Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha)
Common Names: May, Mayblossom, Quick Thorn, Whitethorn, Haw, Hazels, Gazels, Halves, Hagthorn, Ladies' Meat, Bread and Cheese Tree.
The Hawthorn is a small tree and can grow to 30 feet in height. The leaves are oval, green and many lobed, appearing in early April. The flowers arrive in late April to early May and is widely known as the quintessential indicator of May arriving. The flowers are small and white, very similar to the crab-apple which is closely allied. The fruit is small and bright red, and although it is edible, does not taste very much.
The name “hawthorn” and “hagthorn” both refer to the popularity of hawthorn in hedges, the latter from the Old German “Hagedorn”. The generic name Crataegus means hardness and refers to the hardness of the wood, used in making small ornamental pieces as the wood is very fine-grained and takes a beautiful polish.
The wood is also an excellent fuel, making the hottest wood-fire known. Charcoal made from Hawthorn has been known to melt pig iron without the aid of a blast.
Many country villagers believe that Hawthorn flowers still bear the smell of the Great Plague of London. The tree was formerly regarded as sacred, probably from a tradition that it furnished the Crown of Thorns.