Excellent Food and Cover
Cockspur Hawthorn – Crataegus crus-galli
Fleshy Hawthorn – C. succulentaanum
Dotted Hawthorn – C. punctata
Washington Hawthorn – C. phaenopyrum
Green Hawthorn – C. viridus
Variable Hawthorn – C. macrosperma
Hawthorn Family – A large group of shrubs and small trees that are nearly impossible to identify as separate species. Hawthorns freely hybridize between species and individuals within a species are quite variable. Hawthorns normally have dense crowns that are upright or rounded with spreading branches.
Both stems and branches have long, sharp thorns with no leaves or buds on the thorns. This characteristic is used to identify hawthorns from plums, crabapples, and similar shrubs.
Leaves are deciduous, alternate, simple and with teeth or small lobes on the margins.
White-flat clusters of flowers (2 to 3 inch diameter) at the ends of twigs bloom from April-June.
Fruit is small and apple-like, mostly red (a few are yellow) and remain on the shrubs all winter.
Cockspur, dotted and related hawthorns have leaves that are longer than wide (elliptic or obovate) and frequently leathery. Fleshy, Washington, Green, Variable and similar species have leaves that are typically nearly as long as wide and have 2 to 3 pair of lobes on each margin. Most foliage turns bronze, scarlet, or purplish red in autumn.
The many species of hawthorns are adapted to a wide range of soil moisture, soil types and habitats. Thickets, pastures, old fields, open woods, stream-banks, forest borders and fencerows are places where hawthorns are commonly found.
Fruits are eaten by grouse, turkey and numerous songbirds, especially fox sparrow and cedar waxwing. Fruits are preferred by deer, rabbits, black bear and raccoon. The fruits remain on the shrubs all winter and become very important when food becomes critically scarce in February and March. Leaves and twigs are readily eaten by deer and rabbit.
Uses: Screen, group plantings, hedges, barriers or specimen shrubs.
Light: Full sunlight.
Soil Moisture: Moist, well-drained to dry soils.
Soil pH: Medium acid to neutral.
Problems: Apple-cedar rust and hawthorn rust frequently damage and kill the fruits. Fire blight can kill twigs and limbs. Leaf blotch miner causes severe damage while woolly aphid and lacebugs can also damage the appearance of health of leaves. Avoid planting hawthorns where young children could come in contact with the thorns that grow on stems and limbs.
Compiled by: William N. Grafton, naturalist, botantist and wildlife specialist West Virginia University , Morgantown , West Viginia
Written by West Virginia Native Plant Society members and jointly published with the WV Wildlife Diversity Program.