What does a hawthorn bush look like?

English hawthorn identification and control

English hawthorn, also called common, one-seed or single-seed hawthorn, is an introduced tree that has naturalized in the Pacific Northwest. This small tree spreads readily by seed into woodlands and open fields, often creating a dense, thorny thicket. Its abundant red berries are attractive to birds and other animals, which help spread this tree far beyond where it is planted.

In King County, Washington, English hawthorn is classified as a Non-Regulated Noxious Weed and its control is recommended in natural areas that are being restored to native vegetation and in protected forest lands and wilderness areas. English hawthorn can also be a nuisance species in pastures and wildlife grazing areas and its removal from those areas is also recommended. This species is not on the Washington quarantine list and there is no restriction on its sale or use in landscaping. For more information see Noxious weed lists and laws or visit the website of the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board.

Identification (see below for more photos)

  • Thorny, deciduous small tree or shrub, 6 to 30 feet tall
  • Leaves 3 to 7-lobed, 1-2 inches long and nearly as broad, resemble mittens or paws
  • Flowers grouped in broad, dense, flat-topped clusters and resemble cherry or apple blossoms
  • Petals are usually white, sometimes pink
  • Fruit is a round, crimson berry that often persists into late winter
  • Similar to other ornamental hawthorn species and often forms hybrids that have intermediate characteristics

Reproduction and spread

  • Berries are dispersed by birds and other animals
  • A single tree can produce over 2,000 berries
  • Flowers in spring and develops fruit in the fall; berries often persisting into the winter
  • Seeds passing through an animal aids germination but isn’t necessary
  • Germination occurs primarily in spring
  • Most vegetative growth occurs in spring and early summer, and normal growth rate is one to two feet a year

Impacts and distribution

English hawthorn is carried by birds into forests and open fields where it can form dense, thorny thickets that outcompete native species and make passage of large animals difficult. Somewhat tolerant of shade as well as drought, English hawthorn invades both open fields and woodlands in Washington, Oregon and California. English hawthorn has naturalized on both coasts of North America and in many of the states in central and eastern United States, as well as parts of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Although more common west of the Cascades, English hawthorn has spread in eastern Washington as well.

English hawthorn is generally a forest understory species in its native range, but in our region its grows well in a wide range of habitats. Riparian areas, abandoned fields and pastures, shrub lands and grasslands, oak woodlands, and other forested habitats are all vulnerable to invasion by English hawthorn.

Introduced starting in the 1800’s, English hawthorn appears to have begun spreading first in Oregon and southern Washington. Naturalized specimens were collected in Oregon in the early 1900’s and one collection from Wahkiakum County, Washington in 1927 notes that the species was commonly established along roadsides. For more information on English hawthorn distribution, see the UW Burke Museum website.


  • Seedlings and young saplings can be pulled or dug up when soil is moist, but roots quickly become deep and stout and sharp thorns are present even on young seedlings.
  • Mature trees have deep and extensive roots so digging is labor-intensive and results in considerable soil disturbance if all of the roots are removed.
  • English hawthorn often stump-sprouts, so removal by cutting alone is not usually effective.
  • Applying herbicide with the cut stump or frilling method is probably the most effective approach for plants that cannot be removed by digging or grubbing out the roots. Foliar herbicide treatment is another option but may result in spray drift to desirable vegetation.

What to do if you find this plant

Because English hawthorn is already naturalized in many places in King County, we are not tracking locations.

However, if you know of any heavily infested natural areas in state or federal forests or other remote natural areas, we would be interested in having that information. Please note that English hawthorn is legal to sell and plant in Washington.

More information on English hawthorn

  • University of Washington Burke Museum: photos and distribution information
  • Cal-IPC Invasive Plants: plant profile
  • CABI Invasive Species Compendium: global distribution and other information
  • Garden Wise booklet: recommended non-invasive alternatives to English hawthorn (also called common hawthorn)

English hawthorn photos

Some of the photos on this page are courtesy of Ben Legler. Please do not use these images without permission from the photographer. Other photos not otherwise labeled may be used for educational purposes, but please credit the King County Noxious Weed Control Program.

Hawthorn: the Tree of May

Plant profile written by herbalist, Corinne Boyer of Opal’s Apothecary

In the autumn and wintertime, the hawthorn tree with her gnarled bark covered in grey green lichens and her gangly branches reminds me of an old woman. She is a small tree that can usually be found on older homesteads. But in the spring and early summertime she boasts vibrant green leaves that surround many small bouquets of white blooms, often tinged with pink. She becomes a queen! This tree is like the matriarch gatekeeper of the nature spirits in my mind. Many plants/trees seem to possess supernatural powers and hawthorn is one indeed. Here we will find a wealth of folklore and older uses that have been recorded throughout history.

