cockspur hawthorn

(Crataegus crus-galli)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

cockspur hawthorn


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Great Plains

FAC - Facultative


FAC - Facultative

Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative


Native to the eastern half of North America, including Wisconsin and Iowa. Historically native to Minnesota but no current populations known.

Photo by Kirk Nelson

Rare or absent, possibly extirpated


Moderate moisture to dry. River banks, streambanks, shores, woodland borders, fields, pastures, roadsides. Full to partial sun.


Late May

Flower Color



Up to 25



This is usually a very small tree but sometimes takes the form of a tree-like shrub. It can get up to 40 tall and up to 12 in diameter but in the northern states it is usually no more than 25 in height and 9 in diameter. It rises usually on a single stem from a woody, branching root system. It is moderate-growing horizontally but slow-growing vertically.

The trunk is short, often crooked, and armed with sharp, branched, up to 4 long thorns.

The crown is low, widely spreading, broadly rounded or depressed, and densely branched. The branches are densely twiggy and have numerous thorns. The thorns are slender, unbranched, straight or slightly curved, and 2 to 2¾ long. The thorns on the lower half of the stem are turned downward, resembling the spur on a rooster, and giving the plant the common name “cockspur”.

Bark on young branches is gray and slightly rough. Bark on older trunks is separated into flat, plate-like scales that become loose at both ends.

First year twigs are light green and hairless with numerous small, white pores (lenticels). Second year twigs are smooth, reddish or brownish, and hairless, with numerous small, white lenticels. Buds are plainly visible, not submerged or partially hidden. They are covered with 6 bright red or dark red, thick, hairless, somewhat fleshy scales. They are gummy when pressed between the fingers. The terminal bud is round to egg-shaped. The leaf scar is flat or only slightly raised, and has 3 bundle scars. The pith is round or nearly round and solid, not spongy.

The leaves are alternate and deciduous. They are on hairless, light green leaf stalks (petioles). The petioles are to ¾ long. They are not winged and do not have red glands on the margins.

There are two types of leaves. The leaf blades on flowering twigs are usually inversely egg-shaped or narrowly inversely egg-shaped, sometimes elliptic. They are leathery, ¾ to 2¾ long, to 1wide, and unlobed or nearly unlobed. They are at least twice as long as wide. They are narrowly wedge-shaped at the base and rounded at the tip. There is a prominent midvein and several lateral veins. The lateral veins branch before reaching the margin. The upper surface is dark green, hairless, and shiny. The lateral veins and usually also the midvein are not at all impressed on the upper surface. The lower surface is pale green and hairless. A network of veins between the lateral veins is visible on the lower surface. The margins are finely toothed, at least above the middle, with sharp, forward pointing teeth. Leaf blades on non-flowering twigs are larger, 2 to 3½ long and 1¼ to 3 wide, and are sometimes more obviously lobed.

The inflorescence is a branched, flat-topped cluster (corymb) of several flowers at the ends of twigs and branches. The corymbs are 2 to 3 in diameter. The stalks of the corymb and stalks of individual flowers are light green and hairless.

Each individual flower is up to ½ in diameter. There are 5 sepals, 5 petals, about 10 stamens, and 2 or 3 styles. The sepals are green and are fused at the base into a short tube and separated at the tip into 5 untoothed, narrowly lance-shaped to linear lobes. The petals are white and widely spreading. The stamens have pink or pale yellow anthers. The flowers are foul-smelling.

The fruit is a seed capsule with a fleshy, outer covering (pome). The pome is globe-shaped and ¼ to in diameter. It is green at first, becoming red when it reaches maturity in late mid-September to early October.


Dotted hawthorn (Crataegus punctata) leaves are hairy, at least on the lower surface. The upper leaf surface is dull, not shiny. The midvein and lateral veins are impressed on the upper leaf surface.

Pests and Diseases

American Hawthorn Rust (Gymnosporangium globosum)

fire blight (Erwinia amylovora)

hawthorn leafminer (Profenusa canadensis)

Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 24


A spineless form of this species is a popular cultivar.



Rosaceae (rose)
















Subordinate Taxa

cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli var. crus-galli)

cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli var. pyracanthifolia)

cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli var. regalis)




bush hawthorn

cockspur hawthorn

cockspur thorn















A flat-topped or convex inflorescence in which the stalked flowers grow upward from various points on the main stem to approximately the same horizontal plane. The outer flowers open first.



A corky, round or stripe-like, usually raised, pore-like opening in bark that allows for gas exchange.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



The stalk of a leaf blade or compound leaf that attaches the leaf blade to the stem.



The spongy cells in the center of the stem.



A fruit with a central seed bearing core enclosed in thick flesh, e.g., an apple or pear.



A small, leaf-like, scale-like, glandular, or rarely spiny appendage found at the base of a leaf stalk, usually occurring in pairs and usually dropping soon.


Visitor Photos

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Kirk Nelson

  cockspur hawthorn   cockspur hawthorn
  cockspur hawthorn    







  Cockspur Hawthorn Tree
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Cockspur Hawthorn Tree  

Crataegus crus-galli

  Crataegus crus galli
Angie Holmberg

Published on Jul 30, 2014






Visitor Videos

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Other Videos

  Cockspur Hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli)

Published on Apr 12, 2012






Visitor Sightings

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Kirk Nelson

Location: Baker Park Reserve

I saw this next to the Lake Independence Regional Trail in Baker Park Reserve. It appears to be a Cockspur Hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli)

cockspur hawthorn







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