I recently returned from a brief expedition to OSU* in Corvalis, Oregon in search of new Hawthorn species, cultivars and varieties. Crateagus, the generative genius consistently keeps my sense of wonder and curiosity alive. Heart medicine and delicious food in all her beautiful expressions.
Washington Hawthorn Crataegus 'Autumn Glory' C. lavalleei Lavallee's Hawthorn
The three hawthorns above, expanded my ever-growing Crataegus meetup list. All 3 trees are in the Rose family and the Crataegus genus. The generic epithet, Crataegus, is derived from the Greek "kratos"meaning strength for the hardness and strength of the wood and "akis" for sharp, referring to the thorns of most species. The slow growing nature of Crataegus creates density in the wood. A question I'm pondering, "How does this plant's nature inform people who use hawthorn as a regular part of their diet?" Physically? Mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually? Wholly?
Originally, hawthorns were trees at the edge of the wood and only became the hedge when woods were pushed back for grain growing in earlier times. Today, they are at home in hedges, gardens, orchards, on city streets, and they continue to persist in the wild around the northern hemisphere. A community tree and keystone species, the thicket growing hawthorn creates habitat for many in a beautiful tangle of life.
The Washington Hawthorn and Lavalle's Hawthorn were both found planted in an Oregon rest area, as well as growing on the OSU campus.
Washington Hawthorn C. phaenopyrum is a colorful splash in the fall landscape. A fairly small tree, 20'x20' with lighter leaves that turn yellow in the fall. The clusters of small fruits are tasty, the many seeds are easily crushed between teeth when eaten raw.
Crataegus 'Autumn Glory' is a natural hybrid found in California and maintained through cultivation. One parent is C. mexicana, the other is unknown. 'Autumn Glory' has thick, dark green leaves that hold well into late fall. The large, glossy, long-lasting fruit is neutral to sweet, has a soft texture and dense seeds typical of hawthorn.
Lavalle's Hawthorn, C. lavallei, is a street tree often used in the northwest during the last century, and is again being planted in new housing developments as street trees. Urban foragers take note, this is one to find! The simple, dark green, lustrous leaf is shiny on top and pubescent below. Fruits are orangey-red with a yellow interior and ripen mid to late October. Due to the late ripening, fruit cracking in wet, fall weather is a problem. The taste is neutral to sweet, with a creamy texture, and hard seeds.
The Crataegus genus is genius in her ability to shape shift through time. Showing up in the most unlikely places and wearing the most outrageous costumes! Somewhat like people I have known! Abundant green & red blessings are everywhere!
Have you found any of these hawthorns near you? How are you using them? In the garden? In the kitchen? In the apothecary? In the urban landscape?
*Link to OSU Crataegus information