Woodland Trust

Nature's CalendarNature Detectives

Have you spotted the first flowering of elder yet?

Hawthorn flowers. Margaret Bartonhawthorn

Crataegus monogyna


Why not download our hawthorn fact sheet?

hawthorn fact sheet

  • Deciduous thorny shrub
  • Grey, fissured bark on a knotted, twisted trunk
  • Toothed leaves that appear before a mass of wonderful scented blossom

  • The deeply lobed leaves turn orange and dark-red in autumnHawthorn berries. Georgina Smith
  • Fruits ripen to red berries, which are called "haws"

    Hawthorn schnapps

    Have a go at making your own hawthorn schnapps
    with our recipe in our free hedgerow tipples pack:

    hedgerow tipples recipe pack

    Where found

    Very common in hedges, scrub and woodland.

    When to look for

    Did you know?

    • Hawthorn has lots of alternative names including:

      Quickthorn - from 'quickset hedging', the ancient technique of creating an enclosure by setting cuttings directly into the earth. Once rooted, they form a dense barrier. 'Quick' refers to the fact the cuttings are living (as in "the quick and the dead").

      May - because it flowers in late April to early May.

      Bread and cheese tree - the young leaves are edible and were used particularly in times of hardship.

    • The name “hawthorn” comes from the Anglo- Saxon “Hagathorn”, where “Haga“ means hedge.

    • Although it is effective as a hedge, if allowed to grow freely it will become a tree of around 10 metres

    • The hawthorn was thought to be the ancestor of the maypole and was the source of May Day garlands. The rhyme “here we go gathering nuts in May” referred to the collection of knots (not in fact “nuts”) of may blossom

    • The saying, "Ne'er cast a clout till May is out" is thought to refer to the hawthorn blossom, not the month and was good advice that summer hadn’t really arrived until the blossom was in flower.