Hawthorn

Latin Name: Crataegus monogyna

Fruiting branch by Grytr

Fruiting branch by Grytr

Origin: Native of Europe, south western Asia and north Africa.

Family: Malaceae (often included in Rosaceae).

Known Hazards: None known.

Habitat: Woods, hedges, thickets etc, on most soils except wet peat and poor acid sands.

Edibility Rating: 3 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 5 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Flowers/Seedhead: White or pink, to 15 mm wide, in terminal flat-topped clusters, fragrant. Flowers spring. Branched spiny deciduous shrub or small tree to 10 m high. Spines to 2 cm long. Leaves to 6 cm long and wide.

Dispersal: Seeds are mainly spread by birds. To a lesser extent spread occurs via mud and fruit on machinery, vehicles and animals, and following digestion of fruit by foxes and other animals.

Edible Uses

Flowers; Fruit; Leaves. Fruit – raw or cooked. Not very appetizing raw, it is normally used for making jams and preserves. The fruit can be dried, ground, mixed with flour and used for making bread etc. The fruit is about 1cm in diameter. There are up to five fairly large seeds in the centre of the fruit, these often stick together and so the effect is of eating a cherry-like fruit with a single seed. Young shoots – raw. A pleasant nutty flavour, they are a good addition to the salad bowl. A tea is made from the dried leaves, it is a china tea substitute. The roasted seeds are a coffee substitute. The flowers are used in syrups and sweet puddings.

Flowering branch by .Bambo.

Flowering branch by .Bambo.

Medicinal Uses

Antispasmodic; Astringent; Cardiotonic; Diuretic; Hypotensive; Sedative; Tonic; Vasodilator.Hawthorn is an extremely valuable medicinal herb. It is used mainly for treating disorders of the heart and circulation system, especially angina. Western herbalists consider it a ‘food for the heart’, it increases the blood flow to the heart muscles and restores normal heart beat. This effect is brought about by the presence of bioflavonoids in the fruit, these bioflavonoids are also strongly antioxidant, helping to prevent or reduce degeneration of the blood vessels. The fruit is antispasmodic, cardiac, diuretic, sedative, tonic and vasodilator. Both the fruits and flowers of hawthorns are well-known in herbal folk medicine as a heart tonic and modern research has borne out this use. The fruits and flowers have a hypotensive effect as well as acting as a direct and mild heart tonic. They are especially indicated in the treatment of weak heart combined with high blood pressure, they are also used to treat a heart muscle weakened by age, for inflammation of the heart muscle, arteriosclerosis and for nervous heart problems. Prolonged use is necessary for the treatment to be efficacious. It is normally used either as a tea or a tincture. Hawthorn is combined with ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) to enhance poor memory, working by improving the blood supply to the brain. The bark is astringent and has been used in the treatment of malaria and other fevers. The roots are said to stimulate the arteries of the heart.

hawthorn

Other Uses

Fuel; Hedge; Wood. A good hedge plant, it is very tolerant of being cut and of neglect and is able to regenerate if cut back severely, it makes a good thorny stock-proof barrier and resists very strong winds. It is often used in layered hedges. Wood – very hard and tough, difficult to work. Used for tool handles etc. Valued in turning. A good fuel, giving out a lot of heat.

Notes: Introduced to Australia in the mid 1800s, and used extensively as a hedge plant. Mechanical disturbance causes suckering. Dense thickets protect undesirable pests and birds. In Europe and New Zealand it is an important reservoir of fire blight bacterium, Erwinia amylovora, which affects pears and apples. Leaves are often skeletonized by slug-like larvae of a sawfly, the pear and cherry slug, Caliroa cerasi. Plants are salt tolerant so have been planted near the sea.

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