Crataegus (/krəˈtiːɡəs/; from the Greek kratos "strength" and
akis "sharp", referring to the thorns of some species) commonly
called hawthorn, thornapple, May-tree, whitethorn, or
hawberry, is a large genus of shrubs and trees in the family Rosaceae,
native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Europe, Asia
and North America. The name "hawthorn" was originally applied to the
species native to northern Europe, especially the common hawthorn
C. monogyna, and the unmodified name is often so used in Britain
and Ireland. The name is now also applied to the entire genus and to
the related Asian genus Rhaphiolepis. The name haw, originally an Old
English term for hedge, applies to the fruit.
3.1 Culinary use
3.3 Traditional medicine
3.3.1 Side effects
3.7 Other uses
7 Selected species
7.1 Selected hybrids
9 External links
Close-up of the flowers of C. monogyna
Crataegus species are shrubs or small trees, mostly growing to
5–15 m (16–49 ft) tall, with small pome fruit and
(usually) thorny branches. The most common type of bark is smooth grey
in young individuals, developing shallow longitudinal fissures with
narrow ridges in older trees. The thorns are small sharp-tipped
branches that arise either from other branches or from the trunk, and
are typically 1–3 cm long (recorded as up to 11.5 cm
(4.5 in) in one case). The leaves grow spirally arranged on
long shoots, and in clusters on spur shoots on the branches or twigs.
The leaves of most species have lobed or serrated margins and are
somewhat variable in shape. The fruit, sometimes known as a "haw", is
berry-like but structurally a pome containing from one to five pyrenes
that resemble the "stones" of plums, peaches, etc., which are
drupaceous fruit in the same subfamily.
Hawthorns provide food and shelter for many species of birds and
mammals, and the flowers are important for many nectar-feeding
insects. Hawthorns are also used as food plants by the larvae of a
large number of
Lepidoptera species, such as the small eggar moth, E.
lanestris. Haws are important for wildlife in winter, particularly
thrushes and waxwings; these birds eat the haws and disperse the seeds
in their droppings.
The "haws" or fruits of the common hawthorn, C. monogyna, are edible,
but the flavour has been compared to over-ripe apples. In the United
Kingdom, they are sometimes used to make a jelly or homemade wine.
The leaves are edible, and if picked in spring when still young, are
tender enough to be used in salads. The young leaves and flower
buds, which are also edible, are known as "bread and cheese" in rural
The fruits of the species
Crataegus pinnatifida (Chinese hawthorn) are
tart, bright red, and resemble small crabapple fruits. They are used
to make many kinds of Chinese snacks, including haw flakes and
tanghulu (糖葫芦). The fruits, which are called shānzhā (山楂)
in Chinese, are also used to produce jams, jellies, juices, alcoholic
beverages, and other drinks . In South Korea, a liquor called
sansachun (산사춘) is made from the fruits.
The fruits of
Crataegus mexicana are known in
Mexico as tejocotes and
are eaten raw, cooked, or in jam during the winter. They are stuffed
in the piñatas broken during the traditional pre-Christmas
celebration known as Las Posadas. They are also cooked with other
fruits to prepare a
Christmas punch. The mixture of tejocote paste,
sugar, and chili powder produces a popular Mexican candy called
rielitos, which is manufactured by several brands.
In the southern United States, fruits of three native species are
collectively known as mayhaws and are made into jellies which are
considered a great delicacy. The
Kutenai people of northwestern North
America used red and black hawthorn fruit for food.
Manitoulin Island in Canada, some red-fruited species are called
hawberries. They are common there due to the island's alkaline soil.
During the pioneer days, white settlers ate these fruits during the
winter as the only remaining food supply. People born on the island
are now called "haweaters". In Iran, the fruits of Crataegus
Crataegus azarolus var. aronia, as well as other species)
are known as zalzalak and are eaten raw as a snack, or made into a jam
known by the same name.
Crataegus monogyna 'Crimson Cloud' in Elko, Nevada
Cochrane Collaboration meta-analysis of previous studies
concluded that evidence exists of "a significant benefit in symptom
control and physiologic outcomes" for an extract of hawthorn in
treating chronic heart failure. A 2010 review concluded that
Crataegus [hawthorn] preparations hold significant potential as a
useful remedy in the treatment of cardiovascular disease". The review
indicated the need for further study of the best dosages and concluded
that although "many different theoretical interactions between
Crataegus and orthodox medications have been postulated ... none have
[yet] been substantiated.
