May Hawthorn (Aestivalis)

The May Hawthorn (Aestivalis) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The May Hawthorn (Aestivalis) has dark green foliage and inconspicuous white flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous red fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The May Hawthorn (Aestivalis) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a slow growth rate. At maturity, the typical May Hawthorn (Aestivalis) will reach up to 26 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 26 feet.

The May Hawthorn (Aestivalis) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -8°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Erosion Control: Because it tolerates a wide variety of sites, it can be planted to stabilize banks, for shelterbelts, and from wind and water erosion.

Timber: Although the wood is hard and strong, it has no commercial value except for tool handles and other small items. Fruits are often gathered for jellies.

Wildlife: It provides excellent cover and nesting sites for many smaller birds. Birds, rodents, and other smaller mammals eat the small fruits. White tailed deer browse the young twigs and leaves.

Beautification/landscape: It is used in beautification project around homes, city streets, and office buildings. It is excellent for environmental plantings, including small specimen tree and shrub borders.

General Characteristics

General: It is a spiny tree that grows to forty feet high and fifteen inches DBH. Leaves are narrow, broadest above or near the middle, dark green and shiny, serrated, seldom lobed and smooth. Flowers are white, produced singly or in two or three flowered clusters. Fruits are broadest above the middle or rounded, and red in color.

Required Growing Conditions

May hawthorn grows on the outer coastal plain from North Carolina to Mississippi. For current distribution, please consult the plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Although it will succeed in partial shade and different soil types, it grows best in full sunlight, well-drained loamy soils. May hawthorn will tolerate wet soils becoming drought tolerant once established. It is wind tolerant making it a good tree species in shelterbelt planting. It is also tolerant of atmospheric pollution and performs well in urban settings. It is commonly found in river swamps, pond areas, and stream banks.

Cultivation and Care

Propagation from Seed or Grafting: May hawthorn can be propagated by either seeds or grafting. Successful propagation using seeds requires acid scarification followed by warm stratification and prechilling. Seeds, whose numbers per pound (lb.) varies with species, are planted early in the fall, in drill rows eight to twelve inches apart and covered with 1/4 inch of soil. Seedlings must not be kept in the nursery longer than a year.

Containerized trees should be planted when they are no more than eight feet tall, in the fall or early spring. Balled and burlapped trees should be planted in early spring.

Grafting on seedling stock of Crataegus oxyacantha or Crataegus monogyna is best carried out in the winter to early spring.

General Upkeep and Control

Pruning should be done in the winter or early spring in order to maintain a clear shoot leader on young trees and/or remove the weakest branches to allow more light to pass through. Suckers or stems arising from the roots should be removed when they become noticeable.

Pest and Potential Problems Although pests and diseases seldom affect Crataegus aestivalis it is susceptible to fire-blight, cedar-hawthorn rust, cedar-quince rust, leaf blight and fruit rot, and leaf spot.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Slow
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Multiple Stem
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 26
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color White
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Summer
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -8
Soil Depth for Roots 18
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing Yes
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4.3–7.3 pH
Precipitation Range 34–34 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 18
Minimum Frost-Free Days 180 day(s)
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA