Last Updated on October 4, 2023
Sometimes referred to as the May-blossom, the hawthorn tree has earned a much-loved place in our hearts. The hawthorn’s family is vast, and contains a great variety of species and subspecies.
Found all around the world, the beautiful appearance of this tree makes it a firm favorite in most gardens. But, if you dig a little deeper (pardon the pun), this majestic tree and its flowers reveal a greater significance.
Read on to discover the hidden meanings of this tree. Learn the nurtured symbolism of this tree and its flowers. We explain must-know facts about the this tree, share its benefits, uses, and other essential information.
Don’t forget to scroll down further to read our conclusion, to gain additional useful knowledge about this remarkable tree.
The Hawthorn Tree: Facts
Crataegus monogyna is the most common species of the hawthorn. This scientific name comes from the Greek words, kratos akis. The word ‘kratos’ translates to mean strength, while ‘akis’ stands for sharp.
The Greek derived term for the hawthorn came about from the ragged, sharp leaves, and the tree’s unrelenting resilience.
The word ‘hawthorn’ can be traced back to the traditional translation of ‘haw,’ meaning hedge.
‘Quick thorn’ is another name for the hawthorn tree. The reason being, that it is resilient and grows very quickly.
People often use the hawthorn as a hedging shrub. Famous for its incredible white, and beautifully scented blossom that appear in May, it is typically referred to as the May-blossom, or May tree. This tree can sometimes reach a staggering 45 ft (ca. 14 m) in height.
That said, this tree grows to many heights. In China, it is favorite for being a Bonsai.
Its leaves are lobed shaped and feature irregular, spiked edges. The hawthorn fruit are berries, called ‘haw.’ The bright red color of its berries make them an easily discoverable food source for wildlife.
These berries are quite bitter, but are tasty, when added as an ingredient in jams. While the pretty clusters of white flowers provide their undeniably awes-inspiring display in May, the berries take a little longer to arrive. You can see the berries from mid-late fall.
Hawthorn Tree And Flower Folklore
Scout around the hawthorn tree, and you might be fortunate enough to spot a fairy or two. This is the beautiful, magical tale told to children in days gone by. The hawthorn’s association with folklore, magic, and mystery, gave it unspoken power.
People firmly believed that attempting to cut or remove the tree would bring about the worst luck ever. As such, this tree kept its roots in the ground. Even today, you can find fields that appear bare, apart from the presence of one lonely hawthorn that no one dared to touch!,
Centuries ago, the tree was the subject of folklore. Much literature referenced this tree and its magical associations. In the respect of its magical and otherworldly connections, it symbolized both positive and negative meanings. Let’s take a look at both:
Positive Ancient Symbolism
To Ecourage Beauty To Return Each Year
Girls would go out and collect the hawthorn blossom. This was used to create garlands. Each house received a branch, as people believed the branch kept young women looking beautiful for longer.
According to ancient folklore, the hawthorn was home to fairies, and was the doorway to another realm in existence.
To this day you can still see evidence of ancient symbolism. For example, on an island in the River Shannon, there still exists a sacred hawthorn that is hung on St. Patrick’s stone. Many people strongly believe it has magical healing abilities.
Basically, if the month is not May, you need to be wary of the hawthorn tree. Cuttings of the tree or disturbing it at all would result in disaster for those involved.
The only time it was acceptable, was May 1st. Irish celebrated and welcomed the return of summer with a festival called Beltane. On this occasion, cuttings from the tree would promote fertility, love, and good luck.
This ancient folklore and links to witchcraft and fairies still remains today. In Ireland, people continues to know them as ‘the fairy tree.’ The fairy curse associations continue to spook people.
In 1999, workers in Ireland actually stopped the tarmacking of a road as a hawthorn (or fairy tree) stood in its path. They drew an alternative route, which delayed the work for years.
In 2009. More eerie reports surfaced after the felling of a hawthorn. People declared they saw a ghost in the same area, convinced it was a direct result of this act.
Associated with witchcraft, tales of witches fashioning their broomsticks from the hawthorn, frightened many, young and old. People feared this tree and believed its decorations in the home would bring impending doom.
Hawthorn Tree Symbolism
Over the centuries, the hawthorn tree and its flowers have amassed great symbolic significance. Let’s take a look at some key symbolism associated with the tree:
The hawthorn tree in full bloom is truly stunning to see. Not surprisingly, it has become a symbol of beauty. People plant these trees in their garden for their aesthetic value.
The hawthorn tree represents originality. They symbolize a person’s unique individuality, and freedom for self-expression.
One of the main symbols of this tree is love. Widely regarded as a symbol of love, the tree makes a great gift for those close to your heart.
Not too long ago, people far and wide would plant a hawthorn in their gardens. Wherever a family moved to, the hawthorn would feature. Many have done this due to its protective symbolism.
Believed to offer great protection against negativity and illness, the hawthorn was an essential garden shrub for almost every garden in Europe, Asia, and parts of America.
The hawthorn tree produces a good supply of blossom and berries. As such, it became a symbol of fertility. People often planted this tree when they wanted to start a family.
