HAWTHORN – THE SACRED TREE

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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. 

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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:

http://www.plant-lore.com/217/hawthorn/

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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 – Rosaceaethey 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.

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Some of the ideas I got from the following website;

http://www.witchipedia.com/herb:hawthorn

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. 

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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.

LITTLE TREE IS DOING FINE

The Korean Fir that we bought at Christmas and decorated for the celebrations has been very busy ever since, we kept it inside so that it would survive the cold outside, so it is in the conservatory/dining room. Some weeks ago we noticed that cones started to grow in the top branches (see photos), then at the tip of some of the branches there came buds which soon opened up and are now new needles. Every morning we check out the newest growth, it is a great pleasure in our lives. I water and feed it regularly and soon it is going into a slightly larger pot. When the weather becomes just a little more stable we will put it outside. It is a great project giving great satisfaction.
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First the cones appeared.

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Then buds started to appear all over the branches, we were wondering what that would bring.

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Then the buds started to open up into more needles.

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New needles and hence branches on the tree, all still very tender and young, we shall see what happens next.  I have never seen a fir tree at such close quarters and especially seen what happens at the crown high up in the tree.  It’s real good.

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KOREAN FIR FOR CHRISTMAS

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Today we went to a garden centre some way from home, we wanted to get a lovely live tree for Christmas, one that we could keep for years.  In the past I have done this but not been successful at keeping the tree alive, So this year I am going to make a very special effort.  So we found this lovely little tree, it is a Korean Fir (Abies koreana).  The small soft pine cones are bluish before they become brown, and it’s a slow growing tree.  There is a silver sheen to the underside of the needles.  We both fell in love with this little tree and hope to have it for many years.  At Christmas it will be decorated and it will be in the place of honour, and then later we will leave it outside albeit with a cosy garden fleece around it.  The above photo shows one of it’s pine cones, there are a few on it and this will make a lovely natural decoration.

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