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Hawthorn, Downy

Crataegus mollis (krah-TEEG-us MAH-las)

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Small deciduous tree



HEIGHT: 25 to 40 feet


SPREAD: 20 to 30 feet


FINAL SPACING: 15 to 20 feet


NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Texas hawthorns grow primarily in the eastern third of the state in open woods, fencerows, stream banks, meadows, and on edges of fields. They are also found in higher well-drained rocky soils.


IDENTIFICATION INFORMATIONHawthorns are a complex and confusing group of small trees and multi-stemmed shrubs. Their leaves are deciduous, simple, serrated, but some are lobed. The branches in general are crooked and thorny.


FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Hawthorn has gorgeous white spring flowers and bright red fruit which ripens from August to October. Some of the other species of hawthorn turn blue or yellow when ripe. The summer flowering fruits usually have a soft pulpy flesh that decomposes quickly.


BARK: The bark is generally smooth and gray, becoming heavier textured with age and even flaky.


FOLIAGE: Leaves are deciduous, simple, and serrated (toothed) or lobed.


CULTURE: Hawthorns are easy to grow in any well-drained soil. They can grow from sand to pretty heavy clays and are drought tolerant. Most hawthorns are intolerant of shade.


PROBLEMS: Cedar apple rust, aphids, and other minor insect infestations.


PROPAGATION: Fruits can be handpicked from the plants from mid summer until frost depending on the species. Clean the seeds of the pulp to avoid mold and fermentation, air dry for 2 or 3 days before storing. Stored at 45 degrees in sealed glass containers. Seed are a little bit hard to germinate and require scarification and stratification prior to germination. A 3 step process is often recommended starting with scarification for about 5 hours in concentrated sulfuric acid. Organic gardeners can probably accomplish the same with a little longer exposure to humic or acidic acid. Then the seeds should be placed in warm, moist storage for up to 120 days or planted outside in early fall. Finally, the seeds should be exposed to cold temperatures for 100 to 300 days. Some species require no scarification and can be planted straight away with a high rate of germination. Hawthorns are difficult and slow to root from cuttings but it is possible.


INSIGHT: According to Benny Simpson and his Field Guide to Texas Trees there have been many species listed as synonyms for Crataegus mollis such as C. berlandieri, C. brachyphylla, C. invisa, and C. limaria. Other authors believe that several other species should be merged together. In other words, there is not a lot of common agreement and there seems to be quite a bit of cross breeding. The botanists at BRIT (Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth) say that the species are more clear cut and that little cross breeding exists.


Crataegus texana, Texas Hawthorn, is similar to the common or native or downy hawthorn. Parsley hawthorn is Crataegus marshallii, Crataegus reverchonii is Reverchon hawthorn, greenhaw hawthorn is Crataegus viridis, cockspur hawthorn is Crataegus crus-galli, Washington-thorn is Crataegus phaenopyrum, Little-hip hawthorn is Crataegus spathulata.





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