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hawthorn - crataegus - leaves and berries

Hawthorn, Crataegus X, monogyna, laevigata

This monograph deals with my favourite tree, hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna and laevigata. I know this is officially a shrub, but the hawthorns I remember best were so old that they looked more like trees. With their twisting branches and coarse bark, they resembled ancient sages. I enjoyed spending time sheltered by their crowns.

You may have noticed that this time there are not one but two Latin names in the title. I am going to discuss both species that are common in my neck of the planet. The monogyna is the one with the white flowers; it is the one we often call common hawthorn and it has one seed per berry. The laevigata is the shrub with the pink flowers, is often called midland hawthorn and has two seeds per berry. The X stands for cross or hybrid, because these two hawthorns reproduce with each other.

Healing effects of hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna and laevigata

There is so much to tell about this shrub! Let us start with its medicinal properties. These properties mainly relate to heart and blood vessels and related ailments. Examples would be heart failure, blood pressure and circulatory disorders. In addition, hawthorn has a positive effect on stress-related disorders.

Magical effects of this tree

When it comes to magical properties, the obvious starting point is fertility magic. Surely, we have all heard of the folk festivals at the beginning of summer, where girls and boys dance around the maypole with red and white ribbons. Less known is hawthorn’s reputation as a powerful protector against evil-intentioned magic and it being a good partner for divination.
But there is much more to tell. Read about the rest of the properties of the hawthorn in terms of healing, magic and of course edibility – this tree was called the bread and butter tree for a reason – in the rest of the monograph.

Botanical description Hawthorn, Crataegus X, monogyna & laevigata

Hawthorn is a slow-growing shrub that usually reaches a maximum height of 10 metres, but sometimes reaches up to 20 metres. The hawthorn has an extensive root network and a densely branched crown.
The bark is initially light grey and smooth, but changes to brown and cracked over time. The wood has different colours: the heartwood is red, while the sapwood is white. The branches are often contorted and carry thorns. The number of thorns depends on the species: the laevigata has fewer than the monogyna.
The leaves also differ per species. The monogyna has deeply incised leaves with 3 to 5 separate lobes. The laevigata has 3 to 7 shallow lobes and a serrated leaf edge.
Both varieties also have different coloured flowers, monogyna white and laevigata pink. The flowers have five petals and are arranged in broad cymes. The anthers are red (laevigata) or purple (monogyna). After flowering a red drupe forms with a remnant of the flower on its bottom, same as with apples and pears.

Interesting facts

The folkname bread and butter tree points at the hawthorn’s widespread use as a food. Similar names are also found in other languages. I have heard first-hand stories from the generation before me, telling me that on their way to school they’d regularly eat from this shrub when, for whatever reason, they had not had a chance to eat breakfast.
The wood of the hawthorn is very tough. In the past, it was therefore often used as a chopping block for beheadings.
Rumour has it that the crown of thorns on Jesus’head was made of hawthorn branches.

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Hawthorn, Crataegus X, monogyna, laevigata image