Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) — Woodland Trust

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

Named after the month in which it blooms and a sign that spring is turning to summer. The pale green leaves of this hedgerow staple are often the first to appear in spring, with an explosion of pretty pale-pink blossom in May. It simply teems with wildlife from bugs to birds.

Hawthorn is famed for its white, highly scented blossom.

Credit: David Cook / Alamy Stock Photo

The species grows in woodland, scrub and hedgerows.

Credit: Gary Cook / Alamy Stock Photo

The young leaves are edible.

Credit: Ben Lee / WTML

It has deep red fruits known as ‘haws’.

Credit: Ben Lee / WTML

Leaves are around 6cm in length.

Credit: Brian Legg / WTML

Twigs are slim, brown and covered in thorns.

Credit: Shaun Nixon / WTML

The haws cause mild stomach upset when eaten raw.

Credit: Jill Jennings / WTML

This species supports over 300 insects.

Credit: Ashley Cooper / naturepl.com

Its flowers are usually white, but occasionally pink.

Credit: Jane Corey / WTML

Leaves turn yellow and orange before falling in autumn.

Credit: Ben Lee / WTML

The dense foliage makes a great shelter for many bird species.

Credit: Brian Legg / WTML

Hawthorn has long been used as a hedging plant.

Credit: Ben Lee / WTML

Common names: common hawthorn, hawthorn, May tree, one-seed hawthorn, whitethorn, quickthorn

Scientific name: Crataegus monogyna

Family: Rosaceae

Origin: native

Mature trees can reach a height of 15m and are characterised by their dense, thorny habit, though they can grow as a small tree with a single stem. The bark is brown-grey, knotted and fissured, and twigs are slender and brown and covered in thorns. It often hybridises with the UK’s other native hawthorn, Midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata). Both species are similar and can be hard to tell apart.

Look out for: the deeply lobed leaves, spiny twigs and haws (berries).

Identified in winter by: the spines which emerge from the same point as the buds; distinguishing them from blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) which has buds on the spines in winter .

What does hawthorn look like?

Credit: Ben Lee / WTML


Around 6cm in length and comprised of toothed lobes, which cut at least halfway to the middle or ‘mid-rib’. They turn yellow before falling in autumn.

Credit: Jane Corey / WTML


Hawthorns are hermaphrodite, meaning both male and female reproductive parts are contained within each flower. Flowers are highly scented, white or occasionally pink with five petals, and grow in flat-topped clusters.

Credit: Ben Lee / WTML


Once pollinated by insects, they develop into deep-red fruits known as ‘haws’.

Watch hawthorn budburst

Not to be confused with:

Midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata). The flowers of common hawthorn have a single stigma, whereas Midland hawthorn has two. The common hawthorn fruits have a single seed, whereas the fruits of Midland hawthorn have two seeds. The leaves of common hawthorn are not as deeply cut.

Hawthorn, Midland

Spot the changing seasons

Have you noticed buds bursting into leaf or fruit ripening in the hedgerows? Tell us what’s happening to the trees around you and help scientists track the effects of climate change on wildlife.

Where to find hawthorn

This species is commonly found growing in hedgerows, woodland and scrub. It will grow in most soils, but flowers and fruits best in full sun.

Mature trees can reach a height of 15m.

Credit: Ashley Cooper / naturepl.com

Value to wildlife

Common hawthorn can support more than 300 insects. It is the foodplant for caterpillars of moths, including the hawthorn, orchard ermine, pear leaf blister, rhomboid tortrix, light emerald, lackey, vapourer, fruitlet-mining tortrix, small eggar and lappet moths. Its flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. The haws are rich in antioxidants and are eaten by migrating birds, such as redwings, fieldfares and thrushes, as well as small mammals.

The dense, thorny foliage makes fantastic nesting shelter for many species of bird.

Mythology and symbolism

Hawthorn is a pagan symbol of fertility and has ancient associations with May Day. It was the ancestor of the Maypole and its leaves and flowers the source of May Day garlands as well as appearing in the wreath of the Green Man.

Hawthorn was never brought into the home. It was believed that bringing hawthorn blossom inside would be followed by illness and death, and in medieval times it was said that hawthorn blossom smelled like the Great Plague. Botanists later learned that the chemical trimethylamine in hawthorn blossom is also one of the first chemicals formed in decaying animal tissue, so it is not surprising that hawthorn flowers are associated with death.

Its blossoming marks the point at which spring turns into summer, and the old saying ‘Cast ne’er a clout ere May is out’ almost certainly refers to the opening of hawthorn flowers rather than the end of the month.


