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.
Azarolus crataegoides Borkh.
Azarolus maroccana (Lindl.) M.Roem.
Crataegus aronia (L.) DC.
Crataegus chrysoclada Gand.
Crataegus linnaeana Pojark.
Crataegus orientalis aronia (L.) Lange
Crataegus oxyacantha azarolus (L.) Lam.
Crataegus pontica K.Koch
Crataegus ruscinonensis Gren. & Blanc
Lazarolus oxyacanthoides Borkh.
Mespilus aronia (L.) Willd.
Mespilus azarolus (L.) All.
Mespilus azarolus (L.) Duhamel
Pyrus azarolus (L.) Scop.
Common Name: Azarole
Crataegus azarolus is a deciduous shrub or a tree that can grow up to 10 metres tall[
]. Plants can range from very thorny to almost thorn-free, especially in cultivated forms[
The Azarole has a long history of cultivation for its edible fruit, though it is only grown on a very small scale at present(2017). The plant also has a useful wood and medicinal properties. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental, can be used as a rootstock and in shelterbelt plantings.
The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2013)[
Southeast Europe - Greece; W. Asia - Turkey, south to Egypt (Sinai ), east to Irag, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan; N. Africa - Tunisia
Dry hillsides and mountains in woods and hedges[
]. In macchie, garrigue, rocky places, wastelands, roadsides, olive groves, vineyards and hedges, growing on limestone, sandstone and volcanic rocks; at elevations from sea level to 2,000 metres[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
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[
]. 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[
Trees growing in a sunny position generally produce more and better quality fruit than trees growing in the shade[
The azarole has long been cultivated for its edible fruit and useful wood in southern Europe, though it is now going out of favour[
]. There are some named varieties[
The azarole is sometimes treated as a single, very variable species, whilst other treatments divide it into a number of varieties. Where seen as comprising distinct varieties, the following forms are cultivated:-
Crataegus azarolus azarolus. Closest to the wild form, it is grown mainly in southern France, Sardinia and Italy. The tree is thorny, the large fruits are orange coloured.
Crataegus azarolus chlorocarpa (Moris) K.I.Chr. The tree is less thorny than the wild form, the yellow fruits are larger, exceptionally to 60mm in diameter. Some seedless forms are grown.
Crataegus azarolus pontica (K.Koch) K.I.Chr. The tree is free from thorns with yellow or orange, juicy fruits around 25mm in diameter. The plant has a more easterly range, extending to central Asia.
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 in pies, preserves etc[
]. The fruit can be used fresh or dried for later use. A pleasant acid taste, reminiscent of dried apples[
]. In warm temperate areas the fruit develops more fruit sugars and has a fragrant sugary pulp with a slightly acid flavour[
]. It can be eaten out of hand. In cooler zones, however, the fruit does not develop so well and is best cooked or used in preserves[
]. The fruit is very variable, ranging in colour from yellow to orange, often tinged with red and often becoming dark red when dried; the shape can be depressed globose, globose or slightly pyriform; size can range from 8 - 35mm long and 8 - 27mm in diameter[
]. There are usually 2 - 3 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 dried leaves are used as a tea substitute[
The raw fruits, or a decoction of the leaves, is taken early in the day in the treatment of sugar diabetes[
A decoction of the leaves is used to treat gastric ulcers[
Oil from the fruit is used to treat a heart condition[
The leaves have been shown to have substantial antioxidant, antiinflammatory, and antiproliferative activities[
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[
In arid regions the trees are planted in forest belts and windbreaks[
The trees are suitable as frost resistant rootstocks for pears and quinces[
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.