Hawthorn - Crataegus
This slow-growing native North American tree reaches a height of 30 feet
with a rounded canopy that spreads to 35 feet or more. The dark green,
deciduous leaves are often three-lobed and have red/brown undersides. The
leaves display no appreciable fall color. The sparkling white, showy
springtime flowers appear before the new leaves unfurl and are followed by
the production of large, red-dotted fruits. The spreading, low branching
habit of growth makes this best suited for planting in a large open area
There are a large number of hawthorns, and a large
amount of variation within the genera. Most are small and thorn-bearing,
with clusters of flowers in late spring or early summer followed by red,
apple-like fruit, called haws. Another valuable feature for bonsai is the
quick, fine branch ramification.
Lighting: Full sun,
partial shade in the hottest part of midsummer.
Temperature: Zones 6
through 11.. Most hawthorns dislike extreme heat. Resistant to windy
Watering: Generous - do
not allow the soil to dry out completely. Increase the amount of water in
the summer. C. marshalii is an especially thirsty plant, as its native
habitat is marsh, and will die if ever allowed to dry out. Hawthorn likes
to be misted in dry weather, but avoid misting the flowers when in bloom.
Moisture trays can be used to provide needed humidity, especially for C.
Feeding: Every 14-30
days from spring-autumn, stopping for a month in midsummer. Use
half-strength plant food or bonsai food.
Pruning and wiring: Prune back shoots to the first two leaves as necessary.
Hawthorn grows quickly and needs constant pruning to kep inder control.
The best time for major branch pruning is before the leaves come in, as
the intricate structure of the branches may be clearly viewed. May be
wired during spring and summer. Remove faded fruits and flowers; it may be
necessary to remove some of the fruit from young bonsai to prevent the
plant from exhaustion.
Propagation: May be
grown from seed, but will not flower until at least 20 years old, which
makes cutting grown and grafted plants the better option. Needs cold
treatment before sowing, and the Samsons warn that it may take up to three
years for the seeds to germinate. Air-layering may be used in spring,
softwood cuttings in summer, and grafting in late winter or early spring.
Crataegus laevigata 'Paul's scarlet' rarely fruits and is usually
propagated by grafting.
Repotting: Every 1-3
years in early spring or autumn. Always leave a strong root system. Up to
1/3 of the root mass may be removed if the tree is a strong grower, but
hawthorns are sometimes prone to rooting problems.
Pests and diseases:
Gall-forming aphids, caterpillars, powdery mildew, scab, rust, leaf
blight, bacterial fireblight. May expereince rooting problems.
Some species suitable for bonsai:
- Crataegus ambigua: Russian hawthorn, Russian thorn
- Crataegus crus-galli: cockspur thorn, hog-apple,
Newcastle thorn - White 1/2 inch flowers follow the leaves in spring. It
has dull red fruit which persists till the following spring, and
excellent wine-red fall color.This hawthorne grows to 25 feet, with 4
inch (!!!) long thorns, and is hardy in zones 4-6.
- Crataegus cuneata: hawthorn, ornamental thorn,
Japanese hawthorn - small lobed leaves, white flowers in spring, large
- Crataegus douglassii: black hawthorn - named for
its black fruit, the spines are small (under 1 inch) or often
- Crataegus laevigata (also called Crataegus
oxycantha): English hawthorn, double-flowered hawthorn - A native of
Europe, this small tree grows only to 20 feet. It has little fall color,
and the fruits are not showy. Its outstanding feature is its flowers,
which can be white, pink or red. Hardy in zones 5-7.
- Crataegus laevigata 'Paul's scarlet': double
red-flowering hawthorn, Paul's scarlet thorn - a very desirable variety
due to the spectacular red double-flowers. Rarely fruits, so is mainly
propagated by grafting.
- Crataegus x lavallei: Lavelle hawthorn - A hybrid
between C. crus-galli and C. pubescens. Notable for its 3/4 inch white
flowers in late spring, showy orange-red fruit and bronze-red autumn
color. Another advantage of this species is the lack of thorns. It grows
to 20 feet, and is hardy in zones 4-7.
- Crataegus marshalli: parsley-leaved hawthorn - a
very small tree, growing only 15-18 feet in its natural habitat, the
marshy areas of Florida and Southern Georgia. Parsley- shaped leaves,
exfoliating grayish-brown bark, 1/2 inch white flowers, edible
yellowish-red fruit. The least hardy of the hawthorns, it is probably
best to keep C. marshalii from freezing. Its trunk diameter rarely
exceeds 4 inches in the wild. Some have reported that this tree can be
sensitive after being collected, and will need special care concerning
proper moisture and temperature.
- Crataegus mollis: downy hawthorn - a common tree in
US parks and cities, this tree gets its name from the downy undersides
of its leaves. It bears scarlet or crimson edible fruit with dark spots.
It grows to 30 feet in the wild.
- Crataegus monogyna: common hawthorn, one-seed
hawthorne - a commonly seen hawthorn because it is hardy and adaptable.
Besides its use in bonsai, it makes an excellent hedge. Very fragrant
white flowers, red haws in autumn.
- Crataegus nitida: glossy hawthorn
- Crataegus phaenopyrum: Washington hawthorn - A
native of the Eastern US, this is one of the larger hawthorns at 30
feet. It has 2 1/2 inch leaves which resemble maple leaves, and orange
fruit which lasts into the winter. Hardy in zones 4-7.
- Crataegus punctata: dotted hawthorn - Grows to 30
feet. 1/2-3/4 inch 5 petaled white flowers appear in compact, hairy
clusters in late spring. Fruit is dull red to yellow with whitish dots.
These fruits (nutlets) mature and fall in autumn. It is found growing in
moist soils of valleys and rocky upland slopes, especially on
- Crataegus sanguinea: redhaw hawthorn
- Crataegus succulenta: fleshy hawthorn, long-spine
hawthorn, succulent hawthorn - grows to 20 feet and has bright red
fruits which mature in autumn.
- Crataegus viridis: Winter King hawthorn, green
hawthorn, Southern hawthorn - Rich green foliage, white flowers in late
spring and orange-red fruit until late winter. This large hawthorn grows
to 40 feet, and its spreading habit can be equally as wide. Exfoliating
bark. Likes wet feet.
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