Unusual Eye Conditions


Yes, you really can cry tears of blood. But it isn’t so much a disease as a symptom. Causes include:

  • Blood vessels that don’t grow the right way
  • Tumors
  • Inflamed tissues
  • Bacterial or viral infections

It’s more common in children and teens. Treatment depends on the cause.В


Your pupil is a round hole that gets bigger as light fades and smaller as light brightens. It’s rare, but some people have more than one working pupil in a single eye. It isn’t clear what causes polycoria, but there may be a link to conditions like glaucoma and cataracts. Not everyone needs treatment, but surgery can restore dimmed vision.


Your irises are the colored part of each eye. Sometimes they’re a different color from one another. Or one iris might contain different colors. If you’re born with it, you probably won’t have other symptoms or need treatment. Sometimes it’s a sign of a rare condition you get from your parents at birth. An injury or disease can cause it later in life.

Cat Eye Syndrome

This disease can cause a notch or gap in parts of your eyes. Your doctor will call it a coloboma. When it affects your iris or pupil, your eye might look like a cat’s. You can also get colobomas in other organs and body parts. Most of the time they come from a problem in your genes that resut in changes during development and show up when you’re born. You may need a team of doctors to manage the different symptoms.

Optic Neuritis

It can strike anywhere between ages 20 and 40. About half the people who have it will get multiple sclerosis, a disease that attacks brain cells. It usually affects one eye. You could lose vision for a few hours or daysВ or even months or lose a portion of yoir peripheral vision.В You may have pain, blurry vision, and see flashing lights. Colors, especially red, mightВ be less bright. Though it usually goes away on its own, the doctor canВ give you steroids to ease the inflammation and pain. Your eyesight should be back to normal within a year, but the condition can return.В В В

Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS)

People with this condition see (but don’t hear) patterns or images that others can’t. These hallucinations can last from minutes to hours. They might be still or move. The cause isn’t clear, but it’s likely your brain’s response to a loss of vision, especially if it’s sudden. It isn’t a sign of mental breakdown or a brain disease like dementia. There’s no cure, but it can help to change lighting and get plenty of rest. There are medications, but they have serious side effects and are reserved for severe cases.

Ocular Albinism

Your iris absorbs light. Your retina, at the back of your eye, processes it. If you don’t have enough of the pigment that gives them their color, the nerves that help you see could get damaged. That can lead to:В

  • Blurry vision
  • Eyes that look in different directions
  • Light sensitivity
  • Trouble judging distanceВ В

There’s no cure, but your doctor can help you manage your symptoms.

Traumatic Cataract

Your lens helps focus light and images onto your retina. It may take a while, but if it gets hit or pierced, a cataract can form. It will look cloudy and may be star-shaped. The doctor will give you drugs called corticosteroids to reduce swelling and pressure, from the injuryВ along with pain medication. The steroids won’t fix a cataract though. If your eye is pierced, you may need surgery to repair the damage.

Chronic Progressive External Ophthalmoplegia (CPEO)

You can inherit genes that cause the muscles in and around your eye to get weak or stop working. It could start anywhere from age 18 to 40. It can affect one or both eyes. You may find it hard to swallow or you might feel that muscles all over your body are weak, especially after you exercise. There’s no cure, but surgery can correct droopy eyelids and other symptoms.В


Your pupils could be different sizes. About 1 in 5 people who have this don’t have any other health conditions along with it. Sometimes it signals a rare nerve problem. Horner’s syndrome is marked by one much smaller pupil, a droopy upper lid, an eyeball sunken into its socket, and a lack of facial sweat on just one side of the face. If a change in your pupil size happens suddenly, call your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room. In Adie syndrome, which usually doesn’t require treatment, one pupil is always open and barely responds to light. Some drugs like scopolamine patches for sea sickness can also cause one pupil to dilate if the medicine gets in the eye.В


This cancer affects your retina. It’s the most common form of eye cancer in children, but rare for adults. You might notice a white color in the pupil of your child’s eye when light shines on it. Her eyes may be red, swollen, and seem to look in different directions. Treatments include radiation and surgery.

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)

This group of rare genetic diseases damages special light-sensitive cells in your retina, the tissue that lines the back of your eye. It narrows your field of vision and makes it harder to see at night. There’s no cure, and it will get worse over time. But doctors and therapists can show you how to use special devices and tactics to make the most of the vision you have.


Your child’s eyes could be abnormally small or completely missing (anophthalmia) at birth. Scientists think genes cause this disorder. Exposure to certain chemicals or viruses may raise the risk, but more research is needed to be sure. There isn’t much help for vision loss from this disease, but doctors can place a full or partial artificial eye in your baby’s eye socket. As she grows, it’ll look more normal.

