Hawthorn (Crataegus Coccinea)

Plant: Table of Contents

Hawthorn (Crataegus coccinea): A Comprehensive Guide

Hawthorn (Crataegus coccinea) is a captivating and versatile plant with an array of cultures, uses, and benefits. In this extensive guide, we will delve into every aspect of this plant, from its cultural significance to its growth requirements and medicinal uses. Whether you are an aspiring horticulturist, a devoted herbalist, or simply an admirer of nature’s wonders, this guide will provide you with a deep understanding of the hawthorn plant and its many facets.

What is Hawthorn (Crataegus coccinea)?

Hawthorn, scientifically known as Crataegus coccinea, is a member of the Rosaceae family, which encompasses a diverse range of plants, including many well-known fruits such as apples, cherries, and strawberries. The genus Crataegus is vast and includes several hundred species, many of which are commonly referred to as hawthorns.

Key Takeaways – Hawthorn (Crataegus coccinea):
Scientific Name: Crataegus coccinea
Family: Rosaceae
Common Names: Red hawthorn, scarlet haw, red haw
Native Habitat: Eastern North America
Growth Form: Deciduous tree or shrub
Blooming Season: Spring

Now that we have an overview of the hawthorn plant, let’s explore its various facets in detail.


Cultivating a deeper understanding of the cultural significance of hawthorn allows us to appreciate its rich history and traditions associated with this remarkable plant.

Historical and Symbolic Significance

Hawthorn holds a significant place in various cultures and traditions, often symbolizing different aspects such as purity, fertility, and protection. In European folklore and mythology, hawthorn has been linked to enchantment and protection from evil spirits. These beliefs are often rooted in the tree’s distinct appearance, with its twisted and gnarled branches adding an air of mystique.

In addition to folklore, hawthorn has historical associations with May Day celebrations and ancient traditions. In Celtic mythology, hawthorn was considered one of the most magical trees and was even referred to as the “fairy tree.”

Moreover, hawthorn has also been associated with various spiritual and religious beliefs, often portrayed as a symbol of hope, love, and rebirth. The tree’s vibrant blossoms and crimson berries have made it a prominent feature in poetry and art, further perpetuating its cultural significance.


The uses of hawthorn are diverse and encompass a wide range of applications, from medicinal uses to culinary delights, and even ornamental purposes.

Medicinal Uses of Hawthorn (Crataegus coccinea)

Hawthorn has gained significant attention for its potential health benefits, particularly for heart and circulatory support. The berries, leaves, and flowers of the hawthorn plant are known to contain valuable compounds that have been used in traditional medicine for centuries.

Crataegus coccinea benefits:
Cardiovascular Support: Hawthorn is renowned for its potential to support cardiovascular health, with some studies suggesting that it may help improve heart function and circulation.
Antioxidant Properties: The berries of hawthorn are rich in antioxidants, which may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Blood Pressure Regulation: Some research indicates that hawthorn supplements may have a positive impact on blood pressure levels, making it a potential natural remedy for hypertension.

Culinary Uses

In addition to its medicinal properties, hawthorn berries have been incorporated into various culinary creations. From jams and jellies to wines and herbal teas, the tart and flavorful berries offer a myriad of possibilities for creative chefs and home cooks.

Ornamental Purposes

The attractive features of the hawthorn plant, including its showy blossoms and vibrant berries, make it a popular choice for landscaping and ornamental plantings. The tree’s picturesque appearance lends itself well to gardens, parks, and naturalized landscapes.


Proper watering is essential for maintaining the health and vigor of hawthorn plants, ensuring that they receive adequate moisture without being waterlogged.

Watering Guidelines

Hawthorn plants generally prefer well-drained soil, so it is important to avoid overwatering while also preventing drought stress. Newly planted hawthorn trees may require more frequent watering, particularly during dry spells, to help establish their root systems.

Signs of Overwatering and Underwatering

It is crucial to monitor the soil moisture to prevent water-related issues. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases, while underwatering may cause stress and decreased vitality in the plant. Observing the foliage and soil conditions can provide valuable insights into the plant’s watering needs.


Understanding the sunlight requirements of hawthorn plants is crucial for ensuring optimal growth and blooming.