There are around 200 known Cratagus species and they apparently cross easily. The Latin Cratagus comes from the Greek kratos meaning hardness, referring to the strength of the wood. The common European species is Cratagus monogyna and C. oxacantha. The Northwest has a native species, C.douglasii, known as black hawthorn. The genus is native to all temperate zones; Europe, North America and Asia.

Common names for hawthorn include May Flower, May Blossom, White Thorn, Thorn Apple, Hag Thorn, Ladies, Meat, Bread and Cheese Tree and Quick Thorn. The ship the Mayflower from England was named after Hawthorn. The word “haw” comes from the old word for hedge, for which this tree has been used extensively. The planting of hawthorn to provide fencing for pastures, or hedgerows, began in Roman times. Currently in North America, Hawthorn is planted for ornamental purposes and also as a tree that provides both food and shelter to birdlife.

The flowers are gorgeous but smell somewhat stinky and acrid. As the flowers are pollinated by flies and insects that are attracted to carrion, this smell has been compared to the smell of “carnal love” and of rotting flesh! The lime green leaves shine and have a shape that is unmistakable once learned. The autumn display shows off the haws, the fruits of the tree, in various shades of red, from bright to deep. In the winter time the wise tree stands naked, beautiful and her strong thorns can be found with ease.

In European folklore, this tree was considered sacred before the arrival of Christianity and afterwards. In particular, lone standing hawthorns or thorns, that is hawthorns that were not planted but occurred naturally, were known to be fairy trees. It was considered an act of vandalism to remove a bough, or take away fallen branches firewood. If one of these solitary thorns was removed, it could bring death to the family to the person who removed it. It was also believed that if the thorns were ploughed up, all fertility would leave the land. It is amazing to think back to the times when the powers of nature spirits, not science, ruled the collective consciousness.

It was advised to never fall asleep under one, for fear of be taken over by the fairies that abound. An Irish belief is that hawthorn grows over graves or buried treasure. Hawthorns also mark wells. In early May, people tied rags and trinkets to the branches of a hawthorn companion to a holy well. In the Lake District, hawthorns were also associated with justice and older court systems, and were planted near important meeting places.

Hawthorn is strongly associated with May Day celebrations because it blooms around the first of May. Going “a maying” was a happy custom where people would gather the flowering boughs alongside music and horn blowing. At sunrise, the branches were hung over the doorways of homes, which was originally a protective act. Bathing in the dew from a hawthorn on May Day ensured a beautiful complexion. In some parts of England, one was doused with water if a hawthorn sprig was not pinned on during the May Day celebrations.

On May eve, hawthorn could be used in a love divination. A girl would hang a branch of it from her signpost. In the morning, her future husband would come from the direction which it was pointing. If it fell, it foretold no marriage. Hawthorn is associated with love, interesting because of its carnal smell. It is connected with marriage rites and it is often incorporated into a bridal garland or chaplet. It is symbolic of fertility, love, marriage, hope, fruitfulness and spring.

Hawthorn is also associated with witches. In the Channel Islands, they believe witches meet under the solitary hawthorns and that it is dangerous to sit under a thorn on May eve as the tree is likely to transform herself into a witch. Interestingly, this “witch” tree was also used for protection from witches, by way of hanging crosses made of its wood over the house door. Driving a small hawthorn peg into a grave site could prevent the spirit from coming back to haunt the living or from turning into a vampire.

Hawthorn was associated with the powers of protection from lightning, as it was said that the white thorn was never struck by lightning. In fact, it was thought that cutting down the tree itself would cause a thunder and lightning storm. Attaching a sprig to the cradle of a newborn protected the child. Mothers in Burgundy France took their sick children to a flowering hawthorn tree and prayed to the tree for their health. It was thought that carrying a dying person round an ancient thorn three times and bumping against it would help recover their health.

Despite this, it was considered unlucky to bring hawthorn inside and one should never pick the flowers before May eve. An old Cheshire saying goes “May in, Coffin out.” Another old saying goes “Hawthorn tree and Elder flowers, Fill the house with evil powers.” In Ireland the flowers were never supposed to enter the home before June, and by then they would be done, I imagine. Apparently sleeping next to thorn flowering indoors in May would bring great misfortune.

Hawthorn has been used medicinally. The bark was used to soothe sore throats in Scotland, while an infusion of the flowers was good for anxiety and for stimulating the appetite. Also, this leaf infusion was used to ease childbirth pains in East Anglia. In Russia, hawthorn was used to treat conditions of the heart, much as it is used today, in particular for heart pain, angina. Traditional Scottish herbalists used hawthorn for balancing high blood pressure. The use of hawthorn as a heart tonic comes specifically from an Irish physician from the nineteenth century. An infusion of hawthorn leaves was used topically to draw out splinters and bring boils to a head.

The young buds of hawthorn were called ‘pepper and salt’ by country folk or ‘bread and cheese’. I have seen older salad recipes that include young hawthorn leaves in the long list of ingredients. Wine and mead can be made from both the flowers and berries. I like to make mead with the dried flowers–it is excellent! The berries can be infused in brandy or made into conserves along with other fruit, as they are mealy and dry but high in pectin. They are called “pixie pears” in some places. The berries were thought to be best after Halloween, when witches had flown over them.

