Family: Rosaceae (Rose family)
Hawthorn is a native British tree.
It is also found throughout Europe, North Africa and Western Asia.
The Common Hawthorn is far more abundant in Britain than the Midland Hawthorn. It is a pioneer species and is found widespread in open habitats, because it is not tolerant of heavy shade. It is no doubt the most common small tree in these isles, because millions of miles of hedgerows were planted with it.
The name 'Hawthorn' comes from the Anglo-Saksen 'Hagathorn'. Haga means hedge.
The scientific name 'Crataegus' comes from the Greek 'kratos' meaning 'strong', which refers to the hardness of the wood. Monogyna means 'one-pistil!
Some of its many common names are: Bread and Cheese Tree, Hagthorn, Haw, May, Mayblossom, Mayflower, Maythorn, Maybush, Whitethorn, Quickset, Quickthorn, etc.
In hedges Hawthorn is familiar as a dense thorny shrub, but if it is allowed to grow freely it will form a lovely rounded bushy topped tree up to 8-12 meters high. It can grow higher than that: A 700 year old tree in Norfolk and the Hawthorn pollards in Hatfield Forest and Hall Place in Kent are at least 15 meters, but this is rare. The trunk does not usually grow to a huge size, 3 to 4 ft diameter at the most, but it makes up for it by twisted and gnarled.
The young trees have a smooth light grey bark, which turns into a grey to pinkish brown bark with dark longitudinal fissures on older ones and can become really rugged on venerable trees. This gives rise to the peculiar situation that many of the branches emerging from the trunk, which still are smooth pale grey look totally different, as if they were another species grafted unto it!. If you examine these branches, or a young trunk carefully, you find that the diameter isn't perfectly round, but slightly flattened on two sides. Small brown buds are arranged spirally along the twigs. The thorns are actually spine-tipped side branches and can be of varying length.
The leaves are a bright dark glossy green on top and attached alternately. They are variable in shape, with either 3, 5 or 7 lobes. On the Common Hawthorn the lobes reach more than halfway to the midrib and are longer than they are wide (length from 1.5 to 3.5 cm) with tuft or hairs in vein-angles on the underside of the leaf. The leaves of the Midland Hawthorn are more rounded, wider than long (length from 1.5 cm to 5 cm), not nearly so deeply lobed and have tiny teeth all around.
The tree comes early into leaf, about end March/early April, when the fresh green leaf push out the the tiny bud scales The autumn colours are brown, red and yellow depending on weather conditions, sometimes they just turn a dull brown colour before falling.
The wood of the Hawthorn is very hard, but the trees are generally too small to be considered as a timber tree. Its heartwood is rusty brown and the outer sapwood pale brown. Many small articles were made of it, such as boxes, combs and tool handles.
An excellent excellent fuel, making the hottest wood-fire known. Hawthorn charcoal was used formerly to melt pig-iron without the aid of a blast. Hedge trimmings were widely used as bundles of faggots to light bread ovens.