61. Hawthorn Trees

(Crataegus species and hybrids)

Other Common Name: Thornapple

Family: Rosaceae

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Five different Hawthorns are along Stevens way adjacent to the Medicinal Herb Garden. From Rainier Vista to the west these are: a Common Hawthorn (C. monogyna), from Europe and now naturalized here; two Cockspur Hawthorns (C. crus-galli), broad, thorny and glossy; a native Black-Fruited Hawthorn (C. Douglasii), suckering; three Scarlet Hawthorns (C. coccinea), of tight, upright form; a Frosted Hawthorn (C. pruinosa), by the vent. These hawthornes bloom from April into early June. The fruit is most showy in October and early November.

The bark of most hawthorne trees is smooth and grey when young, developing into shallow longitudinal fissures with narrow ridges when older. The serrated or lobed leaves (of most species) grow spirally arranged on long shoots and in clusters on spur shoots on the branches and twigs. Related to crabapple trees, hawthorns in general are thorny little trees with much less showy, less variable flowers. Comparatively few are cultivated for either beauty or their fruit. Some are valued for the tough rot resistant wood's specialized uses.

Hawthornes have a strong role in folklore. They were regarded as an emblem of hope by the ancient Greeks. Serbian and Croatian lore state that stakes of this wood are particularly deadly to vampires. In Celtic lore howthornes were once said to heal a broken heart. In Gaelic lore this species “marks the entrance to the otherworld” and is strongly associated with fairies, and it is said to be bad luck to cut the tree unless it is in bloom. Although it rarely blooms before mid May, it is customary to decorate with flowering hawthorne branches on May Day.

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