Trees are wonderful for many reasons, ranging from aesthetic to functional to mysterious. One of the more tantalizing trees is the hawthorn, valued for its unusual attributes and the folklore …
Trees are wonderful for many reasons, ranging from aesthetic to functional to mysterious. One of the more tantalizing trees is the hawthorn, valued for its unusual attributes and the folklore surrounding it.
Hawthorns are members of the rose family (Rosaceae), which includes roughly 2,000 species of trees, shrubs and herbs worldwide, including serviceberries, apples, plums, cherries and mountain ashes. According to the Audubon Society’s “Field Guide to North American Trees,” Crataegus (commonly known as hawthorn, haw, thornapple, red haw or hog-apple) is a genus with many species of branching shrubs and small spreading trees, most of which sport long thorns.
In spring, hawthorns bring forth beauty, with white blossoms appearing in clusters at the end of twigs, leading to its association with brides, love and fertility. By late summer, the trees feature small, rounded, vividly red fruits that brighten the autumn landscape and provide sustenance to various bird species.
Hawthorns offer benefits to humans as well. As specified in Phyllis Balch’s bestselling book, “Prescription for Natural Healing,” hawthorn can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, restore heart muscle, decrease fat deposits and increase intracellular vitamin C levels, making it useful in treating anemia and various cardiovascular and circulatory disorders. It is high in antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals like B1, calcium and magnesium.
From the mystical perspective, hawthorns are exceptionally magical trees, cherished by fairies and representing the wild beauty of scrublands. According to Celtic folklore, when you see a hawthorn tree growing in proximity to oak and ash, this is known as a trio and you are in a sacred fairy space. Believers tie ribbons representing their wishes on hawthorn trees in hopes that their wishes will come true.
Hawthorns usually blossom around May 1, Beltane, which represents the beginning of summer to Celts. If you were born May 13 through June 9, your birth tree is hawthorn, which is thought to bring magical energies and protection. Both beautiful and haunting, the gnarly skeletal trees often appear near holy wells and sacred sites. (Learn more in Laura Daligan’s Magical Trees series on YouTube at https://bit.ly/3gxbCsC)
For all its charms, the hawthorn should be approached with respect. Practice caution around its piercing thorns, and avoid offending the fairies with careless pruning or removal of this magical species!