Washington Hawthorn Tree Berries – Hawthorn fruit harvesting is new for me this year. They are sweet and delicate if you get them at the right time, and in past years I have tasted them too early in the fall. This year, Washington hawthorn was sweet and mild in late October. But by then the single-seeded hawthorn was starting to rot, so next year I’ll look for them in mid-October.
I credit Josh Fecteau’s recent hawthorn post with inspiring me to try hawthorn berries again. As Josh points out, there are many species of hawthorn, about 50 in New England. And perhaps a thousand species across North America, according to George Symonds (from his wonderful Tree Identification Book: A New Method for the Practical Identification and Recognition of Trees
Washington Hawthorn Tree Berries
, my favorite guide for learning Tree ID). Fortunately, you may not be able to identify specific species. You just need to know it’s hawthorn because all hawthorns have edible berries. HOWEVER, like apple seeds, hawthorn seeds contain cyanide and should not be eaten. Don’t panic; just spit out the seeds.
Add Indian Hawthorn For Spring Flowering
Why bother with hawthorns? They are beautiful, interesting and tasty wild foods with known health benefits. Some people use the berries to make hawthorn jelly, but I have yet to try it. The berries, leaves and flowers can be used to make tea. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see how I make hawthorn fruit extract.
I will describe two species here to illustrate the general characteristics. This should help you recognize hawthorn when you see it, but also
If you’re not sure you have hawthorn when foraging, check other sources before eating the berries until you’re SURE.
It grows as a small tree or large shrub and bears clusters of white flowers in late spring. The berries turn red in September (here) but turn sweeter later. By October 31st they were sweet and maybe slightly past their peak. Each berry has 3-5 seeds.
How To Grow And Care For A Hawthorn Tree
The leaves are lobed and toothed as you can see in my photo above. Many other species of hawthorn have similar leaves. The tree is heavily armed with long thorns, up to about 3 inches in length. However, with reasonable care, you can easily harvest berries that tend to hang away from the branch. It’s even easier later in the season when many of the leaves have fallen and are no longer covering the thorns.
Also called common hawthorn, it is native to Europe and has escaped cultivation and naturalized in North America. It is sometimes referred to as an invasive plant, but I don’t find it very often, and when I do see it, it isn’t very common in one area. It may be invasive in other parts of the country, but it doesn’t seem to be particularly aggressive here. Like Washington hawthorn, single-seeded hawthorn grows as a shrub or small tree and bears clusters of white flowers in late spring. The oval red berries ripen slightly earlier (than Washington hawthorn) in fall and contain a single seed (hence the name). The toothed leaves are more deeply lobed than Washington hawthorn, but the spines are much smaller, only about 1/2 inch to an inch long.
Hawthorns are common in the forest understory here in Massachusetts, but they are scrawny specimens that don’t fruit well. There is too much shade in the forest. To find fruit-laden hawthorns, look in sunny areas such as scrub fields and thickets, at the edges of pastures and along streams. They are often planted as ornamentals, so if your friend has one and you don’t mind picking some berries, you have easy foraging at your fingertips.
This is my first experience with hawthorn berries and I use them to make an extract, using the same process you would use to make vanilla extract. I hope to use the hawthorn extract as a flavoring in cooking and baking. I filled a clean mason jar about 3/4 full with berries, poured 80 proof vodka over them, and sealed the jar. I’m not sure how long it will take to extract enough flavor from the berries, so I’ll be checking back daily. I know other extracts (like vanilla extract) take weeks, so that’s what I’m expecting here. The Washington Hawthorn Tree of the Week: A Symbol of Hope by James R. Fazio | August 29, 2017
Winter King Hawthorn
Native to the southeastern US, Washington hawthorn was first discovered by an unknown explorer and brought to England in the late 17th century. It was grown commercially in Georgetown and became popular around Washington, D.C., its namesake. Washington hawthorn was originally a shrub but has become popular in its tree form. In its natural environment, Washington hawthorn grows wild and untended.
In 1899, 17 species of hawthorn were known in the US. Ten years later, that number had increased to 1,100, and by 1979 the Forest Service
Reduced to 35 species and 46 hybrids. Part of the confusion comes from identification problems that scare even the sharpest botanists.
The Hawthorn Group occupies a place in history rich in emotion. For some in France, the hawthorn was a symbol of hope. Norman peasants wore sprigs in their hats as a reminder of Christ’s crown of thorns. Others considered the tree unlucky. So much so that when she blossomed, a month of abstinence and devotion was the rule. However, some brides saw beauty in flowers and are said to have used them in wedding decorations dating back to Roman times. In Ireland, fairies were believed to find hawthorn hedges and screens suitable places for trials. The American legend Paul Bunyan also found a practical use for the thorn tree. He used its branches as a back scratcher.
Washington Hawthorne Images, Stock Photos & Vectors
Hawthorns generally have heavy, fine-grained wood that makes them excellent firewood. Washington hawthorn has survived in urban conditions and is one of the most versatile and valuable hawthorns for landscape use. It was deliberately planted outside the windows of buildings to reduce crime, as criminals are less likely to climb thorn-covered trees.
The common name for this species comes from the city of Washington, where it was grown in a nursery in the late eighteenth century. The ‘thorn’ in its name is for its distinctive thorns and the ‘haw’ is an old English name for a hedge.
Means “looking like a pear”. But did it refer to the shape of the crown, the stylized image of the outline of the leaf, or the similarity of the flowers? It was probably the latter, but that’s anyone’s guess.
Washington hawthorn is a small, colorful tree that will brighten up any landscape. Its pleasing display begins in spring with reddish-purple leaves, which then turn dark green as they are joined by a graceful display of white flowers. In autumn, the leaves turn orange, scarlet or purple. The red berries extend the color show into winter, often contrasting beautifully with the first winter snow.
Small Bird In Tree Stock Image. Image Of Hungry, Berries
In addition to its beauty, it also fulfills an important function in nature. A number of songbirds rely on the berries of the tree as a winter food source. It reaches up to 30 feet when mature and is moderately drought tolerant (hardiness zones 4-8). Be careful, the tree is also susceptible to fire, which can be serious in some parts of the country.
James has a strong background and knowledge in forestry and tree care, working in several forestry-related positions for the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Arbor Day Foundation, and as a professor at the University of Idaho. Native to the lower 48 states, Washington Hawthorn is native to the Southeast and is one of the most valuable ornamental hawthorn plants. It was introduced around Washington D.C. around the 19th century, its namesake, it was originally a shrub and has since become more popular in its tree form. It is 25-30 feet tall, with a pyramidal shape and dense growth. Combine that with its wintry heartiness and striking seasonal colors and you’ll see how it makes for such a subtle ornament. It is a deciduous tree with bright red berries, orange autumn leaves and white spring flowers, allowing it to maintain its visual beauty throughout the year. While it has large thorns (2-4 inches long) like most hawthorns, it can be easily managed by pruning the lower branches so the thorns are out of reach. An interesting note is that hawthorn trees were deliberately planted outside the windows of buildings to deter crime, as criminals are less likely to climb thorn-covered trees.
This photo shows the berries and thorns on the Washington Hawthorns outside Votey Hall on the UVM campus. You can clearly see that the thorns are long and sharp, as well as the dark red berries that remain on the tree all year round. These thorns are found not only on the branches, but also on irregular crops from the trunk itself, so this is a tree that must be pruned carefully to avoid human injury. Berry