The Hawthorne tree is associated with the May Queen¹, when its' branches are loaded with blossoms in the Spring. It’s also associated with the fairies and it was considered bad luck to cut one down. Now in October we see what blossomed in the Spring has come to fruit in the Fall.
Bees, flies and other pollinators love the pretty pink and white flowers, possibly because they smell a bit like fish or meat. I love watching the buzz and hum of them in and around the trees. A tea of the Spring flowers and leaves is a healthy drink, but don’t smell it too closely.
Crataegus monogyna is the Hawthorne we commonly see planted in the Northwest, with it’s red berries; although there are other varieties here as well; it was used widely in fields to soak up excess water. There is a native Hawthorne, Crataegus Douglassii, which is not as commonly found that has black berries. They, along with many other species of Hawthorne are in the Rosaceae family of plants; a family with many, many useful edible and medicinal plants.
Hawthorn grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils. It is drought-tolerant. In other words, it’s an easy tree to grow. It does like full sun, at least 6 hours per day. They have a rounded shape and grow from 15-25 feet tall. They respond well to pruning and will become bushier with more flowers and fruit!
In keeping with the connection of Hawthorne to the emotional heart in the Spring at Beltane; in western medicine, Hawthorne is used to restore physical heart health.² Hawthorn can help improve the amount of blood pumped out of the heart during contractions, widen the blood vessels, and increase the connectivity of nerve signals.
Hawthorn also seems to have blood pressure-lowering abilities, according to research. It seems to cause relaxing of the blood vessels farther from the heart. It seems that this effect is due to a constituent in hawthorn called proanthocyanidin. Research suggests that hawthorn can lower low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), and triglycerides (fats in the blood). It seems to reduce the accumulation of fats in the liver and the aorta (the largest artery in the body, located near the heart). Hawthorn fruit extract may lower cholesterol by increasing the excretion of bile, reducing the formation of cholesterol, and enhancing the receptors for LDLs. It also seems to have antioxidant activity, like most berries.
If you ever want to hear a stirring talk about the benefits of berries on circulatory health, hear Guido Mase talk about it if you have the chance. Also, in the PNW we have another teacher who loves to talk about Hawthorn; Eaglesong Gardner.
Part of the lore of Hawthorne is its’ protective quality, because of the thorns it has. (The size of these vary from species to species, and some have none) I have a pendant made from a Hawthorne thorn and berry, wire wrapped with silver that I like to wear when I feel I need a little protective energy to go out into the world with me.