Syn. Crataegus oxyacantha. (Also, laevigata is sometimes spelled levigata) (Midland Hawthorn, Woodland Hawthorn, Mayflower, English Hawthorn)
Family: Rose (Rosaceae)
Hardiness: to 0° F
Large shrub to small tree growing to 20 feet tall, famously native to the Midlands of Great Britain, with a wide distribution throughout western and central Europe. The flower color is variable, tending to be pink or red. Flowers are pollinated by midges, after which they drop and transform into the tumescent red fruits. Fruits tend to contain 2 seeds each, which is one of the distinguishing features, since a related species, the white flowered Crataegus monogyna, is single seeded.
Witches Lore: In Celtic lore the fairies had an affinity for the hawthorn which was one of the Three Sacred Trees, along with oak & ash. To this day in Ireland & Wales there are those who make hawthorn wreaths to leave out either for the fairies or for angels. The number of superstitions & traditions attached to hawthorns are legion. For example, a thorn from a hawthorn can be kept in one's pouch while fishing to guarantee a good catch. On the witches' holiday of Beltane (May Day), witches were supposed to be able turn themselves into hawthorns. The greatest of all goddess-witches, Nimue, had her great victory over Merlin when she snared him eternally in the thorny branches of a hawthorn.
Modern Wiccans & Neo-Druids keep some of the traditions about hawthorn alive, notably a very old peasant practice from England of hanging ribbons on hawthorns during their May bloom. The lingering rustic practice consists of hanging a rag on a hawthorn at the crossroads for luck & for the granting of wishes. But Wiccans, for Beltane, will hang a pink ribbon in a hawthorn to wish for love, a blue ribbon to wish for protection, a green ribbon to wish for wealth, & a purple or indigo ribbon to wish for greater occult knowledge.
How to grow: English Hawthorn is a pretty tree, and may be pruned to size. If kept to one trunk, it will grow up about 20 feet tall, and then the branches will fountain down in a charming and characteristic manner. English Hawthorn is choice, and in terms of medicine, the leaves, flowers and fruits are considered just as good as the more commonly employed common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).
Plant prefers full sun to part shade and does well as a yard tree, roadside, or lined up in a close row and kept trimmed back as a hedge. Plant prefers well-drained garden soils and is relatively drought and cold tolerant, requiring little care once established.
Sow the seeds anytime. It will take about a year for them to come up. Sow about 5 seeds per gallon pot, 1/2 to 1 inch deep, and mulch with decomposed leaves. Label well. Keep pot in the cool shade, and water occasionally, especially if rain or snowfall is not abundant. Once seedlings emerge, they may be pricked to individual pots and grown on for a year or more, until the trees are large enough to transplant to the landscape.
We are particularly blessed with a very good accession of these seeds and are quite excited that gardeners will have the opportunity to plant them and enjoy such a wonderful tree as this.