Hawthorn

21st December 2018

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Known as ‘May blossom’ because historically it has flowered in May, it’s also called the ‘bread and cheese tree’ because of its ‘edible’ leaves, and was named ‘hagthorn’ in Anglo-Saxon. And with ‘haga’ meaning hedge, it is not surprising that we find the hawthorn tree as part of many hedgerows across the country as well as growing as a standalone tree in shrubland. The hawthorn can grow, in full maturity, to heights of up to 15 meters and is identified by its entwined brown-grey bark, branches fortified by thorns and lobbed leaves. The hawthorn flowers between the months of April and May and produces deep red berries or ‘haws’.

In your garden
The hawthorn has been used over the centuries as a hedging plant and holds great potential for wildlife in your garden.

The tree can provide nourishment for a variety of insects, including caterpillars, moths and bees, which will all happily gorge themselves on the plant, and many birds enjoy the antioxidant rich berries and the shelter of the tree’s thorny branches, so don’t be surprised if your garden gains a few extra residents once or twice a year. The hawthorn will grow in most soils, but for it to reach its full blossoming potential you’ll want to place it in direct sunlight.

Threats your hawthorn may face
Hawthorn trees are susceptible to aphid attack and gall mites, so you may want to consider companion planting – planting another species of tree close by in order to protect one another from pests like these – the ecologically friendly way of lessening pest numbers. In addition, the bacterial disease fireblight may also cause a few issues unless you regularly check for infected branches and remove them to prevent it spreading.

A few things you may not know about your hawthorn tree:

  • Hermaphrodite – The flowers in the tree are both male and female and are highly scented (some think they smell nice, others less so).
  • May Tree – This is the only tree to be named after its flowering period, however, with a changing climate we have seen the hawthorn bloom earlier and earlier in the year, often now in April.
  • More than firewood – Even though hawthorn timber is renowned for its high burning temperature the hard timber is also used for turnery (making objects on a lathe) and engraving.
  • Edible leaves – Another name the tree has gone by is the ‘bread and cheese tree’! This is due to the fact the young leaves, flowers and flower buds are all edible and can be added to your green salad.
  • Bringer of Death – In medieval Britain, it was said the blossom of the hawthorn smelled of the Great Plague! Superstition insisted that bringing it into your home would cause death and disease. However, botanists later discovered a chemical in the blossoms that is residual within decaying animal tissue, so perhaps it was the smell that fuelled their worries!

If you would like to talk to an expert about the good health of your hawthorn trees, call us on 0208 292 8992. We’re always happy to pop round or to help with a little advice

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