HAWTHORN

FAMILY: Rosaceae | GENUS: CRATAEGUS

TYPE
  • Trees
  • Deciduous
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
WATER
  • Moderate Water

Plant Details

Members of the rose family, these small to medium-size, multitrunked trees are well known for their pretty, typically white flower clusters, which appear after leaf-out in springin fact, the hawthorn blossom is Missouri's state flower. Showy fruits resembling tiny apples appear in summer and autumn and often hang on into winter. The thorny branches need some pruning to thin out twiggy growth. Hawthorns attract bees and birds but are not usually browsed by deer.

C. crus-galli. COCKSPUR THORN. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native to eastern U.S. and Canada. Wide-spreading tree to 30 ft. high, 35 ft. across. Stiff thorns to 3 in. long. Smooth, glossy, toothed, 1- to 3-in.-long leaves are dark green, turning orange to red in fall. Dull orange-red fruit. Tough and drought tolerant. Most successful hawthorn for Oklahoma. C. c. inermis ('Crusader') is thornless.

C. laevigata. ENGLISH HAWTHORN. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native to Europe and North Africa. Moderate growth to 1825 ft. high, 1520 ft. wide. Best known through its selections. 'Crimson Cloud' ('Superba') has bright red single owers with white centers, vivid red fruit. Double-owered forms (which set little fruit) include 'Double White', 'Double Pink', and 'Paul's Scarlet', with clusters of rose to red owers. All have 2-in. toothed, lobed leaves lacking good fall color. Trees are very prone to leaf spot, which can defoliate them and shorten their life.

C. marshallii. PARSLEY HAWTHORN. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to southern U.S. To 1015 ft. tall and wide, occasionally to 25 ft. Early spring flowers are dainty white with purple-tipped anthers. Finely cut leaves to 112 in. long resemble parsley, turn red or yellow in fall. Striking cherry-red fruits persist after leaves drop. Tolerates a wide range of soils. Relatively disease free.

C. opaca. MAYHAW. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to southeastern U.S. Attractive, large shrub or small tree famous for its fruitscalled mayhawswhich are prized for making jelly. Eventually reaches 2030 ft. tall and wide. Inch-wide flowers; matte green, lobed, 1- to 2-in.-long leaves with hairy undersides. Fruits are typically red and ripen in early summer (though in the Lower and Coastal South, bloom may occur as early as January, and fruits may ripen by April or May). In its native range, mayhaw grows in damp ground, but it will tolerate some dryness. If you want to harvest the fruit to make jelly, choose a heavy-yielding selection. The plant is self-fertile, but cross-pollination between two different selections produces heavier crops. Full sun or light shade.

'Big Red'. Red fruit to 1 in. across. Very dependable selection from the Pearl River swamps of Mississippi.

'Elite'. Red fruit to 34 in. across; all ripen at the same time, rather than over several weeks.

'Golden Farris'. Golden fruit over 12 in. in diameter. Bears heavily and at an early age.

'Goliath'. Dark red fruit almost 1 in. across. Very productive.

'Harrison'. Pink fruit prized for preserves. From Texas and Louisiana.

'Super Spur'. Heavy crop of 34-in. red fruit; particularly good for jelly.

'Texas Star'. Red to orange-red fruit to almost 1 in. across.

C. phaenopyrum. WASHINGTON HAWTHORN. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to southeastern U.S. Moderate growth to 25 ft. tall, 20 ft. across. Graceful, open limb structure. Glossy leaves 23 in. long with three to ve sharp-pointed lobes (like some maples). In Upper and Middle South, foliage turns beautiful orange, scarlet, or purplish in fall. Broad flower clusters. Shiny red fruit hangs on well into winter. Not successful in the southern Midwest but a choice hawthorn elsewhere. One of the least prone to reblight but quite susceptible to rust that disfigures fruit and foliage.

C. spathulata. LITTLEHIP HAWTHORN. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to southeastern and midwestern U.S. Large shrub or small tree to 15-25 ft. high. Small, bright green leaves are not deeply lobed. Bright red fruit. Tough. Beautiful bark.

C. viridis. GREEN HAWTHORN. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to southeastern U.S. Moderate growth to 2530 ft.; broad, spreading crown. Red fruit. 'Winter King' is vase shaped, with silvery stems and showy red fruit that lasts all winter; susceptible to rust.

These trees will grow in any soil as long as it is well drained. Better grown under somewhat austere conditions, since good soil, regular water, and fertilizer all promote succulent new growth that is most susceptible to reblight. The disease makes entire branches die back quickly; cut out blighted branches well below dead part. The rust stage of cedar-apple rust can be a problem wherever eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) grows nearby. Aphids and scale are widespread potential pests.

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