Blackthorn - Prunus spinosa
Found in woodland, hedgerows, gardens and parks
Leaves are oval in shape, wrinkled, and serrated
Leaves broaden slightly on the top half
Bark is very dark coloured
Many long thorns present on twigs
Flowers are white in March to April
Fruit is purple-black with bluish cast
Fruit appears in Autumn
Blackthorn - Prunus spinosa
Edible tree - novice
Other common names: Sloe, Sloe Bush
Scientific name meaning: Literally meaning plum tree, Prunus is a Latin word. Spinosa is from the Latin Spina, meaning thorn or spine
Season Flowers early Spring, Fruit Autumn
Habitat - where will I find it? Blackthorn can be found in hedgerows, woodlands, parks and gardens.
It is a native of Britain, Europe and North Asia
Description - what does it look like? A low-growing tree reaching around 7m, with thin branches.
The bark is very dark coloured. Long thorns emerge from the twigs.
Leaves are oval shaped, wrinkled and serrated. The leaves broaden slightly on the top half.
Flowers are white, with five petals and in bloom in March to April. They are followed in Autumn by small dark purple fruits containing a single stone. The skin of the fruit often has a blueish cast
Blackthorn, however, has a considerable number of thorns compared to Damson and Bullace
Use as a food The fruit is often used to make Gin liqueurs. It is too astringent and bitter to eat raw.
Cooked, the fruit is used to make jams, jellies, syrups, ketchups and chutneys.
The flowers are also edible and have a mild almond flavour
Use in herbal medicine Has been used to treat flatulence, diarrhoea, muscle spasms and fevers
If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner
Other uses The traditional wood for making Irish shillelaghs, it is used to make other walking sticks. Different coloured dyes can be made from several parts of the tree. Its thorns make it excellent stock hedging
Hazards The leaves and seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides and hydrogen cyanide. The seeds/stones, leaves, barks, stems and twigs should not be consumed
Importance to other species Provides a valuable nectar source for pollinators, and abundant food source for birds. The leaves provide a food source for the caterpillars of The Lackey, Magpie, Common Emerald, Small Eggar, Swallow-Tailed and Yellow-Tailed moths, as well as Black and Brown Hairstreak butterflies.
Several birds nest in blackthorn hedges and feed off these caterpillars and other insects living on the Blackthorn
Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!