Bietti’s Crystalline Dystrophy (BCD)

This inherited disease causes yellow or white crystals to form in your retina. Over time your vision will get less sharp and you’ll have trouble seeing at night. You might lose your side vision or have trouble seeing colors. Your eyes could worsen at different rates. The trouble starts in your teens or 20s. By your 40s or 50s you may have to turn your head to see to the side. That makes you legally blind. It doesn’t mean you can’t see, just that you have low vision that can’t be corrected with glasses or contacts.

Stargardt Disease

This inherited condition causes a fatty buildup on your retina. It can damage your central vision. It happens slowly and doesn’t lead to total blindness. It mostly affects children and teens, but you may not notice it until you’re an adult. There’s no treatment.

Up Next

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2) Medical Images

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14) Retina Image BankВ® / Robert T. Wendel, MD / American Society of Retina Specialists

Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science: “Haemolacria: A Unique Diagnostic And Treatment Approach.”

National Eye Institute: “Facts About Anophthalmia and Microphthalmia,” Facts About Retinitis Pigmentosa,” “Facts About Stargardt Disease,” Healthy Eyes Facts.”

Acta Ophthalmologica: “True polycoria or pseudo-polycoria?”

Arquivos Brasileiros de Oftalmologia: “Pupilloplasty in a patient with true polycoria: a case report.”

American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Anisocoria,” «Heterochromia,” “Management of Traumatic Cataract,” “Ocular Trauma: Acute Evaluation, Cataract, Glaucoma.”

NIH Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center: “Chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia,” “Heterochromia Iridis.”

National Organization for Rare Disorders: “Adie Syndrome,»
“Cat Eye Syndrome,” “Horner’s Syndrome.”

Mayo Clinic: “Optic Neuritis: Diagnosis & Treatment,” “Optic Neuritis: Symptoms & Causes,” “Retinoblastoma: Diagnosis & treatment,” “Retinoblastoma: Symptoms & causes.”

NHS Choices: “Charles Bonnet syndrome.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine Genetics Home Reference: “Ocular albinism.”

National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation: “Information Bulletin — What is Albinism?”

VisionAware: “Eye Health: Anatomy of the Eye.”

Genetics Home Reference: “Bietti Crystalline Dystrophy,” “Stargardt macular degeneration.”

American Foundation for the Blind: “Low Vision and Legal Blindness Terms and Descriptions.”

Reviewed by Whitney Seltman on January 21, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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What Is The State Flower of Missouri?

The white hawthorn blossom is the state flower of Missouri.

The white blossoms of the hawthorn tree are recognized as the state flower of Missouri.

Missouri is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States. This state covers an area of 69,715 square miles and had a population of 6,113,532 in 2017, making it the eighteenth most populated state in the country. Missouri has numerous official state symbols, including a state amphibian (American bullfrog), state animal (Missouri mule), and state bird (Bluebird). Additionally, the official state flower is the white hawthorn blossom.

Missouri State Flower

The white hawthorn blossom was selected as the official state flower of Missouri in 1923 through legislation signed by Governor Arthur M. Hyde. More than 75 species of the flower grow in Missouri, but the state legislation did not specify a particular type of the white hawthorn. However, Missouri’s Department of Conservation claims that the downy hawthorn (Crataegus mollis) should be crowned as the official state flower of Missouri.

Hawthorn Tree

The hawthorn is a type of shrub or small tree that belongs to the rose (Rosaceae) family, is thorny, and grows a fruit. Like other species of hawthorn, the downy is thorny and characterized by white flowers and red fruit. The downy is a relatively small relative to other species of hawthorn, growing to a height of about 20 feet, often in a rounded shape. Its thorns are generally long and slender, while its leaves can be described as medium green in color. However, during fall the leaves change color to yellow or burgundy.

The white hawthorn’s blossoms typically bloom between late April and early May, while its fruit grows from late August to September. The plant thrives in savanna and woodland areas with dry or moderate soil moisture. The plant has numerous benefits, such as providing shelter for wildlife in Missouri and serving as a source of food for birds and other small animals. It also provides a nesting environment for birds. The bark is usually rough and becomes shaggy as the plant ages shaggy. Unlike many plants in the rose family, the flowers of the hawthorn have an unpleasant scent.


The hawthorn plant has various uses. These include use in traditional medicine as a digestive aid and to improve cardiovascular function. More recently, the hawthorn extract has been researched in modern medicine as a means of helping treat chronic heart failure and cardiovascular disease. The hawthorn is also used as a popular shrub for landscaping, in plant grafting, and as a bonsai tree.