Sunlight Needs

Hawthorn plants typically thrive in full sun to partial shade, preferring at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal growth and blooming. Adequate sunlight exposure promotes robust growth and the development of vibrant blossoms and berries.

Sunlight-Related Challenges

Insufficient sunlight can lead to reduced flowering and fruiting in hawthorn plants, affecting their overall ornamental and ecological value. Additionally, excessive sun exposure in extremely hot climates may necessitate supplemental watering to mitigate the risk of drought stress.


Applying the right type and amount of fertilizer can help support the growth and vitality of hawthorn plants, promoting robust foliage, blossoms, and fruit.

Fertilization Guidelines

Hawthorn plants can benefit from an annual application of balanced fertilizer in early spring, before the onset of new growth. A general-purpose, slow-release fertilizer formulated for trees and shrubs can provide the essential nutrients necessary for healthy development.

Fertilizer Application Tips

When applying fertilizer, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the proper dosage and application method. Avoid over-fertilization, as this can lead to excessive vegetative growth at the expense of flowering and fruiting.


Understanding the soil preferences and requirements of hawthorn plants is fundamental for creating the ideal growing conditions.

Soil Type

Hawthorn plants thrive in well-drained, loamy soil that provides good aeration and moisture retention. Soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH level is generally suitable for hawthorn cultivation, as it supports nutrient uptake and overall plant health.

Soil Amendments

In instances where the soil quality is suboptimal, amending the soil with organic matter such as compost or peat moss can improve its structure and fertility. This can enhance the soil’s capacity to retain moisture and nutrients, promoting better overall growth for hawthorn plants.


Pruning is an essential practice for maintaining the health, shape, and vigor of hawthorn plants, ensuring that they remain aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound.

Pruning Objectives

The primary objectives of pruning hawthorn plants include:
Removing Dead or Diseased Branches: Pruning allows for the removal of any dead, damaged, or diseased branches, promoting overall plant health and reducing the risk of fungal infections.
Shaping and Training: Pruning can help shape and train the growth of hawthorn plants, encouraging a desirable form and structure.
Promoting Air Circulation: Proper pruning can improve air circulation within the canopy, reducing the risk of fungal diseases and promoting overall plant vigor.

Pruning Techniques

When pruning hawthorn plants, it is important to use sharp, clean pruning tools to make precise cuts without causing unnecessary damage to the plant. Pruning cuts should be made at a slight angle just above a bud or lateral branch to encourage proper healing and growth.


Propagation methods for hawthorn plants enable enthusiasts to expand their plant collection or conserve specific cultivars through asexual reproduction.

Propagation Techniques

1. Seed Propagation: Growing hawthorn plants from seeds is a straightforward method that involves collecting ripe berries, extracting the seeds, and sowing them in a prepared seedbed or containers. This method allows for the genetic variability inherent in seed-grown plants.

2. Grafting: Grafting is a common method for propagating specific hawthorn varieties, particularly those with desirable traits such as ornamental features or fruit quality. It involves joining a scion (desired variety) onto a compatible rootstock to produce a new plant with identical characteristics.

Container Popularity

Hawthorn plants, especially smaller cultivars, are well-suited for container cultivation, making them a versatile option for gardens, patios, and urban landscapes.

Advantages of Container Cultivation

  • Space Efficiency: Container-grown hawthorns are ideal for urban or limited-space settings, allowing enthusiasts to enjoy the beauty of these plants even in small areas.
  • Portability: Containers offer the flexibility to relocate hawthorn plants as needed, whether for sun exposure, aesthetics, or protection from inclement weather.
  • Soil Control: Container cultivation allows for precise control over the soil composition and drainage, ensuring optimal growing conditions for hawthorn plants.

Considerations for Container Culture

When growing hawthorn plants in containers, it is essential to select a pot with adequate drainage, use a well-draining potting mix, and provide regular maintenance, including watering and fertilization, to support healthy growth and blooming.

Common Diseases

Hawthorn plants are susceptible to certain diseases that can impact their health and vitality, necessitating proactive measures for prevention and management.

Disease Diagnosis and Management

1. Fire Blight: This bacterial disease can cause wilting, blackening, and death of hawthorn blossoms and shoots. Pruning affected areas and applying appropriate copper-based bactericides can help manage the spread of fire blight.

