The crataegus plant – better known as the hawthorn – is a large genus of flowering trees and shrubs from the rosaceae family. The hawthorn flower is native to more temperate areas of Europe, Asia and North America, and can easily grow in either full or partial sun, and within a variety of soil types. Interspersed among strong, toothy leaves, the hawthorn flower blossoms from small white balls into delicate white, five-petaled blooms. These blooms surround tiny, pink-headed stamens, and are backed by five star shaped sepals. The stem of these flowers may appear to be vaguely swollen, this is due to the fact that it contains seeds that will, by the fall, develop into appealing red berries.
The branches of the hawthorn flower were once traditionally used as decorative pieces that were placed in the home on the first day of May. Although this tradition has changed – due, of course, to the use of the Gregorian calendar, which altered the time of flower blossoming – many others can be found. For instance, hawthorns were once thought to be important staples of ancient Greek wedding ceremonies. This is still occasionally true today, as flowering hawthorn branches are thought to be talismans for hope. As well as having many traditions, the hawthorn flower is widely known for its uses as both food and medicine. The flowers themselves are considered potent diuretics, and flavorful additions to salads; the leaves are thought to be effective when used in smoking cessation, while the buds can be boiled and buttered as a side-dish; the berries that burst forth from the flowers are sometimes used to create powerful cardiac tonics, and – when finely crushed – sweet sauces and jams. Hawthorns have also made their way into a variety of folklore. One such example states that, according to Irish legends, the hawthorn tree is the domain of fairies. If the tree is cut before it is in bloom, bad luck will befall the person who damaged the tree.
Depending upon the time period and the region, hawthorns have had their fair share of symbolism. To English poets, these plants have long represented the beauty of spring, while in medieval Europe, the hawthorn signified something more sinister – mainly death. On the other hand, in ancient Rome and Greece these plants were given happier symbolism, as they were thought to represent hope and happy, fruitful marriages. Today, this message is still true. When given as gifts, these delicate, beautiful flowers can be very expressive. By presenting these flowers, you can easily tell the recipient that you wish the best for them.