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 acutiloba Sarg
Crataegus cyanophylla Sarg.
Crataegus demissa Sarg.
Crataegus iracunda brumalis (Ashe) Kruschke
Crataegus matura Sarg.
Crataegus pastorum Sarg.
Crataegus pentandra Sarg.
Crataegus roanensis Ashe
Crataegus tenella Ashe
Common Name: Big-Fruit Hawthorn
Crataegus macrosperma is a thorny, deciduous shrub or a tree, usually with multiple trunks; it can grow 3 - 7 metres tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food.
Eastern N. America - Minnesota and Ontario to Newfoundland, south to Arkansas, Alabama and North Carolina
Found in a variety of habitats, including thickets and open woods[
], woods and river banks in dry clay soils and rich moist soils along the margins of oak woodlands[
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Crataegus macrosperma is a very cold-hardy plant, able to tolerate temperatures down to around -25°c when dormant[
A very easily grown plant, it prefers a well-drained moisture retentive loamy soil but is not at all fussy[
]. Once established, it succeeds in excessively moist soils and also tolerates drought[
]. It grows well on a chalk soil and also in heavy clay soils[
]. A position in full sun is best when plants are being grown for their fruit, they also succeed in semi-shade though fruit yields and quality will be lower in such a position[
]. Most members of this genus succeed in exposed positions, they also tolerate atmospheric pollution[
Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[
This is a very variable species, more than 50 different names have been given to it[
]. It varies quite considerably in the size and quality of its fruit[
]. It is very closely related to, and possibly no more than a part of Crataegus flabellata[
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[
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[
Seedlings should not be left in a seedbed for more than 2 years without being transplanted[
Fruit - raw or cooked[
]. Fairly large with a reasonable flavour, it makes a very acceptable dessert fruit[
]. The fruit varies quite considerably in size and quality, some forms having a thin yellow flesh that is juicy and acid whilst others have a much thicker flesh that is rather mealy but with a good flavour[
]. The fruit can be used in making pies, preserves, etc, and can also be dried for later use. The bright to deep red, suborbicular to ellipsoid fruit can be 8 - 15mm in diameter[
]. It can be up to 20mm 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[
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[
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.