Hawthorn - Crataegus monogyna

Main features

  • Deeply-lobed leave with a resemblance to 

  • Commonly used in farmland hedgerows

  • Has long thorns

  • Masses of white flowers in May

  • Floral scent strongest in early evening

Find a foraging course

Hawthorn - Crataegus monogyna

Edible plant - novice

Other common names Common Hawthorn, Mayflower, Oneseed Hawthorn, Singleseeded Hawthorn, English Hawthorn, Quickthorn, Whitethorn

 

Scientific name meaning Crataegus comes form two Greek words: Kratos, meaning "strength", and Akis, meaning "sharp". Monogyna means "one pistil". The pistil is the female part of the flower.

Season All year

Habitat - where will I find it? Hawthorn is a tree, but s most commonly found used as hedging within farmland hedgerows. It can also be found at full growth, up to 15m, wherever it has been left untrimmed. It can be found anywhere except nutrient poor soils.

It is native to Britain and can be found across Europe. 

Description - what does it look like? Usually seen with a tangled mass of thorny branches, Hawthorn is often found in hedgerows. It is a tree, but the thick mass of thorns makes a good security barrier around fields and properties.

The branches are covered in thorns, and leaves start to appear in March. The leaves are deeply lobed and resemble small oak leaves.

Around May, Hawthorn is covered in a mass of white flowers. These are followed by berries that ripen to an orange-red to deep red. 

Possible lookalikes Other Hawthorns, but these also have edible berries. When Hawthorn is in flower or naked (in winter), it could be confused with Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). However, Blackthorn has much darker, almost black, bark and flowers before its leaves appear - usually in early to late March. 

Hawthorn's leaves appear before its flowers, which appear in May time.

Use as a food The young green leaves have a mild nutty taste and can be used as a salad leaf. Syrups, cordials, preserves and infusions can be made with the flowers, which should be collected when still sweet smelling.

The berries, or Haws, are extremely high in pectin and therefore particularly useful for making jams, jellies, sweets and fruit leathers. They can also be used in chutneys, liquours, and wine making, and make a wonderful ketchup.

If dried, the flesh of the of the Haws can be powdered and used to make Hawthorn bread.

The flowers, leaves and berries can all be used to make a herbal infusion

Use in herbal medicine Hawthorn contain bioflavanoids and is considered to be extremely valuable in herbal medicine for the treatment of cardiac and circulatory ailments. It is no surprise then, that it has traditionally been used in the treatment of angina, poor circulation, hypertension, cardiac muscle weakness, blood pressure disorders, arteriosclerosis, and blood vessel narrowing. 

It has also been used as a sedative, diuretic and antispasmodic.

The leaves, flowers and berries are all used in tinctures, decoctions, and infusions, and as food supplements.

The bark has also been used to treat malaria and fever.
If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Hazards Like apples, the seed of Hawthorn contains a cyanogenic compound called amygdalin so should not be consumed

Other uses Hawthorn makes excellent thick hedging and recovers well from very heavy pruning. It has long been used to keep stock in and thieves out!

It is a very hard wood making it good for making handles for tools

Importance to other species Very important for pollinators, nesting hedgerow birds, and as a food source for native and migratory birds

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!