Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
Stretching to over 6 m tall, the hawthorn stands in the Grove Street Cemetary. The hawthorn blossoms delicate flowers in the spring, and produce fruit that look like red orbs, which can be made into delectable jams, jellies, fruit preserves, wine, and other foods. Also called the thornapple or May-tree, the hawthorn is typically used as ornamental trees. The hawthorn is known for its hallmark thorns that protrude from its branches, and has become the center of many folkoric tales, legends, and beliefs.
Audrey Luo, Tiwadeye Lawal
Collected Data
Date of tree entry: 
6.40 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.21 m

The bark on the hawthorn is gray with shallow, longitundial fissures with narrow ridges. In younger trees, the bark is smooth and gray, as seen on a branch of the hawthorn . As they age, the bark darkens into a shade of brown and develops fissures and ridges.
Twigs & branches
Hawthorns, as evidenced by its name, have thorny branches. The thorns are smaller branches that arise from a larger branch, and are typically 1–3 cm long. These thorns tend to be sharp. This deciduous tree has alternate branching, in which the twigs (or thorns) are not directly opposite each other.
The leaves on a hawthorn grow spirally arranged and in clusters on spring shoots on the branches or twigs. The leaves of hawthorns have lobed margins (as in the midland hawthorn , or Crataegus oxyacanthae) or serrate margins (as seen in the Washington hawthorn , or Crataegus phaenopyrum). These leaves tend to be 3 to 5 lobed, and are 2-6 cm in length. The leaf shape varies between species, but often appear to be deltoid, ovate, or rhomboid. In fact, hawthorn leaves are edible if they are picked early enough and can be used in salads!
Reproductive Structures
The dicot flowers of a hawthorn are white with a light pink tint and have 5 petals. The tree produces hermaphrodite flowers, which have staminate (male and pollen-producing) and carpellate (female and ovule-producing) parts. These flowers provide nectar for nectar-feeding insects. They flower in April and May.
On the back of the hawthorn flower, there is a seed that grows into a green fruit. By the fall, the fruit ripens into a red orb. The fruit is called a haw. Although haws are structurally pomes, they are many times called berries due to their small size. As pomes, they have thin skin that covers a fleshy pulp. There are up to five woody seeds at the center of the haw, which often clump together. Furthermore, the haw ranges in size, with the largest haw being around an inch in diameter. The texture is variable-- it can range from mealy, to hard, dry, and powdery, to crisp and juicy. The fruit tastes a bit bitter or sour, yet sweet. The haws are extremely important, because they serve as a food source for many birds. These birds disperse the seeds by ingesting and passing the seeds to a new location, where a new hawthorn tree may grow.
  • Winter
  • Spring
  • Summer
  • Fall (Representation)
Natural range of distribution: 
One of the most fascinating aspects of the hawthorn is its adaptive nature. Typically, the optimum habitat for the hawthorn tree is a well-drained, but moisture-retentive loamy soil. However, the tree is quite adaptive and can still thrive in other environments, including clays and chalky soils. The hawthorn has developed resistance to drought, overly-moist environments, wind, and atmospheric pollution. The hawthorn's resistance to pollution allows it to grow in cities, towns, and industrial spaces. Furthermore, the hawthorn prefers sunny environments, but will also survive in semi-shade environments.
Origin, history, and uses: 

Hawthorn trees, especially in North America, are difficult to taxonomically identify. Many North American ornamental species are determined to be common hawthorns or Crataegus monogyna.The common hawthorn is native to northern Europe. Common hawthorn trees are very old. For example, there is a common hawthorn in Mayenne, France that supposedly traces back to the 3rd century. Furthermore, in North America, Cretaceous period fossils (from 140-170 million years ago) of common hawthorn have been found, signaling that common hawthorn have been in North America for a long time.

There are many different types of hawthorn found around the world. These hawthorn provide fruit, which is processed or cooked into a number of foods and delicacies. For example, the crataegus pinnatifida, or the Chinese hawthorn, can be made into jams, jellies, candy, wine, or hawflakes (a dried fruit candy formed into a disk). On the other hand, the haw of the crataegus monogyna, or the Common hawthorn found in the Europe, the United States, and Canada, can be eaten raw or be made into a jam, jelly, or fruit preserve. 
The fruit of the Crataegus monogyna can also be used medicinally. It has been shown that it can help dilate coronary arteries, which may lower blood pressure and ease the stress on the heart. The heart can more easily gain oxygen from the lungs and oxygenate the rest of the body. The haw may also be used to treat congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure occurs when your heart has difficulty supplying the body with blood. Blood, then returns to the heart, leading to swelling and fluid buildup. The diuretic properties in the haw can reduce fluid buildup.
The wood of the hawthorn is very hard, durable, and strong. Therefore, it can be fabricated into tool handles, fence posts, and small wooden objects that are meant to last.
Finally, the hawthorn tree has been the state flower of Missouri since 1923.


The hawthorn is the center of many folkloric tales, legends, and beliefs. Interestingly enough, the hawthorn tree in folkloric legends and tales has been endowed with special or magical properties. For example, Serbian and Croatian folklore note that hawthorn stakes were used to slay vampires. Even more, in Gaelic folklore, the hawthorn symbolized the entrance into the otherworld and were strongly connected to fairies.

