A sign that spring is turning to summer, the pale green leaves of the hawthorn are often the first to appear in spring, with an explosion of pretty pale-pink blossom in May, hence being known as Mayflower. It simply teems with wildlife from bugs to birds.
Mature trees can reach a height of 15m and are commonly found in hedgerows. They can also thrive as small tree with a single stem. Their dense, thorny habit branches form safe havens for birds and other wildlife. Once pollinated by insects, they develop into deep-red fruits known as 'haws’ (- rich in antioxidants and) are eaten by migrating birds, such as redwings, fieldfares and thrushes, as well as small mammals.
The young leaves, flower buds and young flowers are all edible. They can be added to green salads and grated root salads. The developing flower buds are particularly good. The haws - rich in antioxidants can be eaten raw but may cause mild stomach upset. They are most commonly used to make jellies, wines and ketchups.
Hawthorn is a pagan symbol of fertility and has ancient associations with May Day. It was the ancestor of the Maypole and its leaves and flowers the source of May Day garlands as well as appearing in the wreath of the Green Man.