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Quickthorn, Thornapple, May-tree, Whitethorn, or Hawberry
Hawthorn - (Crataegus oxyacantha) is a common thorny shrub or tree in the Rose family with white, pink or scarlet flowers, followed by red or black fruits called Haws. Hawthorns are robust and adaptable plants and tend to thrive wherever they are found in the temperate climates around the world, from sunny hillsides to urban gardens. Their hard wood and dense branches made Hawthorn a favorite since the early days of England for demarcating roadsides and property lines, so much so that the white flowering shrubs are an iconic characteristic of the landscape in the region.
Hawthorn has been called “The Queen of May '' owing to the time it blooms, and has been used in May Day, weddings and spring celebrations symbolizing abundance and fertility. Hawthorn has a long, rich history of tradition and folklore around it from being an entrance to the faery world to harboring pots of gold beneath its dense thicket of branches. As much as it was revered as a symbol of fertility, divinity and good luck though, it was also at times believed to harbor evil spirits and bring bad luck if you brought one of its branches into your house, bringing illness and certain death. This could have something to do with the fact that, though lovely, some Hawthorn species carry a particularly foul odor from an abundance of a chemical called trimethylamine - the same one present in decaying flesh!
More than just beauty and folktales, Hawthorn is one of the oldest known medicinal plants, dating back to the ancient Greek physician Dioscorides in the 1st century AD. Ever since that time, Hawthorn has been used by healers and herbalists to support everything from digestion and kidney function to anxiety. But it is most famous and widely used for its beneficial effects on the heart. For the physical heart, Hawthorn contains antioxidant flavonoids that are believed to help maintain healthy circulation and blood flow, the strength of blood vessels and the musculature of the heart itself. The benefits of Hawthorn are believed to extend to the emotional heart, too - especially for women and those suffering the trials of a broken heart. Dried Hawthorn Berries can be decocted for a slightly earthy and refreshingly tart tea - delicious either hot or iced!