Several earlier pilot studies assessed the ability of hawthorn to help
improve exercise tolerance in people with
NYHA class II cardiac
insufficiency compared to placebo. One experiment, at
(300 mg/day) for 4 to 8 weeks, found no difference from placebo.
The second study, including 78 subjects (600 mg/day) for 8 weeks,
found "significant improvement in exercise tolerance" and lower blood
pressure and heart rate during exercise. The third, including 32
subjects (900 mg/day) for 8 weeks, found improved exercise
tolerance, as well as a reduction in the "incidence and severity of
symptoms such as dyspnea" and fatigue decreased by about 50%.
In the 2004 Hawthorn
Extract Randomized Blinded Chronic HF Study
clinical study, 120 patients took 450 mg of hawthorn extract
twice daily for six months in combination with standard therapy and a
standardized exercise program. "No effects of hawthorn were seen on
either quality-of-life endpoint, or when adjusted for LVEF".
One research program, consisting of 1,011 patients taking one tablet
(standardized to 84.3 mg procyanidin) twice daily for 24 weeks,
found "improvements in clinical symptoms (such as fatigue,
palpitations, and exercise dyspnea), performance and exercise
tolerance test, and ejection fraction".
Phytochemicals found in hawthorn include tannins, flavonoids,
oligomeric proanthocyanidins, and phenolic acids.
Several species of hawthorn have been used in traditional medicine.
The products used are often derived from C. monogyna,
C. laevigata, or related
Crataegus species, "collectively known
as hawthorn", not necessarily distinguishing between these
species. The dried fruits of
Crataegus pinnatifida (called shān
zhā in Chinese) are used in traditional Chinese medicine, primarily
as a digestive aid. A closely related species,
(Japanese hawthorn, called sanzashi in Japanese) is used in a similar
manner. Other species (especially
Crataegus laevigata) are used in
herbal medicine where the plant is believed to strengthen
Kutenai people of northwestern North America used black hawthorn
fruit (Kutenai language: kaǂa; approximate pronunciation: kasha) for
food, and red hawthorn fruit (Kutenai language: ǂupǂi;
approximate pronunciation: shupshi) in traditional medicine.
Overdose can cause cardiac arrhythmia and dangerously low blood
pressure. Milder side effects include nausea and sedation.
Patients taking digoxin should avoid taking hawthorn.
Many species and hybrids are used as ornamental and street trees. The
common hawthorn is extensively used in Europe as a hedge plant. During
British Agricultural Revolution
British Agricultural Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries,
hawthorn saplings were mass propagated in nurseries to create the new
field boundaries required by the Inclosure Acts. Several cultivars
of the Midland hawthorn C. laevigata have been selected for their
pink or red flowers. Hawthorns are among the trees most recommended
for water conservation landscapes.
Hawthorn rootstock on a medlar tree in Totnes, United Kingdom.
Hawthorn can be used as a rootstock in the practice of grafting. It is
Mespilus (medlar), and with pear, and makes a
hardier rootstock than quince, but the thorny suckering habit of the
hawthorn can be problematic.
Crataegus monogyna have been used to graft multiple
species on the same trunk, such as pink hawthorn, pear tree, and
medlar, the result being trees which give pink and white flowers in
May and fruits during the summer. "Chip budding" has also been
performed on hawthorn trunks to have branches of several varieties on
the same tree. Such trees can be seen in Vigo, Spain, and in the
France (mainly in Brittany).
Many species of Hawthorn make excellent bonsai trees. They are
grown and enjoyed for their display of flowers.
The wood of some hawthorn species is very hard and resistant to rot.
In rural North America, it was prized for use as tool handles and
fence posts. The wood being hard it is described by Johns as the best
substitute for boxwood for wood engraving.
The Scots saying "Ne'er cast a cloot til Mey's oot" conveys a warning
not to shed any cloots (clothes) before the summer has fully arrived
and the Mayflowers (hawthorn blossoms) are in full bloom.