I love hawthorn tea, made from the dried flowers and leaves of the tree. After drying, the stinky smell seems to lessen. It is a great tonic for circulatory and heart concerns, best used without any other medications and taken for 3-6 months to produce an effect. I make a decoction from the dried berries along with rosehips, hibiscus, cinnamon chips, allspice and a few cloves. This makes a beautiful “Red Velvet Chai” as I like to call it, delicious with a little milk and honey. I have a friend who likes to extract the berries in port wine. Here are some unique and interesting recipes to try.

Hawthorn Flower Syrup- from A Country Harvest- Pamela Michael

5 Cups hawthorn flowers Extra sugar- see recipe 4 Cups sugar 5 Cups water 6-7 Tablespoons lemon juice 6-7 Tablespoons rosewater

Layer the flowers with sugar in a jar, until full. Heat the 4 cups sugar, water and strained lemon juice until sugar has dissolved, boil for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool, then add rosewater. Pour the cooled syrup into the jar of prepared flowers. Screw the lids on loose and place in a saucepan on sheets of folded newspaper, with the folded paper between jars to prevent them from touching. Fill pan with cold water and bring to boil then lower heat to barely simmering for one hour. Lift jars and tighten lids. When cold strain and pour syrup into bottles and cork. Store in refrigerator. Keeps for months.

Hawthorn Berry Jelly– From same source above

3 Pounds Haws, pick larger ones if possible 3 ¾ Cups of water 1 pound sugar 1 pint lemon juice, strained

Wash berries thoroughly, place in saucepan with water and bring to a boil, cover cook gently for one hour. Occasionally mash berries with wooden pestle. Drip through double thickness of muslin or a jelly bag overnight. Measure juice into a large saucepan, adding sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil, stirring continuously until sugar has dissolved, then boil hard for rapidly for 10 minutes or until jelly sets and pour into jars to seal.

Treasury of Tree Lore, Josephine Addison, Cherry Hillhouse, 1999 A Dictionary of Plant Lore, Roy Vickery, 1995 Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition- The Ethnobotany of Britain and Ireland, Gabrielle Hatfield and David Allen, 2004 Hatfield’s Herbal, Gabrielle Hatfield,2009 Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine , Gabrielle Hatfield,2004 Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore , D.C. Watts, 2007 A Modern Herbal Volumes 1 and 2, Maude Grieve, 1931 A Country Harvest, Pamela Michael, 1980

Close-up of white May flowers by Kami Jordan

All other photos taken by Waverly Fitzgerald

First published May 12, 2012

Hawthorn, Crataegus: “Wild One”

When rural hedgerows in the British Isles explode into frothy white blossom in May, hawthorn makes itself noticed. Other common names for Crateagus—maythorn, white thorn—are self-explanatory. In autumn it is unavoidable again, dripping with blood-red haws.

As a tree, hawthorn is rustic and untamed, even in its designer clothes (C. laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ sports magenta blossom and an RHS Award of Garden Merit). Like Heathcliff in the drawing room, hawthorn prefers to be wuthering, in wind, rain, and flashes of sun.

Photography by Britt Willoughby Dyer, except where noted.

Above: Hawthorn counts roses and apples among its relations, being a member of the Rosaceae family. This is easy to see in its flowers and fruit; the latter can look like small crabapples. Less easily visible are the subtle black thorns, which should make anyone think twice about cutting hawthorn and taking it indoors. This is very bad luck.

Above: Hawthorn trees, especially individual specimens, are the most likely to be inhabited by “wee folk.” They don’t like their trees to be cut down, and in Scotland and Ireland the appropriate amount of respect is shown. Hawthorn after all is the entrance to the Underworld.

Above: Hawthorn has enormous potential in our world as a natural prophylactic, warding off heart disease, high blood pressure, and the risk of stroke and heart attack. Herbalists make a tincture in spring with blossoms and leaves; berries are added to the mixture six months later.

Cheat Sheet

• As a hedge, hawthorn forms a spiny, impenetrable barrier. Shaggier hedges are more abundantly flowery.
• In an informal setting, a line of hawthorn is staggeringly pretty. In the UK it happens to blossom at the same time as cow parsley growing at its base, which adds an extra layer of froth.
• There are hundreds of varieties for temperate climates and it is equally at home in China as Missouri, where it is the state flower.

Above: Immaculate hedges in Northamptonshire, England, are part of the hunting tradition, being easier to jump over. They are kept wider at the bottom, with a bevelled edge at the top, better able to withstand wind or the weight of snow. These hedges are usually a mixture, though mainly made up of hawthorn. It can be joined by ash, field maple, beech or whatever grows naturally in the area. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.

