What is a Green Hawthorn?

Alex Tree
Alex Tree
Caterpillars are considered a pest to green hawthorn plants.
Caterpillars are considered a pest to green hawthorn plants.

A green hawthorn is a medium-sized perennial deciduous tree measuring 25 to 30 feet (7.6 to 9.1 m) tall and 20 to 25 feet (6.1 to 7.6 m) wide. It has an oval-shaped appearance with a rounded crown measuring around 20 feet (6.1 m) in height. Native to the southeastern United States, its scientific name is Crataegus viridis, and it is classified under the genus of hawthorns belonging to the Rosaceae, or rose, family. This tree is listed in the state of Indiana in the United States as a threatened species. It is also known by the names southern hawthorn and winter king hawthorn.

The common name winter king refers to a particular variety or cultivar of the green hawthorn. Virtually the only variety available commercially, it was introduced to cultivation in 1827. Compared to the wild form, this cultivar has lesser thorns and bigger fruits. The fruits persist even in winter, with their bright red color standing out in contrast to the glossy green leaves and the light gray bark of the tree during this season. Its outer bark will also peel off in winter to reveal its inner orange bark.

In general, green hawthorn trees have conspicuous white flowers that bloom in early spring. They also have simple lobed leaves that are yellow-green to dark green in the summer, but can turn purplish red, bronze, or gold before dropping in the fall. The stems of the tree have 1.5-inch (4-cm) long thorns. Small, bright red, and held in clusters, the fruits are very conspicuous in the fall and winter.

Propagation of green hawthorn trees are by seed, bare root, and grafting. A moist and fertile fine- to medium-textured soil is required and should also have good drainage. While the green hawthorn has a low drought tolerance, it is nevertheless considered to be easy to grow, with its tolerance of city conditions and hardiness in temperatures down to -24 ºF (-31 ºC). Problem pests are aphids, borers, and caterpillars. This species is also susceptible to cedar-hawthorn rust but has better resistance compared to other species in its genus.

The green hawthorn is primarily desired as a garden tree, especially by people who want to accent their gardens in the winter. Its dense foliage can cast ample shade in a garden. Due to this characteristic, the tree is also used with screens and borders or pruned into hedges. With its moderate size, it can be planted even in small gardens. Aside from providing food and shelter to birds, the twigs and young shoots of this tree are also palatable to some animals.

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    • Caterpillars are considered a pest to green hawthorn plants.
      By: epantha
      Caterpillars are considered a pest to green hawthorn plants.