Hawthorn (Cratageus monogyna)

The name “Hawthorn” comes from the Anglo-Saxon “Hagathorn”, where “Haga” means hedge. Although it is effective as a hedge, if allowed to grow freely it will become a tree of around 10 metres.

Hawthorn has lots of alternative names including:

Quickthorn – because it grows so fast and was traditionally used to make a dense hedge to contain cattle or sheep

May – because it flowers in May

Bread and cheese tree – the young leaves are edible and were used particularly in times of hardship.

The flowers are white, sometimes with pink tinges, and are heavily scented.They are an important source of nectar for hundreds of different insect species.

The red fruits are called haws, which are produced in late summer. Birds such as thrushes, fieldfares and redwings are fond of the berries. They are also apparently good for treating heart conditions.


The Hawthorn was thought to be the ancestor of the maypole and was the source of May Day garlands.The rhyme “here we go gathering nuts in May” referred to the collection of knots (not in fact “nuts”) of may blossom.

The saying, “Ne’er cast a clout till May is out” is thought to refer to the hawthorn blossom, not the month and was good advice that summer hadn’t really arrived until the blossom was in flower.

The famous Glastonbury thorn is a type of hawthorn.This tree is said to be a descendant of that grown from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea (the owner of the tomb in which
Jesus Christ was laid).