This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Widespread and common, it is not unnatural to find this plant is represented in Preglacial, Interglacial, and Neolithic deposits. It is confined to the Northern Temperate Zone in Europe, N. Africa, N. and \V. Asia, eastward to the Himalayas. In N. America it is an introduction. It is found in every part of Great Britain, except the Orkneys, and in Yorkshire it is found at the height of 1800 ft. It is native in Ireland, but is often only planted, and Watson says, "few botanists regard it as being more wild in North Britain than a casual straggler probably brought from the hedgerows by birds".
The Hawthorn is essentially a hedgerow plant to-day, being the main plant used in forming hedges all over the country. Where hedges are not cut and layered it grows to a good height and spreads extensively. When grown singly too, as in parks in the open, it is a graceful tree or shrub.
The first Latin name is a transliteration of the Greek name of the plant, and the second one is a reminder, if one has not made this discovery personally, of the sharpness of the long-pointed thorns or modified branches, the English name summarizing this and the character of the fruits as implied in " haw", which really means hedge.
The May or Hawthorn is recognized by its abundance of white blossom in May or June, and the scarlet berries or "haws" in winter, which begin to mature in August and September. The typical thorns or spines also serve to distinguish it, hedges being mainly composed of Hawthorn or thorn bushes in many districts. In this state it is closely branched, and the trunks are generally dwarf, being "layered" periodically. It is, when a tree, often 30 ft. high, growing in the open. The branches are dense or loose, with slender twigs which droop or turn up at the end. In the summer appearance it is a mass of leaves and bloom, generally with a spherical crown and very compact. The branches may be very erect and numerous in the centre (as seen in the winter appearance), turning out at their extremities.
The tree is generally sub-erect, leaning, with large branches, spreading and drooping, with fine twigs. A bud and a long spine are produced on the long shoots below, only a bud above. The stipules on the short lateral spurs and at the bottom of the long shoots are small and awl-shaped. They soon turn brown and fall, the ground being covered with them in spring. The stipules on the upper part are coarsely toothed, sickle-shaped, etc, small and leaflike, or are large, heart-shaped, net-veined.
Photo. L. R. J. Horn - Hawthorn (cralcegus Oxyacantha, L.)
The buds have spiral scales. Spines are below the buds, and these latter are of five kinds: (1) long shoots with leaves separated by internodes, (2) foliage-bearing dwarf shoots, (3) buds like (2) ending in a flower-head, (4) long thorns, (5) short thorns. The leaves are simple, arranged in spirals, petiolate. On long shoots there are large green stipules, persistent and toothed; on the dwarf shoots the stipules are small or ephemeral. The leaf-blade is lobed and toothed, the leaf glossy and glabrous. The bole has a smooth bark at first, which becomes divided into longitudinal furrows, often twisted and grey in colour. The trunk may divide.
The flowers are white or pink, the inflorescence a corymbose cyme, being cylindrical with a flat top. Each flower has 5 united sepals, 5 distinct white petals, 20 stamens, pink anthers becoming brown, and they are attached to the margin of a basin. The style (1 in this form) is central with a broad stigma. The scent is due to trimethylanin. The fruit is a haw or stone fruit, with 1 seed. The calyx is persistent at the top of the fruit.
The tree is often 15 ft. high. The flowering period is May and June. A deciduous tree, it is perennial and increased by seeds.
The honey is half-concealed, and is secreted by a ring at the base of the flower. The stigma ripens first. The flowers are strong-scented, and the smell is attractive to dung- and flesh-flies. The stamens are not ripe when the flower opens. The outer are erect, the inner bent inwards, the anthers below the stigmas. The stigmas are, however, ripe and project in the centre, and the anthers ripen a few days after, opening inwards. The inner anthers when it is cold are bent down below the stigma after opening, the outer overtop the stigmas and are bent inward. But when it is fine the stamens bend outwards and then the honey disk is visible. If insects visit the flower they touch stamens and stigmas with opposite sides of the head and cross-pollination follows, but in their absence and in wet weather self-pollination is most probable.
Sweet sap is exuded by the young shoots which insects seek. The visitors are numerous: Anthophora, Bombus, Andrena, Odynerus, Tachydromia, Empis, Microphorus, Pipiza, Rhingia, Eristalis, Helo-philus, Xylota, Echinomyia, Sarcophaga, Onesia, Graphomyia, Mesem-brina, Cyrtoneura, Bibio, Dilophus, Attagenus, Anthrenus, Meligethes, Anthraxia, Malachius, Telephorus, Asclera, Anaspis, Mordella, Clytus, Grammoptera, Clythra, Halictus, Nomada, Eucera, and Apis.