Keep It Alive

• Hawthorn is happy in any soil, any aspect, sheltered or exposed, full sun or partial shade.
• It is best grown in the less pampered areas of a property, where it can do some good resisting wind or providing shelter for wildlife.
• Another nickname for hawthorn is “quickthorn,” another self-explanatory attribute that makes it worth bearing in mind when planning cover.

Above: Hawthorn lends itself to “plashing,” when a row of shrubs are allowed to grow upright for several years, before being laid at about 45 degrees, to create an impenetrable barrier. Stems and trunks are cut almost through, before being bent sideways and woven along upright poles. The hedge grows back healthily, and with its neatly twisted edging of hazel it makes a better effect than machine cutting. This “laid hedge” in Rutland, England also provides dense cover for wildlife. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.

Above: Hawthorn hybridizes easily, leading to a variety of leaf shapes. It is an invaluable tree or shrub for biodiversity: the berries feed a wide range of birds in winter, including field fare, redwing, and thrush, as well as small mammals in hedges. Hawthorn is also an important breeding ground for butterflies and moths.

N.B.: For more information on trees, find tips in our Garden Design 101 guides including Trees: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

  • Looking for trees which have something to give in late autumn? See Oak Tree 101 and Maple Tree 101.
  • For more winter hedges, see Hornbeam Tree 101, Yew Tree 101, and Holly Tree 101.

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Hawthorn Berries (Hawberries) and Mayhaw

Common Hawthorn fruit (Crataegus monogyna) ripe for picking. Note the leaf shape for the Common Hawthorn.

NOTE: If you are not interested in growing Hawthorn trees, but just finding the berries and using them, try going to the Nature’s Restaurant Online site for Hawthorn Berries. Since Nature’s Restaurant Online is about finding plant/trees/mushrooms in the wild, there are the most common types you will find in Eastern North America listed with pictures and descriptions.

Hawthorn Berries (Hawberries) and Mayhaw (Crataegus). There are a lot of different Hawthorns in North America. Worldwide, there are hundreds of them. Many of the Hawthorns you find here are naturalized Hawthorns that came from other parts of the world. Hawthorns are from the same family as Apples and Roses, so it is no big surprise that the easiest way to describe a Hawthorn in general is that it looks like a smaller Apple tree with big thorns and fruit that looks like Rose hips or Crabapples. Be careful, the bigger of the woody thorns can be very dangerous – they are hard, sharp and strong and will go through flesh with ease. There is also a serious danger from the fruit of this tree – THE SEEDS ARE VERY POISONOUS. Never eat a seed – you have to take this seriously. It is often used as a security hedge to prevent people and animals from passing, as it forms dense, thorny hedges. And, since it can spread via the roots and send up suckers all around where it is planted, it just keeps getting denser as the hedge ages.

Hawthorn has been used a long time medicinally for heart conditions. It is now believed that Hawthorn can act as a Beta Blocker similar to Beta Blocker prescription medicines. Because of this, you should be careful about eating Hawthorn berries if you are on such a medicine, as the combined effect might be too strong. A link here for starting further research on this subject. I’ve also read that it now has been shown to be a heart strengthener, and you do see Hawthorn being sold in the vitamins section of drug stores and health food stores as a cardiac tonic. As I understand from my reading, it is the Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) that is used for that purpose. Whether or not the other Hawthorns you will find in Eastern North America have the same medicinal properties is something I cannot confirm or deny from my research.

Since there are so many types of Hawthorn you can find in the wild, the question for the home gardener is which one. If you are growing for food, and find one in the wild you like the taste of, I can’t see any reason not to use that type. If you are growing for the medicinal properties mentioned above, I think the prudent choice is to only use the Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna). It is very common as the name would suggest. If you are particular about growing native species, be aware this in an introduced species from Europe and not native to North America. There are a huge range of native ones, and my best advice is to choose what is already growing well in your area. This way you are assured it is happy in your local climate and soil types.

Transplanting: If you want to grow one, you are best to transplant a small one you see in an abandoned field, or if available at a nursery, get one there – though I doubt it except possibly for the Common Hawthorn. If you find one that is old enough to produce fruit, there is almost always little ones around, and besides they do send up suckers around it from the roots. If you transplant a sucker when it is young and in the early spring or late fall when the tree is dormant, you shouldn’t have trouble getting it to take as long as you get enough of the root system.

Seeds: You can grow them from seed, but it does take patience. You have to dry out a Hawthorn berry with the fruit inside until it is very dry, then put in a freezer for months. Probably best to take it out and thaw it out for a couple of days a few times and put back in the freezer. Then plant. Even after all this, they take a long time to sprout. This is surprising when you consider how fast they seem to take over abandoned fields.

Cuttings: I’ve read conflicting reports whether they take well from cuttings, but I’ve not tried. My guess here is that it can be done, but requires specially controlled conditions and a lot of skill in cloning.

