Also known as: May tree, quickthorn
Hawthorn is probably the commonest hedgerow shrub, and can be found throughout the UK. It provides food for more than 150 different insect species, so is a very valuable addition to any wildlife garden.
It has lobed leaves and is covered with clusters of flowers in May. By autumn the flowers have turned into the red berries beloved by birds. It has long, sharp thorns and as a hedge forms a very secure barrier. Hawthorn is a deciduous species and its young leaves have a distinct 'nutty' flavour.
It tolerates a wide variety of conditions, including polluted and exposed sites. The other kind of British native hawthorn is Crataegus laevigata and you will find various garden varieties, including C. laevigata, 'Pauls Scarlet', which grows into an attractive small tree.
When buying a hawthorn, make sure it comes from nursery-grown British stock. Often they've been imported from eastern Europe and may have been taken from the wild. Continental varieties flower at different times and are more prone to mildew than native strains.
Animals that benefit
- It supports many insect species, eg. hawthorn shield bug, earwig, common flower bug, bumblebees, cockchafers, etc.
- The above are eaten by predators, eg Devil's coach horse, violet ground beetle, harvestman, garden spider, wren, blue tit, etc
- Blackbirds and other thrushes (including redwings and fieldfares), greenfinches, yellowhammers, chaffinches, starlings and many other birds relish the haws in autumn.
- Small mammals, birds, insects and other invertebrates nest, roost and/or hibernate here, eg wood mouse, wren, robin, blackbird, song thrush, brimstone and peacock butterflies, lacewing, ladybird, slow worm, common toad, etc.