Forest crops: Hawthorn

Forest crops: Hawthorn

Classification, origin and diffusion

Division: Spermatophyta
Subdivision: Angiospermae
Class: Dicotyledones
Family: Rosaceae

Hawthorn is a shrub or sometimes sapling known since ancient times. It is common in the spots and at the edge of the woods. Its scientific name derives from the Greek kràtaigos which means strength and robustness, due to the hardness of its wood. It is widespread throughout Italy (even in the islands), from flat areas up to 1,500 m of altitude; it is common among the shrub species of the undergrowth, at the edge of the woods or in the wooded pastures, it manages to colonize the grassy slopes.

Hawthorn flowers - Crataegus monogyna Jacq. (photo M. Hassler

Hawthorn - Crataegus monogyna Jacq.

General characteristics

Size and bearing
Very variable shape shrub or thorny tree. Rarely in tree specimens it reaches heights of 10 m and has a slow growth.
Trunk and bark
The branches are very thorny, first reddish brown and smooth then gray.
Caducous, alternate and of very variable shape; ovoid lamina with acute lobes (from 3 to 7) and truncated or wedged base; the leaf margin is indented only at the apex; the lower page is clearer.
Reproductive structures
The flowers are hermaphrodite with five whitish petals, gathered in groups. The flowers appear in April-May and have woolly peduncles.
The fruits are made up of small ovoid pommels with a diameter of about 1 cm., At the end of summer red; contain only one seed.


The fruits are used for food purposes; the leaves and flowers are used for medicinal purposes for their antispasmodic, cardioactive and hypotensive properties.
Similar but less frequent species is the Crataegus laevigata Poir. and the Azeruolo (C. azarolus L.).
Another species is the Crataegus lavallei (Lavalle hawthorn), originally from France (hybrid between C. crus-gallo and C. mexicana) with slightly larger fruits.

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