The common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is a shrub or small tree 5–14 metres tall, with a dense crown. The bark is dull brown with vertical orange cracks. The younger stems bear sharp thorns, approximately 12.5mm long. The leaves are 20 to 40mm long, obovate and deeply lobed, sometimes almost to the midrib, with the lobes spreading at a wide angle. The upper surface is dark green above and paler underneath.
The hermaphrodite flowers are produced in late spring (May to early June in its native area) in corymbs of 5-25 together; each flower is about 10mm diameter, and has five white petals, numerous red stamens, and a single style; they are moderately fragrant. The flowers are pollinated by midges, bees and other insects and later in the year bear numerous haws. The haw is a small, oval dark red fruit about 10mm long, berry-like, but structurally a pome containing a single seed. Haws are important for wildlife in winter, particularly thrushes and waxwings; these birds eat the haws and disperse the seeds in their droppings.
The common hawthorn is distinguished from the related but less widespread Midland hawthorn (C. laevigata) by its more upright growth, the leaves being deeply lobed, with spreading lobes, and in the flowers having just one style, not two or three. However they are inter-fertile and hybrids occur frequently; they are only entirely distinct in their more typical forms.
Common hawthorn is extensively planted as a hedge plant, especially for agricultural use. Its spines and close branching habit render it effectively stock- and human-proof, with some basic maintenance. The traditional practice of hedge laying is most commonly practised with this species. It is a good fire wood which burns with a good heat and little smoke.
Numerous hybrids exist, some of which are used as garden shrubs. The most widely used hybrid is C. × media (C. monogyna × C. laevigata), of which several cultivars are known, including the very popular 'Paul's Scarlet' with dark pink double flowers. Other garden shrubs that have sometimes been suggested as possible hybrids involving the common hawthorn, include the various-leaved hawthorn of the Caucasus, which is only very occasionally found in parks and gardens.
The fruit of hawthorn, called haws, are edible raw but are commonly made into jellies, jams, and syrups, used to make wine, or to add flavour to brandy. Botanically they are pomes, but they look similar to berries. A haw is small and oblong, similar in size and shape to a small olive or grape, and red when ripe. Haws develop in groups of 2-3 along smaller branches. They are pulpy and delicate in taste. In this species (C. monogyna) they have only one seed, but in other species of hawthorn there may be up to 5 seeds. Petals are also edible, as are the leaves, which if picked in spring when still young are tender enough to be used in salads. Hawthorn petals are used in the medieval English recipe for spinee, an almond-milk based pottage recorded in 'The Forme of Cury' by the Chief Master-Cook of King Richard II, c. 1390.
This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.