Soil & Site: If you do decide to grow one of these, when choosing a spot, take into account the thorns can be dangerous to people and pets. Read the habitats for the one you want to plant, but if you are growing the most commonly one grown for the fruit for food and medicine – the Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), it can adapt to most soils, likes full sun, and soil pH that is from very slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. This is one tree that seems to like clay soils.

Maintenance: As far as maintenance goes, you can prune it to shape. Read the Apple section for more on pruning. The other issue is related to the suckers they send up from the roots. If you are growing a hedge, those suckers will fill the gaps. For along the hedge row and around individual Hawthorns, just mow. Grow grass where you don’t want them, and by mowing, the root sucker issue is a non-issue. Regarding those nasty thorns, prune them off as soon as they appear with a pair of wire cutters or pruners.

Using: I don’t know the edibility of the fruit from the majority of the trees in the Hawthorn Genus. The three trees that form the group known as the Mayhaws do not even grow in my area, so my knowledge of them is limited to what I have read. Most of my familiarity is with the Common Hawthorn, but even then, I don’t really try to distinguish between the different Hawthorns from an eating perspective. As far as I’m aware, none of the Hawthorns have fruit that is poisonous (except for the seeds which are very poisonous), but I cannot say if they all are good for eating. Do research on any you find, and experiment with small amounts and see if you like them. I have never encountered a Hawthorn with fruit that was really good tasting, but they are edible, and if cooked right, not bad in small amounts. Even in the past, they have more or less been a food you eat when other crops do poorly, not a first choice food.

As far as cooking with the Common Hawthorn (and I’m guessing most others), you do need to cook it and strain out the very poisonous seeds once they have cooked down – the poison will stay in the seeds when cooking. You could eat them fresh, but there is little there, as the stone (single seed in the Common Hawthorn) takes up a good portion of each Hawberry, and besides, the taste is dull – and – some people report getting stomach aches from eating them raw. I don’t, but I only eat two or three raw at a time, and maybe it takes more. Due to the medicinal effect mentioned above, I also suggest only eating small amounts of cooked or fresh Hawthorns at a time.

Basically, after gathering a bunch of them, rub off the ends and stems by rubbing them between your hands, rinse, put in a pot, just cover with water, put in about half as much cider vinegar as water (some people say just use the cider vinegar and no water), and simmer for about 20 minutes until the Hawberries are soft, pour away the water/vinegar, mash up the Hawberries, sieve out all the seeds by pushing the mash through a sieve to capture the seeds, add some lemon juice and a touch of salt, (some sweetener can be used). At this point, if you know how to preserve in jars, you can do that, whereas I just put some in baggies, and freeze, take out one at a time, and use with meals. Personally, I like it as something different to use a little of with mashed potatoes. You could of course, use them to make a jam or jelly. I don’t have a sweet tooth, so never bother with that. Since they have little flavor on their own, you could use them just for their pectin content and make jellies and jams for other fruit, and the Hawthorn berries will make them set. By the way, they start to lose their pectin once they get beyond ripe, so use when just ripe.

Web Resources:

Recipe search on the web here (Google search) and here (Bing search). Don’t forget – THE SEEDS ARE VERY POISONOUS.

Identification: There are some links below to help you identify a particular Hawthorn you know of. You need to realize, each species itself can be quite variable, and identifying which one you have can be a difficult undertaking. Most have red fruit, but there are also black and yellow fruited Hawthorns. If you do find a black or yellow fruited Hawthorn, start first with the list of the color you have, then check with the BONAP map to see if it grows where you live. This can at least cut down the number of possibilities.

Starting off with the fruit color and the leaf shape helps narrow it down faster.

For descriptions, range maps and photos of many of the types of Hawthorn you will find in Eastern North America, go to Nature’s Restaurant Online site for Hawthorn Berries.)

Biota of North America Program (BONAP) distribution map of all the different Hawthorns known in North America here. BONAP map color key here.

List of species of Hawthorn here.

List of Yellow fruit Hawthorn here.

List of Black fruit Hawthorn here.

Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna). Known also as the “One Seed Hawthorn”, Single-seeded Hawthorn, Haw, May, Mayblossom, Maythorn, Motherdie, Quickthorn, Whitethorn. Though a native to Europe, Africa and parts of Asia, it has become naturalized in North America. This is the one that was used most often in Europe in past times for food, and most recipes that you find for Hawthorns (not Mayhaws) are referring to the fruit from this one. It is very commonly found in North America, and has been labelled an invasive weed in many places. I know that the name, “Common Hawthorn” is a good one for where I live in Southwestern Ontario. In the alkaline soils in soy and corn farm country here, I have seen this one literally take over and fill abandoned farm fields, or where cattle grazes but the farmers do not cut the grass in their fields. North of London years ago I saw an abandoned farm field (I would guess that was 100 acres) that was a solid mass of full sized Common Hawthorn. This is the Hawthorn that is used medicinally most often.