2. Leaf Spot: Fungal pathogens can lead to leaf spot diseases, resulting in the development of dark spots and lesions on the foliage. Ensuring proper air circulation, avoiding overhead watering, and applying fungicidal treatments as needed can help mitigate leaf spot issues.

3. Rust Diseases: Hawthorn plants can be affected by various rust diseases, characterized by the appearance of orange or yellow pustules on the leaves and stems. Removing and disposing of affected plant parts and applying fungicidal treatments can aid in rust disease management.

Common Pests

Like many plant species, hawthorn plants are susceptible to certain insect pests that can affect their growth and appearance.

Pest Identification and Control

1. Aphids: These small, sap-sucking insects can infest hawthorn plants, causing distorted growth and honeydew secretion. Insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils can be used to control aphid populations without harming beneficial insects.

2. Leafminers: Leafminer larvae can create distinct trails and tunnels within hawthorn leaves, leading to unsightly damage. Systemic insecticides or natural predators, such as parasitic wasps, can help manage leafminer infestations.

3. Scale Insects: Scale insects may appear as small, waxy bumps on hawthorn stems and foliage, feeding on plant sap and potentially causing decline. Using horticultural oil sprays during the plant’s dormant season can assist in controlling scale insect populations.

Botanist’s Tips

As a plant scientist, I offer the following tips for the successful cultivation and appreciation of hawthorn plants:

  • Choose Suitable Varieties: Select hawthorn varieties that are well-suited to your climate and growing conditions, considering factors such as disease resistance, ornamental features, and fruit quality.
  • Monitor Moisture Levels: Regularly check the soil moisture around hawthorn plants, adjusting watering frequency as needed to maintain an optimal balance and prevent water-related issues.
  • Promote Biodiversity: Incorporate hawthorn plants into diverse planting schemes to support pollinators, birds, and other wildlife that can benefit from the tree’s blossoms, berries, and shelter.

Fun Facts

To conclude our exploration of hawthorn (Crataegus coccinea), here are some intriguing and captivating fun facts about this remarkable plant:

  1. Symbol of Protection: In ancient folklore, hawthorn was often planted near homes to ward off evil spirits and provide protection.
  2. Mayflower Connection: Hawthorn, particularly the English hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata), is believed to be the legendary Mayflower tree of England, associated with historical and cultural significance.
  3. Wildlife Oasis: Hawthorn plants are valuable for supporting wildlife, attracting pollinators, birds, and other beneficial creatures with their flowers and berries.

Links to External Resources

For further exploration and in-depth knowledge of hawthorn plants, consider the following external resources:

  • The American Hawthorn Society: An organization dedicated to the study and appreciation of hawthorn species, offering valuable information and resources.
  • Herbal Medicine and Botanical Research: A reputable source for scientific studies and traditional knowledge related to the medicinal uses of hawthorn and other botanicals.
  • Royal Horticultural Society (RHS): The RHS website provides comprehensive information on horticultural practices, including cultivation and ornamental uses of hawthorn plants.

In conclusion, the hawthorn plant (Crataegus coccinea) stands as a captivating and multi-faceted species, intertwining cultural traditions, medicinal benefits, and ornamental allure. By delving into the depths of hawthorn lore and cultivation, we gain a deeper appreciation for this charismatic plant and its rich tapestry of uses and symbolism.

I hope this comprehensive guide has provided you with valuable insights into the world of hawthorn, inspiring you to explore and cherish the many wonders of this remarkable botanical treasure.

Thank you for joining me on this journey to unravel the secrets of hawthorn (Crataegus coccinea), a plant that continues to captivate and enthrall us with its beauty and significance.


  1. American Hawthorn Society. “Welcome to the American Hawthorn Society.” https://www.hawthorns.org/
  2. Botanical Medicine. “Herbal Medicine and Botanical Research.” https://www.botanicalmedicine.org/
  3. Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). “RHS website.” https://www.rhs.org.uk/
Picture of Peter Taylors

Peter Taylors

Expert botanist who loves plants. His expertise spans taxonomy, plant ecology, and ethnobotany. An advocate for plant conservation, he mentors and educates future botanists, leaving a lasting impact on the field.