What it looks like

Hawthorns can be hard to tell apart in the wild due to frequent hybridizing, but they share similarities in their small, wide-spreading canopies, rough shredding bark, small toothed leaves, clusters of white flowers and thorny twigs. Clusters of small, apple-like fruits may persist into winter, and may be red, orange, yellow or almost black.

Where it is found

Hawthorns are a group of species adapted to many sites in Ontario, from southern Ontario north of Timmins and west along the north edge of Lake Superior to the Manitoba border. The more common species available include downy hawthorn (C. mollis), cockspur hawthorn (C. crus-galli), dotted hawthorn (C. punctata) and the most northern species, fleshy hawthorn (C. succulenta).

Planting Tips

  • Size: Up to 12 m tall
  • Moisture: Moist to dry
  • Shade: Prefers full sun but tolerates partial shade
  • Soil: Adaptable, especially to high pH soils

Hawthorns are tough, adaptable trees but prefer a well-drained area to get started in. If planting on heavy, wet soil, plant hawthorns on a mound, and loosen the soil in a circle 6 times the width of the planting hole to a depth of 15 cm.

Hawthorns are useful for their ability to tolerate dry, windy areas, but due to sharp thorns, are not recommended for schoolyard plantings.

Did you know?

Like crabapples, hawthorn fruits contain high levels of pectin and have been used to make jams and jellies.

Image credits

  • Tree: Richard Webb
  • Leaf: Steven J. Baskauf
  • Bark: Steven J. Baskauf
  • Fruit: Paul Wray