  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 4-11 (More information on hardiness zones).
  • Soil pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Plant Size: Small tree or Shrub similar looking to an Apple tree, can grow up to 15 meters (50 feet) tall, but usually much shorter. Has a densely branched crown
  • Duration: Can live hundreds of years
  • Leaf Shape: Very deeply lobed (sometimes right to the central vein), 3-5 lobes per leaf, a rounded triangular shape wider at base.
  • Leaf Phyllotaxis (Arrangement) on branch: Alternate
  • Leaf Size: 2-4 cm (4/5 to 1 2/3 inches) long
  • Leaf Margin: Very irregular Serrated (saw toothed edge)
  • Leaf Notes: A single thick, sharp, tough thorn comes from the leaf axil and is up to 15 mm (2/3 inch) long. Leaf is dark green above, paler green below
  • Flowers: 1 cm (2/5 inch) diameter 5 white petalled flowers with many red stamens in the center in a corymb of 5-25 flowers. Flowers are fragrant.
  • Fruit: 1 cm diameter red pome.
  • Bark: Brown to grey with vertical orange cracks
  • Habitat: Adapts to most environments, seems to quite like slightly alkaline soils, full sun. Tends to invade waste areas, grazing fields, along fence lines, edge of forests and fields. Does well on clay soils.

Web Resources:

  • Pictures on the web here (Google images) and here (Bing images).
  • Interactive USDA distribution map and plant profile here.
  • The Biota of North America Program (BONAP) distribution map here. BONAP map color key here.

Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.

Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) seeds. (Steve Hurst, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)

Other Hawthorns:

Brainerd’s Hawthorn (Crataegus brainerdii).

Broadleaf Hawthorn (Crataegus dilatata).

Cockspur Hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli).

Crataegus comata (Crataegus comata).

Dunbar’s Hawthorn (Crataegus beata).

English hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata). Also known as the Midland Hawthorn, Woodland Hawthorn and Mayflower. Very similar to the Common Hawthorn described above. Use the fruit of this one just like the Common Hawthorn.

Fireberry Hawthorn (Crataegus chrysocarpa).

Fort Sheridan Hawthorn (Crataegus apiomorpha).

Late Hawthorn (Crataegus calpodendron).

Mayhaw (Crataegus series Aestivales).

Nashville Hawthorn (Crataegus ater).

Shiningbranch Hawthorn (Crataegus corusca).

Spreading Hawthorn (Crataegus disperma).

Hawthorn thorns can do a lot of damage to people and pets. If you grow this tree, prune the thorns with pruners or wire cutters. They will not grow back.

This is what they usually look like in overgrown fields.

For identifying the different Hawthorns, leaf shape and fruit color is the best place to start. Be aware, there is a huge range of Hawthorns you are likely to encounter.

This was a yellow fruit variety. Picture taken late in the fall.

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Hawthorn Bush Stock Photos and Images