The custom of employing the flowering branches for decorative purposes
on 1 May is of very early origin, but since the adoption of the
Gregorian calendar in 1752, the tree has rarely been in full bloom in
England before the second week of that month. In the Scottish
Highlands, the flowers may be seen as late as the middle of June. The
hawthorn has been regarded as the emblem of hope, and its branches are
stated to have been carried by the ancient Greeks in wedding
processions, and to have been used by them to deck the altar of
Hymenaios. The supposition that the tree was the source of Jesus's
crown of thorns doubtless gave rise around 1911 to the tradition among
the French peasantry that it utters groans and cries on Good Friday,
and probably also to the old popular superstition in Great Britain and
Ireland that ill luck attended the uprooting of hawthorns. Branches of
Glastonbury thorn (C. monogyna 'Biflora', sometimes called
C. oxyacantha var. praecox), which flowers both in December and
in spring, were formerly highly valued in England, on account of the
legend that the tree was originally the staff of Joseph of
Robert Graves, in his book The White Goddess, traces and
reinterprets many European legends in which the whitethorn (hawthorn),
also called the May-tree, is central.
Hawthorn trees demarcate a garden plot. According to legend, they are
strongly associated with the fairies.
In Celtic lore, the hawthorn plant was used commonly for
inscriptions along with yew and apple. It was
once said to heal the broken heart. In Ireland, the red fruit is, or
was, called the Johnny MacGorey or Magory.
Serbian and Croatian folklore notes hawthorn (Serbian глог,
Croatian glog) is particularly deadly to vampires, and stakes used for
their slaying must be made from the wood of the thorn tree.[citation
In Gaelic folklore, hawthorn (in Scottish Gaelic, sgitheach and in
Irish, sceach) 'marks the entrance to the otherworld' and is strongly
associated with the fairies. Lore has it that it is very unlucky
to cut the tree at any time other than when it is in bloom; however,
during this time, it is commonly cut and decorated as a May bush (see
Beltane). This warning persists to modern times; it has been
questioned by folklorist Bob Curran whether the ill luck of the De
Lorean Motor Company was associated with the destruction of a fairy
thorn to make way for a production facility.
Hawthorn trees are often found beside clootie wells; at these types of
holy wells, they are sometimes known as rag trees, for the strips of
cloth which are tied to them as part of healing rituals. 'When all
fruit fails, welcome haws' was once a common expression in Ireland.
According to a Medieval legend, the
Glastonbury thorn, C. monogyna
'Biflora', which flowers twice annually, was supposed to have
miraculously grown from a walking stick planted by Joseph of Arimathea
Glastonbury in Somerset, England. The original tree was destroyed
in the 16th century during the English Reformation, but several
cultivars have survived. Since the reign of King James I, it has been
Christmas custom to send a sprig of
Glastonbury thorn flowers to the
Sovereign, which is used to decorate the royal family's dinner
In the Victorian era, the hawthorn represented hope in the language of
The hawthorn – species unspecified – is the state flower of
Missouri. The legislation designating it as such was introduced by
Sarah Lucille Turner, one of the first two women to serve in the
Missouri House of Representatives.
Although it is commonly stated that hawthorns can be propagated by
cutting, this is difficult to achieve with rootless stem pieces. Small
plants or suckers are often transplanted from the wild. Seeds require
stratification and take one or two years to germinate. Seed
germination is improved if the pyrenes that contain the seed are
subjected to extensive drying at room temperature, before
stratification. Uncommon forms can be grafted onto seedlings of
The number of species in the genus depends on taxonomic
interpretation. Some botanists in the past recognised 1000 or more
species, many of which are apomictic microspecies. A reasonable
number is estimated to be 200 species.
