What Is Black Hawthorn?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2019
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Black hawthorn is a shrub that is indigenous to the western parts of North America. Compared to some other shrubs, black hawthorns can grow to be very large. The trunks and branches of these trees are covered in thorns, and the berries that these trees produce are usually very dark, almost black in color. Some people plant these trees around their properties like hedges, and many animals use the thorny branches as cover.

Scientifically known as Crataegus douglasii, the black hawthorn is a species of hawthorn, which is a member of the rose family. This type of hawthorn is also known as the Douglas thorn apple and the Douglas hawthorn. It was named after David Douglas, a botanist from Scotland, who discovered this plant during an exploration to the western part of North America.

The black hawthorn is native to North America, particularly the western regions. It can be found growing in the northwestern part of the United States and, as well as the southwestern part of Canada. These types of trees typically prefer moist areas at low elevations.

Although it is sometimes referred to as a tree, the black hawthorn is technically a large shrub. It can grow to be over 25 feet (7.6 meters) high in some cases. These types of shrubs also have a tendency to grow in groups, forming thickets.


The bark of the black hawthorn is usually brown or rust colored. Sharp thorns, which can be roughly 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) long, grow along its branches. Its leaves are oval in shape, and they will usually drop in the winter, when the shrub goes dormant.

During the late spring or early summer, white flowers can be seen on black hawthorn shrubs. The berries that appear in the fall, which are often referred to as haws, are usually very dark red. They are so dark, in fact, that they may appear to be black.

Black hawthorn berries are edible. They are typically very sweet, and many people use them to make wine, pies, or preserves. Hawthorn berries also have a number of health benefits. They can help improve a person's circulatory system and treat ailments like high blood pressure.

Since they have thorns, branches from these shrubs were sometimes used to make fences around private property. Today, some people simply plant several shrubs around their properties, and these can be treated like hedges. Small animals, such as birds and squirrels, also take refuge in the branches of black hawthorns.


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