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  • Hawthorn bush tree Crataegus in flower Suffolk England
  • Hawthorn bush in spring in Rouge Park an urban wilderness in Toronto Ontario Canada
  • Hawthorn bush in full bloom
  • Hawthorn Bush in Winter with Berries – Crataegus monogyna
  • Fresh picked berries from the hawthorn bush, also called thornapple, May-tree, whitethorn, hawberry (Crataegus Monogyna )
  • Hawthorn bush (Crataegus monogyna) in flower in spring in Scotland
  • A close up of hawthorn or may flowers in blossom in spring UK
  • Hawthorn berries on hawthorn bush Crataegus monogyna. Branches covered with lichen Xanthoria parietina
  • Hawthorn tree or bush Crataegus monogyna berries Midlands UK
  • Spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus) intergrown with hawthorn bush in October at Barnack Hills and Holes National Nature Reserve
  • A Hawthorn bush in full Spring flower
  • Winter hawthorn tree beneath the Nephin Beg Mountains, County Sligo, Ireland.
  • Bright Red Berries in Autumn on Hawthorn Bush
  • Lichen on Hawthorn
  • Winter hawthorn tree beneath the Nephin Beg Mountains, County Sligo, Ireland.
  • English Hawthorn, May (Crataegus monogyna), twig with ripe berries, studio picture.
  • Hawthorn bush (Crataegus), Parque Natural de La Breña y Marismas el Barbate, Andalucía, Spain
  • Painted Lady Butterfly resting on white flowering hawthorn bush. Vanessa cardui wingspan 60mm
  • Small young hawthorn bush in a field in early morning Summer light, England, UK
  • Leafless hawthorn bush, drainage channel, Boyton marshes, Suffolk
  • Gnarled old hawthorn bush
  • Male House Sparrow Passer Domesticus perching on a hawthorn bush with green foliage in the background
  • roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), doe feeds on hawthorn, Germany, Brandenburg
  • A mass of bright red berries on a Hawthorn bush. The Hawthorn is also known as May and provides a rich source of winter food for many bird species
  • Hawthorn bush (Crataegus monogyna) in flower in spring in Scotland
  • Hawthorn bush, Crataegus monogyna with abundant crop of berries. Wales.
  • Horse eating Hawthorn bush, England, UK.
  • Canal side brick building next to Hawthorn bush in bloom with may blossom.
  • Hawthorn Bush at sunset Pillow Mounds Black Mountain Brecon Beacons National Park Carmarthenshire Wales Cymru UK GB
  • UK. Windblown Hawthorn bush with berries on field boundary
  • Hawthorn bush in early autumn laden with berries at Barnack Hills and Holes National Nature Reserve, Barnack, Cambridgeshire
  • Male Blackbird Turdus Merula perched in hawthorn bush
  • Colorful decorative tree in a flower pot with bright berries close-up, sunny day. Autumn season. Modern natural background
  • A white lipped snail, Cepaea hortensis, on a hawthorn bush that is starting to bear leaves in April. North Dorset UK
  • Female House sparrow, passer domesticus, perched in hawthorn bush, Lancashire, UK
  • Hawthorn bush
  • Hawthorn bush in flower
  • Macro shot of a flowering hawthorn bush
  • Spring white flowering hawthorn bush heathland in May, Shottisham, Suffolk, England
  • Berry laiden Hawthorn bush in sunshine
  • Female House sparrow Passer domesticus perching on a hawthorn bush with a green diffuse background in an English garden
  • garden warbler (Sylvia borin), male singing in a hawthorn bush, Netherlands, Frisia
  • A mass of bright red berries on a Hawthorn bush. The Hawthorn is also known as May and provides a rich source of winter food for many bird species
  • Spring blossom on a hawthorn bush in Cornwall.
  • Hawthorn bush, Crataegus monogyna with abundant crop of berries. Wales.
  • Horse eating Hawthorn bush, England, UK.
  • Badger under a hawthorn bush in summer GB
  • Hawthorn Bush at sunset Pillow Mounds Black Mountain Brecon Beacons National Park Carmarthenshire Wales Cymru UK GB
  • Twisted old Hawthorn bush Hartsop valley autumn morning
  • UK September Windblown Hawthorn bush with berries on field boundary
  • Redwing Turdus iliacus perched on hawthorn bush
  • Hawthorn bush or shrub, red berries, yellow and orange leaves against the background of white autumn sky
  • A white lipped snail, Cepaea hortensis, on a hawthorn bush that is starting to bear leaves in April. North Dorset UK
  • Female House sparrow, passer domesticus, perched in hawthorn bush, Lancashire, UK
  • Dorset Horned ewe sheep eating leaves and flowers of a hawthorn bush on the Purbeck peninsula in Dorset.
  • Hawthorn Bush In The Burren Near Ballyvaghan; County Clare, Ireland
  • A short stunted hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, tree with prufuse ripe red berries in late autumn, Berkshire Downland, November
  • Spring white flowering hawthorn bush heathland in May, Shottisham, Suffolk, England
  • Fresh picked berries from the hawthorn bush, also called thornapple, May-tree, whitethorn, hawberry (Crataegus Monogyna )
  • Dunnock bird Prunella modularis perching on a hawthorn bush against a green diffuse background in an English garden
  • garden warbler (Sylvia borin), male singing in a hawthorn bush, Netherlands, Frisia
  • hawthorn bush and a rosemary plant against a white fence.
  • Flowering hawthorn bush in spring.
  • Hawthorn bush, Crataegus monogyna with abundant crop of berries. Wales.
  • A hawthorn bush laden with white blossom
  • Hawthorn bush with berries without leaves in winter
  • Hawthorn bush bushes trees on limestone landscape lYstradfellte Brecon Beacons National Park Fforest Fawr UNESCO Geopark Wales Cymru UK GB
  • Wood pigeon (Columba palumbus) feeding on a heavily berried hawthorn bush.
  • Flowering Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) bush flowers alongside a footpath in late spring early summer. Cwm Dyli Nant Gwynant Gwynedd Wales UK Britain
  • Fieldfare Turdus pilaris perched on hawthorn bush
  • Willow Warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus, feeding in Hawthorn bush
  • A white lipped snail, Cepaea hortensis, on a hawthorn bush that is starting to bear leaves in April. North Dorset UK
  • Grey heron, Ardea cinerea, perched on top of a Hawthorn bush in Lancashire, England, UK
  • Stunted Hawthorn bush growing in a Carboniferous limestone outcrop on the mountain side above Dan-yr-Ogof caves in the Black Mountains,South Wales,UK
  • Small Eggar moth caterpillars (Eriogaster lanestris) on their tent in a Hawthorn bush at Collard Hill in Somerset
  • A hawthorn bush in autumn
  • Spring white flowering hawthorn bush heathland in May, Shottisham, Suffolk, England
  • Fresh picked berries from the hawthorn bush, also called thornapple, May-tree, whitethorn, hawberry (Crataegus Monogyna )
  • Female House sparrow Passer domesticus perching on a hawthorn bush with a green diffuse background in an English garden
  • garden warbler (Sylvia borin), male sitting in a hawthorn bush, side view, Netherlands, Frisia
  • ripe hawthorn berries, hawthorn Bush strewn with red berries
  • Juvenile Red-Backed Shrike in winter hawthorn bush
  • Wind-pruned Hawthorn bush on Black Head, coast of The Burren, Ireland
  • Bright red berries and green leaves on a hawthorn bush (Crataegus)
  • Great hawthorn bush covered by red fruit in autumn near lake
  • Hawthorn bush bushes trees on limestone landscape lYstradfellte Brecon Beacons National Park Fforest Fawr UNESCO Geopark Wales Cymru UK GB
  • Blossom of the Hawthorn Bush. Cralaegus monogyna. Closeup of small white flower and buds.
  • Flowering Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) bush alongside a footpath with a hiker hiking in spring. Cwm Dyli, Nant Gwynant, Gwynedd, Wales, UK, Britain
  • Redwing Turdus iliacus perched on hawthorn bush
  • hawthorn bush with red berries in autumn with colourful leaves and bright berry with leaf.
  • A white lipped snail, Cepaea hortensis, on a hawthorn bush that is starting to bear leaves in April. North Dorset UK
  • Lichen covered Hawthorn Bush Berries – Crataegus monogyna Sugar Loaf, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales
  • Dorset Horned ewe sheep eating leaves and flowers of a hawthorn bush in the Purbeck peninsula in Dorset.
  • Blooming Midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata)
  • Very old stone walling surrounding a field with a Hawthorn bush severely bent over by the constant winds straight off the waters.
  • The red berries of Cammon Hawthorn
  • Fresh picked berries from the hawthorn bush, also called thornapple, May-tree, whitethorn, hawberry (Crataegus Monogyna )
  • Hawthorn Bush in flower
  • Autumn ripe hawthorn berries glow red in a Dorset hedgerow, UK
  • Hawthorn Flowers