The genus is classified into sections which are further divided into
series. Series Montaninsulae has not yet been assigned to a
section. The sections are:
List of hawthorn species with yellow fruit and List of
hawthorn species with black fruit
Crataegus aemula – Rome hawthorn
Crataegus aestivalis – May hawthorn
Crataegus altaica – Altai hawthorn
Crataegus ambigua – Russian hawthorn
Crataegus ambitiosa – Grand Rapids hawthorn
Crataegus anamesa – Fort Bend hawthorn
Crataegus ancisa – Mississippi hawthorn
Crataegus annosa – Phoenix City hawthorn
Crataegus aprica – sunny hawthorn
Crataegus arborea – Montgomery hawthorn
Crataegus arcana – Carolina hawthorn
Crataegus ater – Nashville hawthorn
Crataegus austromontana – valley head hawthorn
Crataegus azarolus – Azarole hawthorn
Crataegus berberifolia – barberry hawthorn
Crataegus biltmoreana – Biltmore hawthorn
Crataegus boyntonii – stinking hawthorn
Crataegus brachyacantha – blueberry hawthorn
Crataegus brainerdii – Brainerd's hawthorn
Crataegus calpodendron – late hawthorn
Crataegus chrysocarpa – fireberry hawthorn
Crataegus coccinea – scarlet hawthorn
Crataegus coccinioides – Kansas hawthorn
Crataegus collina – hillside hawthorn
Crataegus crus-galli – cockspur hawthorn
Crataegus cuneata – Japanese hawthorn
Crataegus douglasii – black hawthorn, Douglas hawthorn
Crataegus erythropoda – cerro hawthorn
Crataegus flabellata – Gray’s hawthorn
Crataegus flava – yellow-fruited hawthorn
Crataegus harbisonii – Harbison's hawthorn
Crataegus heterophylla – various-leaved hawthorn
Crataegus holmesiana – Holmes’ hawthorn
Crataegus intricata – thicket hawthorn, intricate hawthorn
Crataegus iracunda – stolon–bearing hawthorn
Crataegus laevigata – Midland hawthorn, English hawthorn
Crataegus macrosperma – big-fruit hawthorn
Crataegus marshallii – parsley-leaved hawthorn
Crataegus mexicana – tejocote, Mexican hawthorn
Crataegus mollis – downy hawthorn
Crataegus monogyna – common hawthorn
Crataegus nigra – Hungarian hawthorn
Crataegus okanaganensis – Okanagan Valley hawthorn
Crataegus orientalis – oriental hawthorn
Crataegus pedicellata – scarlet hawthorn
Crataegus pennsylvanica – Pennsylvania thorn
Crataegus pentagyna – small-flowered black hawthorn
Crataegus phaenopyrum – Washington hawthorn
Crataegus pinnatifida – Chinese hawthorn
Crataegus populnea – poplar hawthorn
Crataegus pratensis – prairie hawthorn
Crataegus pruinosa – frosted hawthorn
Crataegus pulcherrima – beautiful hawthorn
Crataegus punctata – dotted hawthorn, white hawthorn: sometimes
claimed as the state flower of Missouri, though the legislation
does not specify a species
Crataegus rivularis – river hawthorn
Crataegus saligna – willow hawthorn
Crataegus sanguinea – redhaw hawthorn, Siberian hawthorn
Crataegus sargentii – Sargent's hawthorn
Crataegus scabrida – rough hawthorn
Crataegus spathulata – littlehip hawthorn
Crataegus submollis – Quebec hawthorn
Crataegus succulenta – fleshy hawthorn
Crataegus tanacetifolia – tansy–leaved thorn
Crataegus tracyi – Tracy hawthorn
Crataegus triflora – three-flowered hawthorn
Crataegus uniflora – one-flowered hawthorn, dwarf hawthorn
Crataegus viridis – green hawthorn, including cultivar 'Winter King'
Crataegus vulsa – Alabama hawthorn
Crataegus wilsonii – Wilson hawthorn
Crataegus × ariifolia (= C. ariaefolia)
Crataegus × dsungarica
Crataegus × grignonensis
Crataegus × grignonensis – Grignon hawthorn, an unpublished name
Crataegus × lavalleei
Crataegus × lavalleei – Lavallée hawthorn, including
Crataegus × macrocarpa
Crataegus × media
Crataegus × media – the name for
C. monogyna–C. laevigata hybrids
Crataegus × mordenensis
Crataegus × mordenensis – Morden hawthorn, including 'Toba' and
Crataegus × sinaica – za'rur
Crataegus × smithiana – red Mexican hawthorn, an unpublished name
Crataegus × vailiae
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Wikiquote has quotations related to: Hawthorn
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Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Species – The Hawthorns at Plants For A Future