Hawthorn Berry Identification

A single hawthorn berry
A single hawthorn berry (Image: hawthorn berry image by Simon Bradley from Fotolia.com)

The Hawthorn berry is the pinnatifida species within the Crataegus genus, which is within the Rosaceae (rose) family. The hawthorn originated in China. The tree can serve an ornamental purpose, as it produces flowers and fruit. But the medicinal benefits of the hawthorn fruit are what makes this tree popular. However, the fruit, or entire tree, can be mistaken for other berry plants or trees, which may not be edible. Therefore, the hawthorn berry needs to be properly identified, and this can be done with a knowledge of the tree's size and characteristics, such as foliage and fruit color and shape, and habitat.

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Tthe main type of hawthorn berry is the Crataegus pinnatifida. A "large" variety, the Crataegus pinnatifida var.major, is also available. The major variety is similar to the main type, except that it is taller, thus the variety name major.

Form and Structure

The hawthorn berry tree can reach 18 to 22 feet in height, and the width of the tree will be a similar size. These dimensions produce a rounded, globular-shaped tree. Branches and trunk sections are grayish-brown to brown in color. The branches, when immature, will be purple-brown. The major variety is on average 2 to 3 feet taller.

Foliage and Flowers

Leaves are dark green, oval or triangular-oval (showing a wider base than oval) in shape, and 3 to 5 inches in length, 2 to 4 inches in width. Each leaf edge will have rounded serrations, which are created by lateral veins stretching across the top of the leaf, meeting at the edges. Flowers are .5 to 1 inch in diameter with white petals, .25 an inch or less in diameter.


The hawthorn fruit is globular, .75 to 1.25 inches in diameter, red to dark-red to pinkish-red, and is found in fruit clusters of three to five. A small stem, .1 an inch or less in diameter, connects the fruit to the branch. The fruit's underside, directly opposite the stem, shows a .25 inch wide gap, light-brown to brown in color. The major variety produces larger fruit, at least 1.5 inches in diameter.

Climate and Habitat

The hawthorn berry can survive in USDA hardiness zones 6 through 10, which correspond to Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Virginia, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, Florida, and California. The hawthorn can withstand frost.


The hawthorn berry tree is also known as the Chinese hawthorn. The hawthorn flowers in May, and the fruit will ripen and show its described colors from September to October.


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