In May, our hedgerows burst into life as common hawthorn erupts with masses of creamy-white blossom, colouring the landscape and giving this thorny shrub its other name of ‘May-tree’. During the autumn and winter, red fruits known as ‘haws’ appear. This plant is a rich habitat for all kinds of wildlife from hawthorn shield bugs and yellowhammers that feed on the haws, to wood mice and slow worms that shelter in the thorny thickets.
Common hawthorn has shiny leaves, divided into three to seven pairs of lobes, and five-petalled, sweet-smelling flowers. It can be distinguished from the similar midland hawthorn by its more deeply lobed leaves and the fact that it only has a single seed in each fruit.
Height: up to 15m
When to see
January – December
- Common hawthorn is also known as ‘May thorn’, ‘May blossom’ or ‘quick thorn’ and features in many traditional May-time celebrations; for example, the flowers were used to make garlands for May Day.