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.
Crataegus acutifolia Sarg.
Crataegus algens Beadle
Crataegus barrettiana Sarg.
Crataegus bushii Sarg.
Crataegus cherokeensis Sarg.
Crataegus cocksii Sarg.
Crataegus danielsii Palmer
Crataegus fecunda Sarg.
Crataegus fontanesiana auct. non (Spach) Steud.
Crataegus hannibalensis Palmer
Crataegus operta Ashe
Crataegus permixta Palmer
Crataegus pyracanthoides Beadle
Crataegus regalis Beadle
Crataegus sabineana Ashe
Crataegus schizophylla Eggl.
Crataegus signata Beadle
Crataegus subpilosa Sarg.
Crataegus tantula Sarg.
Crataegus tenax Ashe
Crataegus triumphalis Sarg.
Crataegus unique Sarg.
Crataegus vallicola Sarg.
Common Name: Cockspur Thorn
Crataegus crus-galli is a thorny, deciduous shrub or a tree usually with a more or less flat-topped crown and spreading, often horizontal branches; it can grow from 5 - 10 metres tall[
The plant is sometimes harvested from the wild for local use as a food and source of materials. It is sometimes used as a rootstock for other Crataegus species and is often grown as an ornamental, where it can be used to make an effective thorny hedge that deters interuders.
Crataegus crus-galli is one of the more abundant North American hawthorns. It is commonly grown as an ornamental, and has sometimes escaped from cultivation - it has been reported as naturalized in Holland and other parts of Europe[
Eastern N. America - Ontario to Quebec and New York, south to Texas and Florida
Thickets and open ground, especially in dry or rocky places[
]. Usually found on the slopes of low hills in rich soils[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Crataegus crus-galli is a moderately cold-hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to around -20°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 grows well on a chalk soil and also in heavy clay soils[
]. Once established, many species can tolerate a range of difficult conditions including drought; excessively moist 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[
A very ornamental plant[
]. There are many named forms, selected for their ornamental value[
Crataegus crus-galli is one of the more abundant North American hawthorns and may occur in more or less pure stands sometimes many hectares in size[
This species is variable, a situation attested to by its synonymy, most of which belongs to var. crus-galli. Some forms are locally distinct and may represent apomictic clones[
This plant is often confused in cultivation with Crataegus prunifolia. 'Splendens'[
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[
]. A dry flesh, it is used in jellies[
]. The fruit is borne in small clusters and often persists on the tree until spring[
]. This suggests that it does not make very good eating[
]. The usually ruddy to crimson, sometimes bright yellow, more or less oblong to suborbicular fruit is 8 - 15mm in diameter[
]. There are up to five 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[
A form of the plant previously distinguished as Crataegus canbyi is said to have fruit that is about 12mm in diameter with a thick, bright red, juicy flesh[
Although no 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[
Very amenable to trimming, the plant can even be cut right back into very old wood and will resprout freely. It is often used as a hedge[
], where its thorny habit can make it an effective barrier.
The plant has sometimes been used as a rootstock for grafting cultivars of Crataegus opaca[
Wood - fine-grained, hard and heavy. Used for tool handles etc[
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.