Hawthorn flowers emerge from thorny bushes or trees that grow up to 5 feet tall. They form clusters of white, pink or red blooms, or a combination of the three. Hawthorn is the state tree of Missouri and the birth flower of those born in May, probably because the flowers bloom during that month. Flowers have a central disk with petals that cup all around.
The flowers of the hawthorn three are fragrant, and most people find the scent pleasant. However, as the blooms fade they take on a different aroma as they start to produce trithylene, a chemical that corpses also produce. During the Middle Ages, hawthorns were believed to be the scent of death, which brought about the idea that bringing them into the house would cause someone to die.
Hawthorn seeds have a long germination period of nearly two years, so cuttings represent the more popular form of propagation. The plant grows in any type of soil. Hawthorn prefers partial shade, but will grow in full sun. Make sure it is shaded during the hottest part of the summer day. It dislikes extreme heat. Keep the plant watered during the summer and do not let it dry out completely. Prune once a year in late fall or early spring so that branches do not cross each other. Once the flowers fade, they will produce red berries called haws or may apples, which make a delicious jam.
Tea made from flowers and leaves of the hawthorn is believed to strengthen the heart. It is often used to ease pain of angina and reduce blood pressure. Use of the tea is mostly safe, but it does have some possible side effects, such as headache, nausea, and palpitations of the heart. It interacts with some drugs, so people taking beta blockers and other drugs formulated to correct irregular heartbeat should avoid the tea.
The hawthorn has a rich history in superstition and in mystery. It is also known as May bloom, pixie pears, May flower and quick thorn.
Joseph of Arimathea, who provided the tomb in which Jesus Christ was buried, is credited with bringing the blossoming bush to England. It is said that after he thrust his hawthorn staff into ground near Glastonbury it took root and grew. The plant was called Glastonbury thorn and bloomed during December, the month during which Christ's birth is celebrated.
The hawthorn is an integral part of the maypole, into which flowers and branches are woven.
Placing a branch of hawthorn over a door is supposed to keep evil out.