Monday, October 22, 2007

The Trees of Our Little Acre - Washington Hawthorn


Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum)

We've got three large Washington Hawthorn
trees on our property. Large is a relative term though, and compared to the oaks we have, they would be considered small. The oldest one, which resides at the left front of the garage, has been here almost as long as we have and we moved here in 1977. I think it was the first tree we planted to add to what was already here.

A fully-grown Washington Hawthorn is from 25-30 feet tall and nearly as wide, making it somewhat suitable as an ornamental or specimen tree. It's hardy in zones 5-9 (some sources say zones 4-8) and is a moderate to fast grower in all soil types, even poor, which may be why it does well in our yard full of clay.

In the spring, it flowers in clusters of white blooms that cover the tree and while it's a beautiful sight, they have a strong disagreeable odor, but that only lasts a few days. The bees must like the smell, though, because during that time, the tree literally buzzes because of them.

The leaves are small (1-2 inches long) and sort of maple-like, and in the fall, they turn burgundy. Also in the fall, the tree bears clusters of red berries that the birds LOVE. Many of the berries remain on the tree throughout most of winter, which really looks pretty when it snows, but about as many eventually fall to the ground and in the spring we'll see seedlings pop up here and there.


It gets its hawthorn name because of the lethal spears that grow on its branches. You think I'm kidding, but their thorns are two to three inches long and extremely sharp. Most of the thorns on the branches are single thorns, but on the trunk itself, some of them are branched. I actually try to trim the downward pointing thorns so that anyone walking under the tree won't get hurt.

It was first scientifically named in 1883 and introduced to Pennsylvania from Washington, thus that part of its common name.


13 comments:

verobirdie said...

Beautiful tree, but the thorns!
I'll think of you trimming your trees the next time I'll trim the pyracantha :-) The task will look easier.

Kylee said...

We've got a pyracantha, too! I'm espaliering it and will be posting about that one of these days, too. The worst for pruning is the barberry. OUCH!

Bob said...

Hey, I've got a "baby" from one of your Hawthrones... Any time the Pygmy Goats ( http://bgstembridge.blogspot.com/2007/10/kids-birthday.html )escape from their pen, they would head straight for "Nathan" and start bitting off the top. We have manage to keep them away this summer, but with the drought this year - it is still only about 2 feet tall. Hawthrones certainly don't grow as fast as a Paulownia...

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Just look at those thorns, they're very big and sharp. Your tree looks gorgeous but those thorns make it a NIMG for me.

Kylee said...

Bob - Two feet already! Considering how small it was when I sent it to you, I'd say it's doing well! It is a drought-tolerant tree, so in a good year it should really take off.

Yolanda Elizabet - Yes, the thorns are nasty, but they aren't on the trunk until it starts its branching, and really, the beauty of the tree far supercedes those thorns. They really aren't that big of a problem. :-)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Yes those thorns are a drawback if you like to go barefooted in your garden as I used to do. I say used to because before I moved here I was bare footed all the time. However after pulling several of those daggers from my foot I learned to wear at least flip flops outside. they even pierce the cheap flip flops so beware. I really think they are worth the effort for the wildlife. They are a pretty tree in all seasons thorns and all.

Vanillalotus said...

Wow scary thorns. I was thinking of getting a hawthorne for a bonsai tree since I don't have a yard. I don't have room for it though. It looks so beautiful with all the little fruits on it.

Kylee said...

Lisa - Yep! Been there, done that! Even through the cheap flip-flops thing! LOL. Our dog has had them in her paws, too, but thankfully that has happened very often - maybe twice in her 13 years.

Vanillalotus - I think this tree would make a great bonsai!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Kylee, very cool hawthorn. Thanks for the ID, as I just saw one of these today at a park and was trying to figure out what it was.

I'm giggling at your "I have a pyracantha that I'm espaliering and I'm going to post about it one of these days," comment... because I could have written that myself. :) And speaking of plants that we both like, I should have some of that 'Metallica Crispa' ajuga to share next spring. (Yes, I am weak!)

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Kylee, you recommended this tree to me when I was shopping for one. Yours is beautiful! I love the shape and the red berries are gorgeous. I don't recall ever seeing a tree so loaded with berries. Hmmm, maybe those thorns would keep the all the barefoot neighbor children from using my yard as a path to the playground.

Rosehaven Cottage said...

Kylee, Such beautiful berries. Your description of what they look like in the snow gave me such a vivid mental image that it almost made me want to live somewhere that has snow in the wintertime. Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Jilvsgi said...

Thank you for this post! I purchased some Washington Hawthorn trees without realizing that they actually do have thorns. Now I understand a little better what I'm working with.
Could someone tell me if the thorns come off of the tree at any time? (My husband is concerned about our vehicle's tires.) Thanks!

Tonya Burch said...

i have had 2 washington hawthorns for about 7 years. i first planted them when they were teeny tiny twig looking trees. they have the notorious 3 inch thorns but i have never seen a single flower or berry on them. Is there another type of washington hawthorns out there?

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