Hawthorn: Plant profile
Hawthorn, Common Hawthorn, Oneseed Hawthorn, Haw, Thornapple, May Tree, Whitethorn, Quickthorn, Sceach Gheal
Native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia. Very common everywhere in Ireland and the UK, except north of Scotland.
Where to find Hawthorn
Common tree in deciduous woodland, hedgerow, scrubland and public parks.
When to find Hawthorn
Leaves and flowers early to mid-spring and berries early to mid-autumn.
How to identify Hawthorn
Hawthorn is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing up to 6 m. It normally has an structure made of a tangled mass of thorny branches. The leaves resemble those of parsley and lobed into three segments. The flowers are small, white, with five petals and an almondy smell. The fruit is small, red in color and contains one stone, although there can be more in other species.
Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) often hybridises with Midland Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata). Both species are remarkably similar but the Common Hawthorn fruits have a single seed, whereas the berries of Midland Hawthorn have two. Otherwise it can be hard to tell apart, however they are both edible.
Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) have superficially similar berries, dark-orange in colour, but the leaves are totally different.
All about Hawthorn
The humble hawthorn is one of the most magical and enchanted trees of Britain’s hedgerows. There are so many traditions and folklore associated with it that is considered a fairy tree amongst hedge witches.
This omnipresent tree enliven the countryside with its heady and dazzling May blossom that develops into shiny red berries in autumn, just when the tree starts to shed its leaves.
Culinary uses and recipes with Hawthorn
Young shoots and unopened flower buds were once known as ‘bread and cheese’. Though much healthier, unfortunately they taste of neither.
The berries, known as Haws, are much like mild apples but the flesh is quite dense and dry. These make good jelly to eat with cheese and a great ketchup substitute.
Haws have also been used in the production of country wines and homemade schnapps.
In addition, leaves, flowers and berries can be used to make a tea.
Medicinal properties of Hawthorn
Hawthorn is one of the most scientifically validated of our herbal medicines and it’s a restorative for the heart and circulation thus it helps to regulate heartbeat and high blood pressure.
The plant also contains vitamins B and C.
Safe foraging of Hawthorn
Care should be taken when collecting Haws, because the plant has thorns.
The seed of Hawthorn contains a cyanogenic compound called amygdalin, therefore should not be consumed.
Ecological importance of Hawthorn
Hawthorn provides shelter and nesting space for hedgerow birds.
The leaves are a source of food for caterpillars of moths and its flowers provide pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. The berries are eaten by migratory birds.