthorn”

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Crataegus
Example Species: Crataegus monogyna

Hardiness Zones: 4 to 7
Height: 20 ft, Spread: 20 ft Form: rounded
Type: deciduous tree
Annual Growth Rate: 12 to 18 inches
Flowers: White
Fruit: Red
Hawthorn goes by many names – Thorn, Thorn Apple, Quickthorn, White Thorn, Haegthorn, May Tree, Faerie Tree and more. Old European tradition places (Haw)Thorn with Oak and Ash as the three sacred trees. This gnarly, thorny tree of the rose family is rich in folklore, legend and beneficence.

There are thirty-one species of Hawthorn in Maine. The state considers it a “troublesome” tree, and so the Maine Forest Service lists only one generic name for all of them. This is odd because Hawthorn is a very beneficial tree to humans and wildlife, even if it is non-native.

Hawthorn, as the “May Tree”, is central to May Day celebrations and rituals. Spring and life's renewal have not officially arrived until the May flowers bloom. When it is time to “go gathering knots (of May flowers) in May” is it also time to plow the fields, sheer the sheep and celebrate new life. Hawthorn is traditional as the May Pole, and is thought that originally a live tree would be transplanted from the wild each year to serve as that year's Pole, and, thereafter as a guardian spirit.

Hawthorn prefers well-drained, moist soil, but is adaptable. Once established it is very tolerant of drought, floods, wind and air pollution. It is an excellent hedge tree (hence the names Hawthorn, Haegthorn and Quickthorn), being a broad-rounded, low branched, quick growing, long-lived tree with wide spreading, horizontal, thorny branches forming a dense canopy. Hawthorn wood is strong and close-grained; good for carving, tool handles and small household items. The root wood is used for small boxes and combs. The bark is good for tanning. Hawthorn berries (Pixie Pears) are a favorite winter food for many birds. Humans use the berries for wines, jellies, and medicinal infusions for sore throats, edema, kidney ailments, stress, old age, blood and heart ailments. The leaves and leaf buds are tasty eaten off the tree, added to salads, and, with flower buds and blossoms, in tea as a heart tonic. The dried blossom petals are the original confetti used to celebrate lovers. When grown with Oak and Ash it is said to create a faerie sanctuary. It is complimentary to Apple in that both have similar but different folklore, branch structures and flowers, and Hawthorn berries look like miniature apples.
Tallamy, Douglas W. Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens. Portland, Or.: Timber, 2007. Print.

Plotnik, Arthur. The Urban Tree Book: an Uncommon Field Guide for City and Town. New York: Three Rivers, 2000. Print.

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Kindred, Glennie. "The Hawthorn Tree - Queen of the May." The Home of the White Dragon Magazine. Web. 05 Oct. 2010. < >.

"Maine Tree Species Fact Sheet - Hawthorn." The University of Maine - Cooperative Extension. Web. 05 Oct. 2010. < >.

Forest Trees of Maine” Maine Forest Service, Department of Conservation. 12th Edition 1995. Web. 05 Oct 2010. < >