Washington Hawthorn Trees

Picture of Washington hawthorn tree with berries? Photo shows specimen massively fruiting.
Washington hawthorn tree can put on quite a berry display. David Beaulieu

Plant Taxonomy of Washington Hawthorn Trees:

Plant taxonomy classifies Washington hawthorn trees as Crataegus phaenopyrum.

Plant Type:

Washington hawthorn trees are deciduous flowering trees.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones for Washington Hawthorn Trees:

The climate is most favorable for growing Washington hawthorn trees in USDA plant hardiness zones 5-9.

Characteristics of Washington Hawthorn Trees:

Generally speaking, Washington hawthorn trees attain a height of 25'-35', with a spread of 25'-35'.

They produce white blooms in clusters, in late spring to early summer. The flowers yield to red berries that persist throughout winter and are eaten by birds, such as cedar waxwings. The bark of Washington hawthorn trees is attractive, and the branches bear thorns. Summer leaves are a shiny, dark green; fall foliage ranges from orange to red.

Sun and Soil Requirements:

Grow Washington hawthorn trees in full sun, where the soil has good drainage. Once established, they are reasonably drought-tolerant.

Uses in Landscape Design:

Washington hawthorn trees are attractive enough to be treated as specimens, and their foliage is dense enough for them to be used en masse as privacy screens. Some homeowners take advantage of the thorns of Washington hawthorn trees and prune them into security hedges.

Other Hawthorns:

Washington hawthorn trees are native to the Southeastern U.S. But they are not the only hawthorns.

Indian hawthorns (Rhaphiolepis indica) are broadleaf evergreens that are cold hardy only to zone 7. Note that they're of an entirely different genus.

English hawthorns (Crataegus laevigata) are sacred to the fairies in formerly Celtic lands. They're part of the "fairy-tree triad" that also includes oak and ash.

Legend has it that where all three of these trees grow together, one may see fairies.

The Name: "Hawthorne" Trees or "Hawthorn" Trees?:

You'll sometimes see the misspelling, "hawthorne" trees. You may even remember seeing the name, "Hawthorne" in a book, convincing you that it's the proper spelling. But if so, chances are that the book was about literature, not trees. For Nathaniel Hawthorne was a great American writer of the 19th century. But the tree name is spelled without the "e." It is composed of "haw" (name for the berry of Crataegus laevigata) and "thorn" (for its thorny branches).

More on Washington Hawthorn Trees:

Washington hawthorn trees bloom in late spring to early summer. For homeowners who grow some of the popular flowering specimens that bloom earlier in the spring (e.g., flowering dogwoods), late bloomers such as Washington hawthorn trees can help bridge the gap between the spring's display of blooms and autumn's foliage show. For while the blossoms of early bloomers are pleasant sights for eyes sore from winter's barrenness, they desert us too quickly.

 Thoughtful landscape planning demands a yard with four-season interest.

Note that this specimen is among the many common landscaping plants poisonous to dogs. But on a positive note, they are deer-resistant.

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