They are shrubs and small trees growing to 5-15 m tall, characterized by their small pome fruit and thorny branches. The bark is smooth grey in young individuals, developing shallow longitudinal fissures with narrow ridges in older trees. The fruits are sometimes known as "haws", from which the name derived. The thorns grow from branches, and are typically 1-3 cm long. The leaves grow spirally arranged on long shoots, and in clusters on spur shoots on the branches or twigs. The leaves themselves have lobed or serrate margins and are somewhat variable shape.
The number of species in the genus depends on taxonomic interpretation, with numerous apomictic microspecies; some botanists recognise a thousand or more species, while others reduce the number to 200 or fewer.
Hawthorns provide food and shelter for many species of birds and mammals, and the flowers are important for many nectar-feeding insects. Hawthorns are also used as food plants by the larvae of a large number Lepidoptera species.
Many species and hybrids are used as ornamental and street trees. The Common Hawthorn is extensively used in Europe as a hedge plant. Several cultivars of the Midland Hawthorn C. laevigata have been selected for their pink or red flowers. Hawthorns are among the trees most recommended for water-conservation landscapes.
The fruits of Crataegus pubescens are known in Mexico as tejocotes and are eaten raw, cooked, or in jam during the winter months. They are stuffed in the piñatas broken during the traditional pre-Christmas parties known as posadas. They are also cooked with other fruits to prepare a Christmas punch. The mixture of tejocote paste, sugar, and chili powder produces a popular Mexican candy called rielitos, which is manufactured by several brands.
In the southern United States fruits of three native species are collectively known as mayhaws and are made into jellies which are considered a great delicacy. In Canada, where hawthorns are strongly associated with the culture of Manitoulin Island, the fruits are commonly known as hawberries.
The leaves are edible and, if picked in the months of April and May, they are tender enough to be used in salads.
In the HERB-CHF (Hawthorn Extract Randomized Blinded Chronic HF Study) clinical trial, 120 patients took 450mg of hawthorn extract twice daily for 6 months in combination with standard therapy and a standardized exercise program. "No effects of hawthorn were seen on either quality-of-life endpoint (Tables 1 and 2), or when adjusted for LVEF" .
One study, consisting of 1011 patients taking one tablet (standardized to 84.3mg procyanidin) twice daily for 24 weeks, found "improvements in clinical symptoms (such as fatigue, palpitations, and exercise dyspnea), performance and exercise tolerance test, and ejection fraction" .
The hawthorn has been regarded as the emblem of hope, and its branches are stated to have been carried by the ancient Greeks in wedding processions, and to have been used by them to deck the altar of Hymenaios. The supposition that the tree was the source of Jesus's crown of thorns gave rise doubtless to the tradition current among the French peasantry that it utters groans and cries on Good Friday, and probably also to the old popular superstition in Great Britain and Ireland that ill-luck attended the uprooting of hawthorns. Branches of Glastonbury Thorn, C. Oxyacantha, var. praecox, which flowers both in December and in spring, were formerly highly valued in England, on account of the legend that the tree was originally the staff of Joseph of Arimathea.
In Celtic lore, the hawthorn plant was used commonly for rune inscriptions along with Yew and Apple. It was once said to heal the broken heart. In Ireland, the red fruit is, or was in living memory, called the Johnny MacGorey or Magory.
In Serbian folklore, a stake made of hawthorn wood was used to impale the corpses of suspected vampires.
NE'ER CAST NO WAY Z Trains battles through snow A CLOOT TILL MAY IS OOT; SNAPS OF SUMMER IN THE HIGHLANDS.(News)
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