An olden saying, "Ne'er cast a clout till May be out," warns to not shed your clothes (ne'er cast a clout), until the hawthorn blossoms (till May be out). This is because the hawthorn usually blossoms in May, signalling the beginning of summer. In this way, the hawthorn tree is truly a four-season plant and exhibits new traits throughout the year. The hawthorn usually exhibits its first leaves in early spring, or from March to April. In springtime, or from March to June, the hawthorn commences its flowering period. From May to September, the haws, or the fruit of the hawthorn , are usually produced. In the fall, or from October to November, the berries ripen and the leaves change from green to gold and red. The timing of the production of ripe fruits changes geographically-- southerly Hawthorn populations' fruit ripens after northerly populations'. Finally, in November, the leaves drop.

Barber, P. (1988). Vampires, burial, and death. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Brown, H. B.. (1910). The Genus Crataegus, with Some Theories Concerning the Origin of Its Species. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 37(5), 251–260. http://doi.org/10.2307/2479407

Campbell, John Gregorson (1900, 1902, 2005) The Gaelic Otherworld. Edited by Ronald Black. Edinburgh, Birlinn Ltd. ISBN 1-84158-207-7 p.345

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Crataegus Monogyna. (2016). Plant Factsheet. Retrieved 27 April 2016, from https://www.wageningenur.nl/upload_mm/e/2/1/27301cd3-2735-4d35-a82c-530a…

Crataegus Species - The Hawthorns. (2016). Pfaf.org. Retrieved 27 April 2016, from http://www.pfaf.org/user/cmspage.aspx?pageid=59

Fuentes, M. (1992). Latitudinal and elevational variation in fruiting phenology among western European bird-dispersed plants. Ecography, 15(2), 177-183. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0587.1992.tb00021.x

Hawthorn. (2016). Clovegarden.com. Retrieved 27 April 2016, from http://www.clovegarden.com/ingred/rp_haw.html

Hawthorn Berry. (2016). Retrieved from http://magazine.essentialhotels.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Hawthorn-Berries.jpg

Hawthorn Summer. (2016). Retrieved from http://gallery.nen.gov.uk/assets/0605/0000/0332/plants_002_mid.jpg

Hawthorn Tree Fall. (2016). Retrieved from http://search.sargentsgardens.com/Content/Images/Photos/A075-14.jpg

Hawthorn videos, photos and facts - Crataegus monogyna | ARKive. (2016). ARKive. Retrieved 27 April 2016, from http://www.arkive.org/hawthorn/crataegus-monogyna/

Leaf Shape. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.flora.dempstercountry.org/0.Site.Folder/Leaves.shapes.jpg

May Hawthorn. (2016). USDA Plant Fact Sheet. Retrieved 27 April 2016, from http://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_crae.pdf

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Phipps, J.B., O’Kennon, R.J., Lance, R.W. (2003). Hawthorns and medlars. Royal Horticultural Society, Cambridge, U.K.

Phrase Finder is copyright Gary Martin, 1. (2016). Ne’er cast a clout till May be out - meaning and origin.. Phrases.org.uk. Retrieved 27 April 2016, from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/till-may-is-out.html

To the Hawthorn-Tree by Pierre de Ronsard. (2016). Poetrynook.com. Retrieved 26 April 2016, from http://www.poetrynook.com/poem/hawthorn-tree-1

Tree of the Month: ‘Winter King’ Hawthorn (Crataegus viridis) (Dauphin County). (2016). Dauphin County (Penn State Extension). Retrieved 27 April 2016, from http://extension.psu.edu/dauphin/news/2012/tree-of-the-month-winter-king-hawthorn-crataegus-viridis

What Is Hawthorn Fruit? | LIVESTRONG.COM. (2013). LIVESTRONG.COM. Retrieved 27 April 2016, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/417386-what-is-hawthorn-fruit/

White Hawthorn Blossom | State Symbols USA. (2016). Statesymbolsusa.org. Retrieved 27 April 2016, from http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/missouri/state-flowe…

Media and Arts

Pierre de Ronsard, the "prince of poets", was a 16th century French poet, who wrote "To the Hawthorn Tree," an ode to the Hawthorn Tree. The poem describes and praises the tree, its beauty when it blossoms, the animals that use it for shelter, and the shade the tree provides:

Hawthorn fair, whose burgeoning
Blossoms spring
Where these banks wind beauteously,
Down along thine arms there clings,
Waves, and swings,
Trailing wild-vine drapery.

Rival camps of scurrying ants
Have their haunts
Fortified, at thy roots' head.
In thy hollow-eaten bole's
Countless holes
Tiny bees find board and bed.

Nightingale the chorister
Dwelleth here
Where in flush of youth he made
Love, and still each year again
Shall obtain
Solace in thy leafy shade.

In thy top he hath his nest
Built, and dressed—
Woven of wool, with silks made gay;
Whence his young so soon as hatched,
Must be snatched,
For my hands a gentle prey.

Live, then, dainty hawthorn fair,
Live fore'er,
Live secure from every foe!
May nor axe nor lightning harm;
Wind, nor storm,
E'er avail to lay thee low.

-"To the Hawthorn Tree," Pierre de Ronsard