The fruit is edible, and dispersed by birds, etc. It is therefore spread largely by animal agency.
Hawthorn is normally a sand plant living on a sand soil, but it is usually enriched by some humus which is accumulated under its own shade.
The first stages of Gymnosporangium confusum and G. clavarice-forme grow on this plant. The second stage grows on Juniper in each case. The leaves are galled by Eriophyes cratcegi, E. goniothorax, or Cecidomyia cratcegi. The fungi Polystigma rubrum, Tympanis con-spersa, Phleospora oxyacanthce infest it.
The insects Leopard Moth (Zeuzera cesculi), Penthina pruniana, Priobium castaneum, Otiorhynchus picipes, Trichiosoma tibialis, Pul-vinaria vitis, Mytilaspis pomorum, Lecanium caprece, Aphis cratcegi, Psylla cratcegi feed on the Hawthorn.
Cratcegus, Theophrastus, is the Greek name of the plant. Oxya-cantha, Dioscorides, is from oxys, sharp, acanthos, thorn, and Hawthorn means hedgethorn.
It is called Agald, Agarves, Aggie, Albespyne, Aglet, Aubepyne, Azzy-tree, Bird Eagles, Birds' Meat, Bread-and-Cheese, Bulls, Butter-and-Bread, Chaws, Cheese and Bread, Chucky-cheese, Cuckoo's Beads, Cuckoo's Bread-and-Cheese, Eglet, Eglet Bloom, Glastonbury Thorn, God's Meat, Greens, Haa, Hagga, Haggils, Hagthorn, Hagues, Halves, Harsy, Harve, Hathorn, Hawberry, Haws, Haw-bus, Hawen, Haw-gaws, Bull-haws, Butter and Cat Haws, Hawses, Hawthorn, Haw-tree, Haythorn, Hazel, Hazzy Tree, Hedge-thorn, Hipperty Haws, Hog-arves, Hogberry, Hog-gazels, Howes, Johny Macgorey, May, May Bush, Pegy at Bush, Pigall, Pig Haw, Pig's Hales, Pixie Pears, Quick, Quickset, Quickwood, Sates, Thorn, Thorn-berries, Whicks, White Thorn, Wick, Wickens.
The planted thorns are called Quicks to distinguish them from rails and dead fences. Quickset means a hedge set with quicks, and so does Quickwood. Albespyne is from alba spina, meaning white thorn. "And there the Jewes maden him a crowne of the branches of albespyne, that is white thorn." The name Bread-and-Cheese is given because the young shoots are eaten in spring by children. The name Glastonbury Thorn refers to the variety supposed to have sprung up at Glastonbury from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea which produces its blossoms on Christmas Day. It is called May because it usually flowers (in England) during that month.
Lonely thorns in fields that do not grow larger are said to be bewitched, and they must not be approached at night. A fiery wheel comes from the bush which will destroy you if it comes near you. It was said to be sprung from lightning. It is widely revered and associated with marriage rites. The bride was decked with May blossom in Greece. Torches lighting the bridal couple to the nuptial chamber were made of it. It is supposed to have formed the Crown of Thorns.
In Ireland it is unlucky to cut it down, as the fairies there protect it. To gather leaves of the tree is considered unsafe. But to burn it is a remedy against mildew in wheat. It is called Fairy Thorn in Brittany and Ireland. To dream of it is a good omen. When many blossoms are seen a severe winter will follow.
" When the hawthorn bloom too early shows, We shall have still many snows."
The Scots have a proverb:
" Mony haws, Mony snaws ".
A person is said to "sit on thorns" who is continually uneasy.
May Day is a survival of the old Floralia, and the Grecian bride's wreath was of May, and is still worn at the Greek nuptials, the altar being decorated with it. People went "maying" soon after midnight.
" 'T is as much impossible, Unless we sweep them from the doors with cannons, To scatter 'em, as 't is to make 'em sleep On May Day morning."
If White-thorn blossoms are brought into the house in Essex it is a sign of death. Many rhymes have been made up to serve as formulae to cure pricks from thorns. The leaves were put in ale to cure a speechless man.
It is grown for hedges, and is a useful source of firewood. It is also an ornamental shrub in parks and gardens, and there are several varieties.
Essential Specific Characters: 108. Cratcegus Oxyacantha, L. - Tree, branched, spinose, leaves obovate, serrate, lobed, stipules leafy, flowers white, corymbose, calyx glabrous, styles 1-3, fruit red, enclosing the so-called stone.