Plant of the month – Hawthorn

A familiar site this month is the “Mayflower” or Hawthorn. The name haw, originally an Old English term for hedge, applies to the fruit. Common hawthorn can support more than 300 insects and is the foodplant for the caterpillars of many moths and other insects.

The flowers, which are prolific this month, are highly scented, white or occasionally pink with five petals, and grow in flat-topped clusters. These provide nectar and pollen for bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects. The fruits, once pollinated by insects, develop into deep red fruits known as ‘haws’. These are eaten by many migrating birds such as redwings, fieldfares and thrushes, as well as small mammals.

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Hawthorns create natural and almost perfectly impenetrable barriers – and this dense, thorny foliage also makes fantastic nesting shelter for many species of bird.

Planting a hawthorn hedge in a garden is hugely beneficial for wildlife. Alternatively they can be planted as strong specimen trees that will grow 10 metres tall if left unpruned.

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