Some plants lose their flowers gracefully, even beautifully, others don’t. One that falls into the beautiful category is the hawthorn, shown in the above photo, covering the ground beneath it in a blanket of pale pink.
Hawthorns have a lot of positive attributes – prolific bloom, lovely petal drop, red fall berries, small stature and drought tolerance. I admire them when they flower in May. I don’t want one. Paul’s Scarlet (Cratagus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’) puts me off the whole genus. ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ is a knockout in bloom, smothered in deep pink blossoms. Up close, the flowers are nicely set off against the green of the leaves; however, a month or so later, the flowers and many of those leaves are gone and the tree looks 3 parts dead. I can recognize a ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ by its sickly appearance at 50 mph.
Although not all hawthorns are susceptible to the fungal disease that defoliates ‘Paul’s Scarlet’, they have a number of downsides. They are prone to quite a list of pests and diseases. The flowers are generally perceived to have an unpleasant smell, which like so many scents, I don’t notice much. Reading the snippets that show up on the google search for “hawthorn scent” is revealing:
- a pungent odor, similar to the smell of decomposing flesh
- Turks used blossoming hawthorn branches as an erotic symbol. To the men, it had a strong scent of female sexuality
- reminiscent of rotting meat
- A Fragrance only a Fly would Love
- stale, sweet
- reminded me of the smell of a seashell path warmed by sun
Of course, hawthorns generally have thorns – 1-5″ long so beware when pruning. Lastly, the berries can be viewed as a positive – attracting wildlife, a nice red color in winter, or a negative – messy berry drop, depending on your point of view.
Beautiful but smelly in bloom. Prone to diseases and pests (some more than others). Well armed and potentially messy. A haven for birds. Tough and drought tolerant. Worth planting? I still say no; I’ll limit myself to admiring everyone else’s.
For more (positive) info on hawthorns go yet again to the Great Plant Picks site.
To see a list of the many pests and diseases that plague hawthorns go to GardenGuides.com site.
*For pictures of various hawthorns at different times of the year, check out the Oregon State University Landscape Plants website.