Washington State

English Hawthorn

Family: Rosaceae

Other Common Names: common hawthorn, red hawthorn, one-seed hawthorn, Neapolitan medlar, whitethorn
Weed class: C
Year Listed: 2016
Native to: Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa
Is this Weed Toxic?:

not known to be

Why Is It a Noxious Weed?

Plants can form thickets and block animal movement. In fact, this plant was used historically used in hedgerows to contain livestock. Its dense growth can alter the structure of forest understories and open grasslands. Hybridization can occur between English hawthorn and the native hawthorn, Crataegus douglasii, altering the gene pool of the native species and creating competition for resources and pollinators. In Europe and New Zealand, Crataegus monogyna is a host of fire blight bacterium (Erwinia amylovora) which also affects pears and apples.

How would I identify it?

General Description

English hawnthorn is a long-lived, deciduous, small tree to large shrub. Its branches have sharp thorns and the leaves are deeply lobed. White flowers, which can have a pink tint, bloom in May and develop red fruits in the fall.

Flower Description

Flowers are clustered in groups of 10-20 on short stalks. Each has five septals and five white petals that age to a pinkish color. Five to twenty-five stamens with pink-purple anthers extend past the petals.

Leaf description

Leaves are deciduous, alternately arranged and closely clustered on short shoots. Leaves are variable in shape and are mostly ovate (egg-shaped) to triangular in outline with 3 to 7 deep, sharp, lobes. The leaves are wide, leathery in texture, and can be glabrous (smooth and hairless) or hairy. Leaf edges are toothed, mainly near lobe tips.

Stem description

Stems usually branch from a single trunk. Twigs can be hairless and smooth or hairy and are often tipped with thorns.

Fruit Seed Description

English hawthorn produces bright to deep red, drupe-like pome fruits that are elliptic to spherical in shape with one to two nutlets with one seed each found in each fruit.

May Be Confused With

The native black hawthorn (Douglas’s hawthorn), Crataegus douglasii, is in the same genus but has characteristics to distinguish it from English hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna. Crataegus douglasii, which occurs all over Washington, has weakly lobed leaves (not prominently lobed), flowers with 5 styles (not 1 style), and blackish fruits (not bright red). See photos of Crataegus douglasii here at the UW Herbarium’s image database.

Where does it grow?

English Hawthorn grows in lowland areas on many soil types, growing best in moist soil or in areas with high precipitation, though established trees can survive moderate drought conditions. Please click here to see a county level distribution map of English hawthorn in Washington.

How Does it Reproduce?

English hawthorn reproduces by seed. Fruit drops to the soil beneath the tree and is also dispersed by animals, primarily by the American robin.

How Do I Control It?

General Information

Due to English hawthorn’s thorns, make sure to wear gloves and other protective clothing when working with plants. Make sure to monitor for seedlings as birds can disperse seeds far from plants. Frequently monitor habitats where English hawthorn may grow to find and control plants when they are small.

Manual/Mechanical Control

Manual removal of seedlings and small plants is possible and is easier to accomplish when the soil is moist. Seedlings can be hand-pulled, but small plants will need to be dug out including all the roots or at least the crown and upper portions of the roots to prevent resprouts. Plants can be cut back with the best time being in early summer as the plant is putting most of its energy into aboveground growth. Larger shrubs and trees can be cut to the base with chain saws or hand saws. Avoid cutting the plants when they are full of ripe fruit as they will be dispersed when moving and disposing of plant material. Remove the cut material from site as English hawthorn can regenerate from cutting. Plants will resprout unless the roots are removed or the cut surface is treated with herbicide. Burning the cut surface with a torch may also reduce sprouting.

Cultural Control

It is unknown how effective fire may be at controlling English hawthorn. A study cited in Zouhar (1998) by Pendergrass et al. (1998) reported that on the wet prairies of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the density of nonnative, invasive shrubs which included English hawthorn, was not significantly altered by either a single fall burn or two consecutive fall burns. It was pointed out though that repeated burning over time may gradually reduce the density and slow the expansion of the invaders.

Biological Control

There are not any approved biological control agents for English hawthorn. Its spines typically deter grazing.

Herbicide Control

Currently there isn’t information on English hawthorn control in the PNW Weed Management Handbook but check back for information as it is continually being updated or contact your county noxious weed coordinator. Using a cut stem treatment on English hawthorn has shown success. Freshly cut stems, cutting as close to the ground as possible, can be painted with herbicide. Foliar sprays have not been as reliable for control and there is more risk of damage to non-target plant. Always read and follow the herbicide label instructions.

For More Information

See our Written Findings for more information about English hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).

King County Noxious Weed Control Board information on English hawthorn.


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