As a ‘sprigling’, this Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna) was growing in the lee of a sycamore tree, so I moved it three years ago to a more favourable spot. Living up to its name of Quickthorn, I now have to curtail growth by hedge-pruning it. Pity really not to let it have it’s way but 30 foot would be a bit over the top!
The May Tree: True to it’s common name, the Hawthorn blossom is a May flower, and closer inspection of the off-white blooms reveals delightful delicate pink stamens. As a child I loved to gather ‘knots of May’ but had to keep them out of the house because even my unsuperstitious Grandmother held vaguely to the flowers’ folklore as an omen of death:
In Welsh, the tree is known as Blodau marw mam (‘Flowers-death-mother’).
Supposedly this is because the flowers smells like corpses – the May tree’s clever lure for flies; its main pollinators. Personally the aroma reminds me of the May countryside and conjures images of Cow Parsley laden lanes.
Wildlife: As a native tree, the Hawthorn is valued highly as a wildlife habitat – supporting various moth caterpillars and insects, including the hawthorn shield bug. In addition the thorns offer a protective covering for nesting birds whilst the berries provide an abundant winter food source.
The Hawthorn that ‘dropped’ into my garden was no doubt a gift from the birds; they are the original guerrilla gardeners, ‘seed bombing’ the environment.
If you want to grow Hawthorn from seed without waiting for a passing bird, Monty Don shows you how.