The Hawthorn Tree

The Hawthorn Tree by Arthur Rackham
The Hawthorn Tree by Arthur Rackham

Latin: Crataegus, Common Hawthorn: Crataegus monogyna
Type: Shrub or small tree | Size: 5-15m (about 16-49ft)
Other Names: may, mayblossom, maythorn, quickthorn, whitethorn, motherdie, and haw

The hawthorn tree is native to Europe, Northwest Africa, and Western Asia, but has also been introduced to other areas including the UK and the US. Because of their dense, thorned branches, hawthorn trees were a common choice to create hedgerows in Europe, though primarily in Germany. In fact, in German the hawthorn tree is known as “Hagedorn”, which translates to “Hedgethorn”. In Old English, “haw” means “hedge”, which happens to now be the common name for the hawthorn fruit. Hence, the name Hawthorn in Old English also conveniently translates to “Hedgethorn”. Hawthorns are propagated by birds, namely thrushes and waxwings, who eat the haws throughout the winter months.

Identification
The bark on young hawthorn trees is smooth and dull brown with streaks of orange. As the tree grows older the bark becomes rough and cracked with orange peeking through the cracks. The leaves have deep lobes that can reach all the way to the midrib (the middle stem of the leaf) and are dark green on the top and light on the bottom. Haws have the same shape and color as pomegranates but are generally around 1 cm in size and have a single seed. Haws begin to grow in the fall and there is an old saying that they are not ripe until the witches fly over at Samhain. Young hawthorn branches have small but sharp thorns that also grow to around 1 cm, but that merge with the branches as they grow. The flowers of the common hawthorn bloom during the month of May and have five white petals with five red stamen and grow in clusters of 5-25. Hawthorn flowers grow (can you guess?) to also be around 1 cm.

Common_hawthorn_flowers Crataegus_monogyna_branch Hawthorn_fruit

 
Medicinal Properties
*disclaimer* please consult a professional before using any herbal treatments
The flowers, leaves, and fruit of the hawthorn are edible and used to treat both high and low blood pressure, as well as high cholesterol. Hawthorn can also treat digestive and intestinal problems, including menstrual problems. AND there is research being done to find if hawthorn can treat congestive heart failure. The flowers can be used as a strong sedative and have been used to treat anxiety. Externally, the flowers can be used to treat acne and skin blemishes. Haws contain Vitamin B complex and Vitamin C.

The fair maiden who, the first of May,
Goes to the fields at the break of day
And washes in dew from the Hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be.
– Neltjc Blanchan
Nature’s Garden (1900)

Metaphysical Properties
Hawthorn can cleanse the heart of negativity and stimulates love and forgiveness. Use hawthorn flowers in spells for fertility, happiness, and good luck in fishing, as well was protection, love and marriage spells. Hawthorn flowers are also said to be highly erotic to men.

For more, in depth lore about the hawthorn check out my post “Hawthorn Lore

Associations
Fertility, Weddings, Protection, Death, Communication with the Spirit World, Unity of Male and Female, and Strengthens Healing Spells.
Victorian Flower Language: Hope
Deities: Welsh Blodeuwedd, Olwen, Greek/Roman Hymen, Roman Cardea
Holidays: May Day, Beltaine, Samhain

Sources:
“Hawthorn”, Controversical
“Hawthorn”, The Goddess Tree
“Crataegus monogyna”, Wikipedia
“Crataegus”, Wikipedia
“Hawthorn”, Web-MD

Photo Credits:
“Common hawthorn flowers”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
“Eenstijlige meidoorn (Crataegus monogyna branch)”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
“Hawthorn fruit” by Elstro – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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