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A Pagan Gathering for Australia and the world

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Hawthorn (The May Tree)

Most people know what Hawthorn trees look like. They grace our hedgerows around Central Victoria, and in among the rolling green hills, the area north of Ballarat to Maldon and Daylesford look rather like the hills of England – often European trees are the only trees you see. Hawthorn as a hedgerow is particularly common here. In Autumn, flocks of Crimson Rosella's thrive on the fruit, this year in particular the fruit was so thick that the trees turned completely red.

We all know Hawthorn to be white, don’t we – there is the Common Hawthorn and the double white blossom too – a smaller mini-rose like flower.

Two days ago I drove passed a Red Hawthorn – I had never seen one before! With the amount of Hawthorn around here, you'd think there would be more of them. This one is a stunning specimen. Since then I found a pink and white hawthorn, only down the road from where I am staying. I suppose I don’t notice them so much, as the flowering time of a Hawthorn is rather a short time in Spring – and then it depends how often you get out into the world.

After some research I found the Red Hawthorn (Crataegus Laevigata) 'Paul's Scarlet' – is a magenta/scarlet colour compared to the Crimson Hawthorn.

I had found a ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ double blossom in the Mt Rowan area, just a little north of Ballarat.

Note the double blossoms - a mini-rose shape
The Paul's Scarlet had a pink branch on it too.

On my way home I took photos of a lovely Common Hawthorn (Crataegus Monogyna). Here you can see the flowers are not double.

Note the blossom on the Common White - they don't look like a rose so much.

Then the Pink Hawthorn – I came across the latin name of Crataegus Rosea Flore Pleno, on a plant nursery website.

This one appeared to be on the same tree as a white hawthorn – I am not sure if there are two separate trees – the roadside garden here is too overgrown to tell. Both the white and pink blossoms are double. They were mixed together in a lovely way.

All three colours with their leaves

Hawthorn at Mt Franklin Beltane is usually picked to decorate the maypole, and some people put it over their tent doorways. I recall the story that it is supposed to keep away the fairies. But, as its other name is the ‘May Tree’ it is used to adorn the celebrations of Beltane and May Day all over the world. There are 1 or 2 trees on the road up towards Mt Franklin. However, as most regular attendees of the Beltane gathering will know that the Hawthorn will not flower on Beltane weekend every year. It is considered a blessing to me when it does. Yet, this year it did blossom, after a very wet Winter and Spring!

As there is a lot more information I could have put on here, feel free to write in the comments, more information you know about the May Tree, its myths, properties, anything you know!



  1. Love the Hawthorn- every year they are the brightest flowers scattered across the hills of Central Victoria. Red ones are gorgeous.

  2. I'd never seen nor heard of red or pink Hawthorn until this blog post, but am very familiar with white... , guess I can't know everything! ;-)

  3. Same here Caz! I only heard of red hawthorn a few weeks ago, when someone mentioned that there is a red hawthorn tree in north Castlemaine somewhere. It was a great surprise to finally see one.

    Does anybody know how to get a cutting of a hawthorn, other than gathering seeds?

  4. A comment by proxy from Alicia:

    What a great article about the Hawthorn. Its a common sight here in Central Vic,
    and we all love its glorious display of blossom in spring. I've noticed the red
    and pink cultivars and have been meaning to get a cutting of a red one for my
    own property. People in the old country were very cautious of the hawthorn as
    many considered it a doorway to the Other world. Many country folk would be
    reluctant to cut down or move a hawthorn in case the fairies would get annoyed -
    bad luck would be the least of their problems! Hawthorn berries are both edible
    and medicinal. Haw Jelly is the traditional accompaniment to roast pheasant, and
    drunk as a tea these berries also have the ability to normalize blood pressure,
    either up or down. I also recently heard that they are useful in the treatment
    of Lupus, a nasty auto immune disease. If you want to have a Hawthorn at your
    place remember to think carefully about where you plant it as you would be well
    advised to never cut it down! Plant it away from water to prevent it escaping
    into the wild as it can be considered a weed in some areas. It grows easily from
    seed, just collect some berries and plant them in a seed bed. Hawthorn belongs
    to the Rosacea family,all of the members of which are useful to humans, and many
    of them are sacred to the Western tradition. some of these include: Roses,
    Apples, Pears, Plums, Strawberries, Rowan, Blackberries, Quince and Raspberries.
    Our forebears in Central Vic used them as hedgerows, and many fine old examples
    can be seen, especially on the roads between Newstead and Mt Franklin.

  5. Hey Tania; I think that Hawthorn should just strike cuttings if you stick some into sandy soil- maybe a bit of clonex. I also remember that there are Chinese Hawthorn candies which are red so I assume that they are made from red haw berries. Michel would know more about this too I think. I won't hurt to ask him (or will it? LOL)- David