Long Life and Resilience
These trees are truly resilient and can survive for hundreds of years. Given this fact, they became known to symbolize strength of character and a long, fruitful life.
The Hawthorn: Cultural & Religious Significance
Whatever region of the world you look, the hawthorn and associated cultural symbolism will be found.
Greece, (in ancient times until today), regard the hawthorn to enhance love and romance. Centuries ago, the hawthorn flower made wedding accessories such as flower crowns, and beautiful flower displays at weddings.
The hawthorn branch created a useful wedding torch for such ceremonies. This further established the symbolic meaning of everlasting love.
Perhaps the greates significance of the hawthorn tree is its deep connection to Christainity and Jesus Christ. Allegedly, it was leaves and thorns from the hawthorn that made up the infamous crown of thorns embedded on the head of Christ during his final days.
To the Celts, this tree held huge symbolic significance. Let’s delve into how the hawthorn was regarded.
Balance, Duality, And Fertility
The Celts believed the hawthorn was a symbol of duality. To them, the hawthorn was symbolic of both masculinity and femininity. Having both male and female energies was crucial to bring about fertility and union.
Medicinal Value Of The Hawthorn Tree
You cannot underestimate the huge medicinal value that people claim the hawthorn tree provides. For centuries the hawthorn’s health benefits made it a common ingredient for a variety of medicinal concoctions.
It was the go-to medicinal component for many people across the world, and its use can be traced all the way back to the first century CE.
Let’s take a closer look at its purported uses:
Dioscorides, a Greek physician who lived in the first century CE, discovered the hawthorn to provide multiple health-promoting benefits for the heart. Despite the lack of technology at the time to wholeheartedly confirm this discovering, later researchers in the field of herbal medicine concurred this to be true.
Studies in herbal medicine suggest the hawthorn can improve heart strength and blood flow. Research also claims the hawthorn may lower blood pressure and even diminish bad cholesterol buildup.
In fact, following several case studies, hawthorn showed promising results in its ability to alleviate symptoms of congestive heart failure.
In China, the hawthorn’s heart-supporting abilities are further acknowledged. Chinese traditional medicine sees the haw berry as an effective digestive aid. This is due to the massive antioxidant content in the haw berry. These antioxidants offer many health benefits, but they are especially good for prohibiting fat deposits and build up.
The hawthorn’s components have a positive effect on inflammation too. This potential benefit requires more scientific research.
Vitamins And Minerals
The hawthorn berry offers a nutritional burst. Not only is it packed with antioxidants, but it also combines vitamin B and C, as well as vital minerals. These nutrients work in unison to provide your body with ultimate repair, protection, and support.
Possible Uses For Consumption
The hawthorn berry is a favorite ingredient in jams and some cuisines. However, if you want to get a quick nutritional boost, there are a variety of delicious herbal hawthorn teas available.
You can find these online and at your local grocery store.
The Hawthorn Flower Essence
Not only can this incredible tree offer vital health promoting support for the heart, but it is also valued for enhancing wellbeing.
Self-Care And Wellbeing
When used as a flower essence, some people believe the hawthorn improves mental wellbeing. It can greatly improve self-confidence and help people be kinder to themselves. Some hail this as an effective aid in increasing self-love and encouraging self-care.
At times when we feel we are spent and lack motivation or strength to deal with life events, the hawthorn flower essence is a savior. A few drops of the hawthorn flower essence each day may improve your inner strength and give you that much-needed boost to drive you forwards in life.
Anxiety And Stress
Some people swear by the hawthorn’s flower essence to be an effective aid for reducing anxiety. It is meant to have massive calming properties to ease the symptoms of anxiety and stress.
Those who find it difficult to express themselves and seem to have an invisible wall around them may just benefit from the hawthorn flower essence.
Many claim it to be hugely helpful in enhancing openness. Those who take the flower essence often claim they are more in touch with their emotions.
Side Effects Of The Hawthorn Berries, Leaves, and Flower
Although herbal medicine frequently combines parts of the hawthorn and insist it offers great benefits, there is little medical evidence to support the claim. However, they do contain a massive supply of antioxidants that are known to improve physical health..
It should be noted that anyone with pre-existing medical conditions or who are taking medication should consult their doctor before taking this or any other form of medication.
Furthermore, if you are scheduled to have surgery, or if you recently had surgery of any kind, the hawthorn is a definite no-no.
Properties in the hawthorn can reduce the blood’s clotting abilities. Therefore, the consequences of taking this, following surgery, could be chronic.
Although the hawthorn tree is not poisonous, there have been several documented side effects. The reported side effects of ingesting medicinal or food-related hawthorn include:
The hawthorn tree and its flowers have links that are deep-routed (sorry, not sorry), in magic, witchcraft, mythology, and symbolism. The most well-known connection is that of the famous Beltane festival. This festival marks the onset of spring, and the hawthorn plays a key symbolic part.
The age-old ritual of taking cuttings , flowers, and branches, to enhance fertility, love, and luck can still be seen today. Not only this, but its ancient associations with witchcraft and links to the spirit world were so strong that people fear the consequences of disturbing them, even now.
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