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Toba Hawthorn flowers

Toba Hawthorn flowers

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Toba Hawthorn in bloom

Toba Hawthorn in bloom

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Toba Hawthorn bark

Toba Hawthorn bark

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 18 feet

Spread: 12 feet


Hardiness Zone: 3b


One of the hardiest of the ornamental hawthorns, vase shaped, requires wind sheltered areas; white blooms turning pink in spring followed by sparse red berries in fall, sharp thorns; Do not plant in areas with Junipers due to Juniper-Hawthorn rust.

Ornamental Features

Toba Hawthorn features showy clusters of white flowers with pink overtones held atop the branches in mid spring. It has forest green foliage throughout the season. The glossy lobed leaves do not develop any appreciable fall colour. The fruits are showy red pomes displayed from early to late fall. The rough gray bark adds an interesting dimension to the landscape.

Landscape Attributes

Toba Hawthorn is a deciduous tree with a more or less rounded form. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This is a relatively low maintenance tree, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;

  • Disease
  • Spiny

Toba Hawthorn is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Hedges/Screening

Planting & Growing

Toba Hawthorn will grow to be about 18 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 12 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 4 feet from the ground, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 40 years or more.

This tree does best in full sun to partial shade. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist growing conditions, but will not tolerate any standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This particular variety is an interspecific hybrid.

Plant Types

Plant Information

  • Plant Type: Tree: Small
  • Scientific Name: Crataegus x mordenensis ‘Toba’
  • Family: Hawthorn
  • Plant Size: .
  • Bloom Color: White
  • Culture:

    Very adaptable. Full sun.

  • Notes:

    A hybrid of the English hawthorn and the fleshy hawthorn (C. succulenta) with clusters of double white flowers which turn to pink as they mature. Produces red fruit in fall and does not develop fall color.

  • Pruning:

    Structural pruning of small trees is somewhat different than with larger trees, as small trees generally do not develop strong central leaders. Thus structural pruning of these trees should focus on addressing branch defects that are prone to damage from snow or other storm-related stresses. In particular, branches with included bark and branches larger than half the diameter of the trunk should be suppressed, or if small, removed. The fundamentals of structural pruning can be found at the following websites:

    Urban Tree Foundation – Structural Pruning

    University of Florida – Structural Pruning

    If a branch needs to be removed for clearance, is damaged, or possesses a critical defect, a 3-point cut is used (see animation). First an undercut is made to prevent bark from tearing down the trunk if it remains attached to the falling limb. The branch is then “stub cut” which removes most of the branch to facilitate a clean final cut. The final cut is made just outside the branch collar, which is the swollen area between the branch and the trunk. Cuts made here will heal most readily and prevent rot from invading the main trunk of the tree, a common occurrence when branches are cut flush with the trunk.

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