That I am writing about the Hawthorn tree is because the other day while sitting around the table talking, my mind drifted away at seeing our Hawthorn laden down with its beautiful blossoms gently being carried up and down by the wind, this tree is probably the favourite in our garden, mainly because it chose to grow in that very spot all by itself some years ago.
Crataegus monogyna, or common Hawthorn tree is very wide spread in the South-West of Ireland. A nice tree or bush it is especially beautiful in spring or autumn because of its profusion of creamy white blossoms and or dull red berries. The tree or bush is often used in hedgerows or as a boundary of land or property. Its Irish name is Sceach gheal. The flower has five petals, one style and numerous stamens with pink or dark anthers.
According to folklore the hawthorn was the most likely tree to be inhabited or protected by Faeries. In Ireland these trees were considered sacred and could not be cut down for fear of attracting some fatal misfortune, even the branches or flowers could not be brought inside a house.
http://treesforlife.org.uk/forest/mythology-folklore/hawthorn/ excellent article by Paul Kendall
Many people would refer to the leaves of the Hawthorn as ‘bread and cheese’, they would eat them. I’ve tasted them myself often and they are ok.
Another good website where I found lots of information on the lore of the Hawthorn is:
About the scent of the flowers I also found it interesting to learn that in Teutonic lore, Hawthorn symbolized death and was used in funeral pyres. It’s not altogether surprising because according to some sources;
“Mediaeval country folk asserted that the smell of hawthorn blossom was just like the smell of the Great Plague in London. Botanists later discovered that the chemical trimethylamine present in hawthorn blossom is also one of the first chemicals formed in decaying animal tissue”. (Paul Kendall)
And hence in times when people would have had their loved ones laid up after dead inside their home, they did not want to be reminded of the scent of death by bringing the Hawthorn flowers into their houses, it is thought that from this the superstition originated.
I’ve always found the scent of the flowers strange and could never say that it is sweet. But the flowers are very beautiful, being from the Rose family – Rosaceae – they are white, sometimes with a hint of pink. In the town of Skibbereen we also have two mature deep pink trees but I think that they are cultivated species, beautiful to look at, not sure of their medicinal qualities though.
From the berries one can make a tasty liquor and a jelly, and from the blossoms wine can be made. Some years ago I made a Hawthorn honey, I used ripe berries (the berries taste tart) and a good quality honey, when ready I used it all winter to good advantage. Even just making something totally different in the culinary way was just such a joy. The jelly I made many years ago, my mother always made it too and it was delicious, apparently the berries contain a lot of pectin. So nice to know that we can use natural and wild produce all around us. It is known that the berries can cause irritation if ingested, the little seeds need to be removed in order to avoid this. I think one has to be careful with this, I’m not recommending anything, let each one do their own research.
Some of the ideas I got from the following website;
We would drink a cup of the tea made from the flowers and leaves to strengthen the heart and lower blood pressure or cholesterol. My mum always used to say that this tea was also used during the war when China tea was hard to get by. During the First World War the berries were used in Germany as a coffee substitute.
The birds also do enjoy the berries, our tree is always full of birds, from sparrows, to finches, to blackbirds, it is a wonderful sight to behold, and of course we always leave plenty of berries as their winter food. The flowers are known to be very attractive and beneficial for butterflies. The tree is also native to Ireland which is quite important, more and more importance is given planting native trees these days. The fact that it is widespread in hedges means that hawthorn also plays an important role in supporting the many species that live in and around Irish hedgerows.
Our own tree is now mature and it gives us shade during the summer months, lovely to sit under it and share a meal with friends or family.
There is more to be told about the Hawthorn tree, much more, remains it to be said that I love this tree and that it gives us a lot of pleasure. I hope that all my lovely readers and followers of my blog have enjoyed some of the story that I have shared.