hawthorn, any species of the genus Crataegus of the family Rosaceae (rose family), shrubs and trees widely distributed in north temperate climates and especially common in E North America. They usually have thorns, clusters of white (rarely rose-colored) flowers in the spring, and colorful orange, red, or yellow (rarely blue or black) fruits in the fall. The fruits, called haws, resemble tiny apples; some are used in jellies. Hawthorns are cultivated for ornament and, especially in England, for hedges ( haw also means hedge ). In England the flowers are associated with May Day, and the hawthorn (called also may, thorn, haw, whitethorn, and thorn apple) has long been used as a symbol of spring in English poetry. There are many legends surrounding the hawthorn, e.g., that of the Glastonbury thorn (see Glastonbury, England). English hawthorns are of two species, C. oxyacantha and C. monogyna; the common American hawthorn, with bright red haws, is C. coccinea, called scarlet, or red, haw (as are other similar species). A hawthorn is the state flower of Missouri. Hawthorn wood is very hard and is used for such small items as tool handles. The black haw is a viburnum (see honeysuckle). Hawthorn is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Rosaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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