The taxonomy of Crataegus species has historically been very confused, with over 1,200 different species recognized by some authors in the past. This number has been gradually and very significantly reduced, especially since the publication of several regional studies carried out since the late 1980’s, and current thinking is that the final number could be below 150 distinct species[
]. Many of the genera that were included in this database prior to 2017 will now be treated as synonyms or subspecies, and it is likely that a number of other currently accepted species will also receive that fate once a complete revision of the genus (underway in 2015) has been published.
Mespilus aestivalis Walter
Crataegus cerasoides Sarg.
Crataegus fruticosus Sarg.
Crataegus luculenta Sarg.
Crataegus maloides Sarg.
Crataegus monantha Sarg.
Common Name: Eastern Mayhaw
Crataegus aestivalis is a thorny, deciduous shrub or small tree with a rounded canopy; it usually grows 2 - 12 metres tall[
The plant is a popular wild food, often used in conserves in southeastern N. America. It is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of materials. The fruit has gained in popularity and the plant is sometimes cultivated as a fruit crop and can also be grown in soil stabilization and shelterbelt plantings.
South-eastern N. America - North Carolina to Florida, west to Mississippi
Found on the outer coastal plain in seasonally flooded depressions, in floodplains or in uplands. It is commonly found in river swamps, pond areas, and along stream banks[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
Crataegus aestivalis is a very hardy species, tolerating temperatures down to about -30°c when dormant[
Crataegus species are generally very easily cultivated plants, growing best in full sun to medium shade and preferring a well-drained but moisture retentive loamy soil, though they are not usually fussy[
]. This species also thrives in acid soils[
]. Once established, many species can tolerate a range of difficult conditions including drought; excessively moist soils; limy soils; exposed, windy, maritime conditions; and atmospheric pollution[
]. Notes on the plants habitat above may give more ideas on this[
Crataegus aestivalis is occasionally cultivated for its fruit in America, there are some named varieties[
]. A form that was once seen as distinct (as Crataegus cerasoides) has large, late-ripening fruit[
]. Another form (previously known as Crataegus monantha) is a dwarf form from northern Florida that could be used as a rootstock[
The plant has become a popular ornamental in N. America due to its showy white flowers, attractive foliage and ability to adapt to a variety of sites[
This species is closely related to Crataegus opaca and is included in that species by some botanists.
Trees growing in a sunny position generally produce more and better quality fruit than trees growing in the shade[
Crataegus species often hybridize freely with other members of the genus[
]. This statement is not fully accurate; at least in the wild most Crataegus species usually breed true and only occasionally hybridize - in addition, any hybrids are usually putative[
Many Crataegus species are very variable with regard to fruit size and quality. Seedlings, even if obtained from a good fruiting form, can often be disappointing - though they can also be an improvement on the original form. The most reliable way of obtaining a good fruiting form is by grafting from a known good tree, or obtaining a named cultivar from a reliable source[
Seedling trees take from 5 - 8 years before they start bearing fruit, though grafted trees will often flower heavily in their third year[
Seedlings should not be left in a seedbed for more than 2 years without being transplanted[
The flowers have a foetid smell somewhat like decaying fish. This attracts midges which are the main means of fertilization. When freshly open, the flowers have more pleasant scent with balsamic undertones[
Fruit - raw or cooked[
]. Juicy and acid with a pleasant flavour[
]. The fruit is frequently used and much prized in parts of southern N. America where it is often gathered in quantity from the wild. Its acid flavour makes it a favourite for preserves and jellies[
]. The fruit can also be dried for later use. The red, occasionally yellow, globose is 8 - 20mm in diameter[227,270]. There are 4 - 5 fairly large seeds in the centre of the fruit, these often stick together and so the effect is of eating a cherry-like fruit with a single seed[
The plant has been used as a tea (probably the flowers and fruit[
]) in herbal folk medicine for the treatment of high blood pressure[
Although no further specific mention has been seen for this species, the fruits and flowers of many hawthorns are well-known in herbal folk medicine as a heart tonic and modern research has borne out this use. The fruits and flowers have a hypotensive effect as well as acting as a direct and mild heart tonic[
]. They are especially indicated in the treatment of weak heart combined with high blood pressure[
]. Prolonged use is necessary for it to be efficacious[
]. It is normally used either as a tea or a tincture[
Because it tolerates a wide variety of sites, this species can be used to stabilize stream banks, for shelterbelts, and to give protection from wind and water erosion[
A dwarf form from northern Florida (previously known as Crataegus monantha) has potential for use as a rootstock[
The wood of Crataegus species is generally of good quality, though it is often of too small a size to be of much value. It usually has a red-brown heartwood with a thick band of lighter-coloured, usually pale sapwood. The wood is heavy, extremely hard, tough and close-grained. Where wood of suficient diameter is found it is often greatly prized for use in turnery, and has traditionally been used for purposes such as making tool handles, mallets and other small items[
Seed - this is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame, some of the seed will germinate in the spring, though most will probably take another year. Stored seed can be very slow and erratic to germinate, it should be warm stratified for 3 months at 15°c and then cold stratified for another 3 months at 4°c[
]. It may still take another 18 months to germinate[
]. Scarifying the seed before stratifying it might reduce this time[
]. Fermenting the seed for a few days in its own pulp may also speed up the germination process[
]. Another possibility is to harvest the seed 'green' (as soon as the embryo has fully developed but before the seedcoat hardens) and sow it immediately in a cold frame. If timed well, it can germinate in the spring[
]. If you are only growing small quantities of plants, it is best to pot up the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in individual pots for their first year, planting them out in late spring into nursery beds or their final positions. When growing larger quantities, it might be best to sow them directly outdoors in a seedbed, but with protection from mice and other seed-eating creatures. Grow them on in the seedbed until large enough to plant out, but undercut the roots if they are to be left undisturbed for more than two years.