Nature on our doorsteps: Hawthorn

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Hawthorn is one of our most plentiful hedgerow species. It is also referred to as Whitethorn, and because it flowers in May it is sometimes called May Flower, May Blossom, or the May bush.

Being a native Irish plant, Hawthorn is an important plant for biodiversity.  It supports over 300 insects, including pollinators and leaf-eating caterpillars of moths.

Hawthorns flowers are visited by honeybees hoveflies and solitary bees. 1

Hawthorn's flowers are visited by honeybees, hoverflies, and solitary bees


Its autumn fruits (haws) are also devoured by birds like Thrushes, Blackbirds and migrating Fieldfares and Redwings. 

Hawthorn’s white flowers are sometimes delicately blushed with pink, and its scent is loved by many.  Some people, however, find its fragrance rather unpleasant.

There is an old saying which advises that we should ‘cast ne’er a clout till May is out’.  The word ‘clout’ is an old English word for cloth or clothes, so the old saying is advising that we should not cast off our warm winter clothes until May is over. 

This is very good advice, whether it is referring to the month of May or to the Hawthorn’s flowering period between late April to the end of May. 

In May it is easy to see why Hawthorn is sometimes called the May Flower 1

In May, it is easy to see why Hawthorn is sometimes called the May Flower

This is a time when the weather can be very changeable.                                             

Lovely warm spells can suddenly be interrupted by cold, windy, and wet weather, so it is indeed probably best to wait until the end of May before completely putting away the winter woollies!

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