This tree will grow to a height of 30-40 feet. The fruit is a bright red to dark purple that is enjoyed by many birds. The white clumps of flowers give off a faint smell of rotting meat and it is fertilized mainly by carrion insects. The leaves are oval-shaped, sharply toothed and alternate.
Other Names Whitethorn, Hazels, Gazels, Halves, Quickset, Bread-and-Cheese Tree, Albesyne, L’Epine Noble, Hagedorn, Hedgethorn, Fairy Bush, May blossom, May Bush, May Flower, Quick, Thorn, Haw, Hag Thorn, Ladies Meat, Tree of Chastity, May Tree
History and Folklore
The botanical name Crataegus oxyacantha comes from the Greek kratos, “hardness”, oxcux, “sharp” and akantha “thorn”.
In Teutonic lore, hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) symbolized death and was used in funeral pyres.
In ancient Greece, married couples were crowned with hawthorn blossoms and the wedding party carried torches of hawthorn. The tree was also associated with Cardea, the Roman Goddess of marriage and Childbirth.
During springtime festivals in England, large Hawthorn boughs were cut and stood up in the ground outside houses. They were called May Bushes and decorated with wildflowers. Although it was permissible to decorate outside with hawthorn blossoms, bringing them into the home would surely bring illness and death.
This tree was considered beloved by fairies who lived within. Cutting down a Hawthorn tree is very bad luck!
Hawthorn is a deciduous tree that can grow in most temperate climates. It is tolerant of most soils but prefers moist, alkaline soils.
StrictlyMedicinalSeeds.com carries hawthorn seedlings.
Harvesting & Storage
Harvest the fruit in early autumn and spread out to dry or make into wine or jam.
Flowers can be harvested in May and dried in the sun. Leaves can be harvested at any time. Be sure to ask permission and leave an offering.
Collect fallen limbs after storms to use for carving or making wands.
Gods associated with this tree are Belenus, Cardea, the White Goddess, Hymen, Maia, and Flora.
Hawthorn is a sacred tree in many Pagan religions. The blossoms, called May Flowers, are used in spring celebrations. The May Pole is traditionally made of hawthorn or decorated with hawthorn flowers. As the tree is sacred to fairies, one must ask permission before taking the blooms or sprigs and must certainly leave an offering when cutting down a whole tree.
Placed around doors and windows, hawthorn will prevent people from entering your home in an astral state. It will also prevent spirits from entering a place. Planting hawthorn around other trees, or near your home is said to protect them from lightning strikes. Planting it as a hedge around your home will keep out unfriendly spirits. Adding hawthorn to an amulet will protect you from spirits and harmful magic.
Thorns can be used to mark wax, to write with magical ink, or to fix something for magical purposes.
The phrase “by Oak, Ash and Thorn” referred to Hawthorn (the Thorn part) used in blessing and ritual. These three trees were considered portals to the realm of the fae.
Hawthorn is associated with love, marriage, health, fertility, chastity, protection and death.
The wood of the hawthorn tree has a fine grain and takes polish well. It can be used for carving and making wands. It produces a very hot fire when burned.
The bark of the hawthorn tree can be used as a sedative, antispasmodic, diuretic and to help regulate blood pressure. It is used as a heart tonic and for kidney troubles.
The flowers and berries are astringent and can be used for sort throats.
Use a decoction of flowers and leaves to stabilize blood pressure.
A tasty liquor can be made from the berries. Both the blossoms and berries can be made into wine and jellies.
Hawthorn leaves can be eaten and were once referred to as bread-and-cheese.