Crataegus nigra

Crataegus nigra

The Hungarian hawthorn (Crataegus nigra Waldst. & Kit., 1802) is an arboreal species belonging to the Rosaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Subclass Rosidae, Rosales Order, Rosaceae Family, Maloideae Subfamily and therefore to the Crataegus Genus and to the C. nigra Species.

Etymology –
The term Crataegus comes from the Greek κράταιγος crátaigos cratego, hawthorn (composed of κρᾰταιóς crataiós strong, robust and from αἴξ, αἰγóς aíx, aigós capra): perhaps an allusion to the fact that its thorns would keep even goats away.
The specific epithet nigra comes from black niger, due to the color of the fruit.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Crataegus nigra is a plant native to a macaw that includes Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Albania and Yugoslavia and subsequently introduced in other countries.
Its typical habitat is that of the wooded areas of central and eastern Europe.

Description –
The Hungarian hawthorn is a deciduous tree that can reach 6 meters in height.
The foliage assumes a rounded shape in nature.
The branches are rather rigid and the young shoots are felted with a gray down, which subsequently becomes smoother and purplish; it bears about 1.3 cm long spines which are often however almost absent.
The leaves are triangular to ovate in shape, from cuneiform to almost straight at the base; this have a length of 4-10 cm with a width equal to two thirds of the length; they are made up of seven to eleven lobes, with the lower lobes reaching no more than half of the median rib, the upper ones less deep; furthermore, the teeth are acute and have a dull green color, with both surfaces downy; the petiole is rarely longer than 1.8 cm, very fluffy; the stipules are sharply and coarsely toothed.
The flowers are white which turn pink with age, collected in rather small corymbs. The calyx and the flower stems are gray-hairy; with twenty stamens and five styles. It is a species The hermaphrodite species pollinated by midges.
The antesis is in the period of May.
The fruit is a globose drupe up to a flattened globose belch, up to about 1.25 cm in diameter, of a bright and soft black color.

Cultivation –
Crataegus nigra is a plant that prefers moist or wet soils and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate strong winds but not of a maritime nature. It can also tolerate air pollution.
It is a very easy plant to grow and once stabilized, it also succeeds in excessively humid soils.
From a pedological point of view it grows well on calcareous and clayey soils.
As for exposure, it prefers that in full sun especially if it is grown for fruit.
This species freely hybridizes with other members of this genus.
Young plants take 5 to 8 years to begin bearing fruit, although grafted trees often bloom profusely in their third year.
The flowers have a fetid smell, which tastes of decaying fish, a factor that attracts the midges which are the main means of pollination. When they are just opened, the flowers have a more pleasant scent with balsamic undertones.
As far as propagation is concerned, it is possible to start from seed and in this case it is good to sow as soon as the fruits are ripe, in the autumn period, with already cold weather. In this case, some of the seed will sprout in spring, although most will probably take another year.
The stored seed, on the other hand, can be very slow and irregular to germinate; to facilitate germination it should be hot stratified for 3 months at 15 ° C and then cold stratified for another 3 months at 4 ° C. in this case it may take another 18 months to germinate. Scarifying the seed before stratifying it could reduce this time. Fermenting the seed for a few days in its own pulp can also speed up the germination process.
If you are growing only small amounts of plants, it is best to pot the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow in individual pots for their first year, planting them in late spring in flower beds or their final locations. When growing larger quantities, it may be best to sow them directly outdoors in a seedbed, but with protection from mice and other seed-feeding creatures. In this case they must be grown in the seedbed until they are large enough to be planted, but the roots must be trimmed if they are to be left undisturbed for more than two years. In general, seedlings should not be left in a seedbed for more than 2 years without being transplanted.

Customs and Traditions –
Crataegus nigra is a plant on which there are few mentions and scientific works on the matter.
However, the fruits and flowers of many hawthorns are known to be well known in popular herbal medicine as a heart tonic and modern research has confirmed this use. The fruits and flowers have a hypotensive effect as well as acting as a direct and gentle heart tonic. They are particularly indicated in the treatment of patients with a weak heart system combined with high blood pressure. To be effective, however, prolonged use is necessary.
The leaves, young shoots, flowers and fruits of this plant are normally used both as tea and as a tincture.
Among its edible uses, fruit is used, both raw and cooked.
Fruits have up to five fairly large seeds in the center of the fruit, these often stick together and so it feels like eating a cherry-like fruit with a single seed.
Among other uses, wood is used which is heavy, hard and fine-grained; this is useful for making tool handles, clubs and other small items.

Preparation Method –
Of the Hungarian hawthorn both the leaves, the young shoots, the flowers that can be prepared to obtain a tea or tinctures are used.
Fruit, on the other hand, can be eaten both fresh and cooked. This can also be used to prepare cakes, preserves, etc. and can also be dried for later use.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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