Hawthorn (Crateagus monogyna)

Hawthorn is one of the most familiar plants of the British countryside. Its bright white flowers appear in May giving it one of its other English names, May tree.

Hawthorn flowers

Hawthorn flowers are bright white with five rounded petals and pink anthers. While the pollen is still bright pink these pretty little flowers taste amazingly like almonds and make a great addition to a salad or make a handy hiker's snack.

Hawthorn is a member of the rose family and its flowers are very similar to our native field rose (Rosa arvensis).

Key identification points for Hawthorn:
  • Deciduous shrub with long, sharp thorns - often found in hedgerows and woodland edges, growing up to 15m if left untrimmed
  • Leaves (about 6cm) are broadly palmate (like a palm) with toothed lobes and a very visible central vein
  • Scented white flowers with five petals, growing in short stemmed clusters
  •  Berries start off green and turn deep red when they ripen.  The flesh is creamy pink and floury with a mild, sweet fruity taste. There is a fairly large seed inside compared to the size of the berry
  • N.B. There is another native UK species called Midland Hawthorn with more deeply divided lobes on the leaves and two stigmas in the flowers.  Stigmas are the part that pollen is deposited onto rather than the part that disperses the pollen.  As a result of having two stigmas, the Midland hawthorn has two seeds rather than one.

Hawthorn berries

Hawthorn berries in themselves are not particularly wonderful to eat as they have a large seed in the centre, but they do make wonderful jams, jellies, sweets and chutneys together with hawthorn berry ketchup and hawthorn berry brandy.