Woodland Trust

Nature's CalendarNature Detectives

Flocks of Redwing should be arriving soon, be sure to look out for them

blackthornBlackthorn. Shaun Nixon

Prunus spinosa

Facts

Why not download our blackthorn fact sheet?

blackthorn fact sheet

Or have a go at making Sloe Gin!

 free hedgerow tipples pack

  • Sloes. Pete HolmesA deciduous, thorny shrub
     
  • Forms dense thickets by sending up shoots (suckering)
     
  • Often found in hedges
     
  • Can form small trees up to 10m tall
     
  • Smooth bark

 
Cascades of white flowers which emerge before the leaves and help to distinguish it from hawthorn
 
Can be confused with the cherry-plum – but only the blackthorn has thorns
 
The oval blue-black fruits (“sloes”) have a powdery surface bloom and an extremely bitter taste

Where found

Common in woodland, scrub and hedgerows
 

When to look for

Fabulous blackthorn facts

  • This is the ancestor of our cultivated plums

  • Straight blackthorn stems were traditionally used to make shillelaghs (a club-like weapon) in Ireland

  • Blackthorn has around 109 species of insect associated with it

  • Blackthorn in bloom is considered a symbol of life and death together as the flowers appear when the stems are bare

  • Nightingales favour dense thickets of blackthorn for nesting

  • It was believed that to bring blackthorn into the home meant certain death would follow

  • In ancient times sloes were buried in straw-lined pits and left for a few months to ripen and make them sweeter. A pit full of sloe stones was found at a Neolithic lake village in Glastonbury

  • The spell of bad weather that often coincides with blackthorn flowering is known as a 'blackthorn winter'