The Difference in Hawthorn Berries, Leaves and Flowers

Hawthorns generally grow to between 20 and 30 feet tall with a rounded 20- to 30-foot wide canopy. They produce clusters of small, white, five-petaled flowers in the spring which may be odorless, pleasantly fragrant or have an unpleasant odor. All hawthorns have dark green leaves in the summer, but there are differences in leaf shape and fall color. They all develop small red berries that are edible but not very tasty, although the birds eat them.

  1. Crataegus Coccinea

    • Most hawthorn trees have 1- to 3-inch-long thorns.
      Most hawthorn trees have 1- to 3-inch-long thorns.

      Crataegus coccinea, commonly known as scarlet or Ontario hawthorn, has rounded, oblong, 3-inch-long leaves with serrated edges. The leaves on this species change to orange or burgundy in autumn. Its flowers have an unpleasant odor. Half-inc- diameter fruits ripen in early to mid-autumn and remain on the tree until late autumn or early winter.

    Crataegus Laevigata

    • C. laevigata, commonly known as English hawthorn, has 2 1/2-inch-long leaves with three to five lobes and finely serrated edges. Its leaves do not change color in the fall, and the flowers have no fragrance. Its berries are 1/2 inch in diameter. There are hybrid cultivars of this species with single- or double-form flowers in pink, red, rose or white. The original species is generally not commercially available.

    Crataegus Nitida

    • C. nitida, commonly called glossy or shining hawthorn, has 3-inch-long leaves with coarsely serrated edges and pointed tips. The leaves may or may not have several lobes and are shinier than other hawthorn species. The flowers on this tree have an unpleasant odor and the leaves develop fall colors similar to scarlet hawthorn. The fruit is 3/8 inch in diameter and remains on the tree until spring.

    Crataegus Phaenopyrum

    • C. phaenopyrum, commonly known as Washington hawthorn, has 1- to 3-inch-long leaves with a slightly rounded triangular shape. Each leaf has sharply pointed lobes along the entire length, and the edges are coarsely serrated. The leaves have a red tint in the spring but change to dark glossy green by summer and orange or red in autumn. This species blooms later in the spring than other hawthorns. The fruit is only 1/4 inch in diameter, ripens in early autumn and generally remains on the tree until spring.

    Crataegus Punctata

    • The C. punctata hawthorn has 3-inch-long leaves that are oblong with shallow lobes and finely serrated edges on the upper half. They occasionally change to bright red in the fall. The flowers are produced in mid- to late spring and have a pleasant fragrance. The berries on this species have tiny white spots and are 3/4 inch in diameter. They may remain on the tree until early to midwinter but normally fall off by the end of autumn.

    Crataegus Viridis

    • C. viridis, commonly known as green hawthorn, has 3 1/2-inch-long leaves that are oval to softly triangular in shape with shallow lobes toward the tip of the leaf. They are coarsely serrated along the edges. Its autumn leaf color is burgundy or bright red. This species produces small, 2-inch-diameter clusters of pleasantly fragrant flowers in mid-spring. The red fruits are only 1/4 inch in diameter and commonly remain on the tree until spring. The berries on this species are occasionally used to make jelly for human consumption.

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