(Crataegus spp.)

Photo by Nancy Falkum

There are about 230 species of hawthorn worldwide, at least 152 in North America north of Mexico, and 12 species in Minnesota. Two additional species, historically native to Minnesota, have not been seen in the state for more than 100 years and are now presumed extirpated.

Hawthorns need full sun to moderate shade, only a moderate amount of water, and little competition from other shrubs and trees. The seeds take two years to germinate. The plants grow slowly and are long-lived. They flower in the spring while the leaves are expanding, and produce abundant fruits in the fall. The seeds are dispersed by mammals and birds.


Hawthorns are often an important part of an ecological community. They provide shelter for birds and mammals, are hosts for many species of moths and butterflies, and provide food in winter for wildlife, especially thrushes and waxwings. Their numbers have been decreasing in the state due to several factors, including conversion of land to agriculture, fire suppression, competition from eastern redcedar, and susceptibility to cedar apple rust, which reduces the number of flowers and produces deformed fruits with aborted seeds.


Hawthorns are small trees or shrubs. The trunks are sometimes armed with simple or compound thorns. The branches often have straight or curved thorns. The leaves are deciduous and alternate, They are scattered on the branches and crowded at the tips of short branchlets. Leaf margins have gland-tipped teeth. The inflorescence is small, dome-shaped to flat-topped, branched clusters (panicles) of several to many flowers at the end of short branchlets. The flowers have 5 sepals, 5 petals, 10 to 20 stamens, and 2 to 5 styles. The fruit (pome) is 2 to 5 stones surrounded by thick flesh.

Where two or more hawthorn species occur in close proximity they often hybridize, producing plants with intermediate characteristics and making identification to the species level difficult.


Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 24, 28, 29, 30.

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Rosales (roses, elms, figs, and allies)  


Rosaceae (rose)  
  Subfamily Amygdaloideae  
  Tribe Maleae  
  Subtribe Malinae  



Subordinate Taxa


Section Coccineae


Series Coccineae


scarlet hawthorn (Crataegus coccinea) (possibly extirpated)


Series Crus-galli


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


Series Macracanthae


fleshy hawthorn (Crataegus succulenta)

large-thorned hawthorn (Crataegus macracantha)

late hawthorn (Crataegus calpodendron)


Series Molles


downy hawthorn (Crataegus mollis var. mollis)

Quebec hawthorn (Crataegus submollis)


Series Punctatae


dotted hawthorn (Crataegus punctata)


Series Rotundifoliae

    fireberry hawthorn (Crataegus chrysocarpa var. chrysocarpa)

Series Tenuifoliae


bigfruit hawthorn (Crataegus macrosperma)

Fort Sheridan hawthorn (Crataegus fluviatilis)


Section Douglasia


Series Douglasianae


Douglas hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii)


Great Plains hawthorn (Crataegus sheridana)

rough-leaved hawthorn (Crataegus scabrida) (possibly extirpated)






Common Names













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Sheila Mattson

    hawthorn (Crataegus sp.)      

Nancy Falkum

    hawthorn (Crataegus sp.)      



thorns on a hawthorn tree near MN/IA border

    hawthorn (Crataegus sp.)      
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos








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Visitor Sightings

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  Sheila Mattson

Location: Wright County

hawthorn (Crataegus sp.)  
  Nancy Falkum

Location: Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA, South Unit

hawthorn (Crataegus sp.)  

Location: near MN/IA border

thorns on a hawthorn tree

hawthorn (Crataegus sp.)  
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings




Created: 5/24/2017

Last Updated:

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