The common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna Jacq., 1775) is a shrub or a very branched tree with spines belonging to the Rosaceae family. The characteristic of this species is its longevity, becoming centenary.
Systematically speaking, the common hawthorn belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, the Kingdom Plantae, the Magnoliophyta Division, the Magnoliopsida Class, the Rosidae Subclass, the Rosales Order, the Rosaceae Family, the Subfamily Maloideae and then the Genera Crataegus and the Specie C. monogyna.
The name of the genus comes from the Greek “Kratos” = strength, in reference to the robustness of the plant and in particular the wood; The Greek-specific epithet “mónos” = unique and “gynè” = female indicates that the flower has only one pistil that is the female reproductive organ.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Crataegus monogyna is present in all regions of Italy. Its typical habitat is that of xerofil woods, hedges, bushes and bushes, patches, woods and grassy slopes, preferring for limestone soils from the sea coast to the mountain up to 1,600 m s.l.m. The Crataegus species includes shrubs and small trees (up to 10 m), lobed leaves, and spiny branches. The flowers are white and typically release specific compounds called amines that act as attractants for pollinator insects. The flowers come with red fruits. It is originally from Europe and Asia.
The common hawthorn is a small tree, though it often appears as deciduous shrub; Bushy, with folded root; Glossy or elongated hair; Sinuous trunk, often rambling from the base with a compact bark that in young plants is smooth in light gray color while it is brunastra or red-ocracea and flattens into plaques in the old specimens. The twigs are brown-reddish color, lateral ones end frequently with pointed and dark thorns up to 2 cm long, the old + gray branches are gray-ash.
The height of the plant is generally between 2 ÷ 5 m, but it can also reach 12 m; Has a very slow growth and can live up to 500 years.
The gems are alternate, spiraling, reddish and brilliant; Under the side buds, straight thorns sprout.
The fallen leaves, taken from a small grooved petiole, are alternate, simple, bright and glossy green on the top, glabrous green on the bottom, glabrous, rhomboid or oval, toothed margin, divided into 3 to 7 very deep lobes Full margin and only present on the apex a few teeth; The insertion on the branches is provided with toothed and gingival chords.
The flowers of the Crataegus monogyna are scented of white or slightly pink, are assembled in erect, simple or compound corpuscles, carried by villous peduncles, have cadutaous brattees with whole or denticolated margin, goblet with 5 triangular-oval lacinias; Corolla with 5 subtle petals, petals (15 ÷ 20) multiple violet beads inserted on the edge of a greenish-brunastro receptacle with glabrous monocarpellar ovary and a single greenish stylet stylus with flattened stigma, very rarely some flowers have 3 styles. The fruits (which are actually false fruit as they result from the growth of the floral recipe and not from the ovary) gathered in dense clusters, are small drupe with Ø about 7-10 mm, red and fleshy maturation, crowned At the apex of the calycin lacinium residues, delimiting a small circular depressed area; Contain only one yellow-brown kernel.
For cultivation look at the specific tab.
Uses and Traditions –
In order to give a comprehensive description and valid for all species of hawthorn it is quite difficult because it is a huge genus. Some authors indicate that there are no less than 1000 species of European, Asian and North American origin. In the old continent there are at least nineties, of which only two or three (depending on the authors) are endemic to our peninsula. However, these are diffused virtually everywhere, up to 1500 meters in height. Their habitat for election is the margins of the woods.
In the horticultural field, it is widely used as an isolated specimen, but the most common use has always been for hedge formation. These combine aesthetic beauty with the undoubted advantage of giving the property protection from intruders and wild animals. In fact, crataegus is capable, if properly pruned, of creating unbreakable barriers.
Another undeniable advantage is the ability of this shrub to make the garden “alive”: in its fronds the nest is made up of many small birds, which also feed their berries during the winter. During the vegetative period, however, with its abundant flowers it is able to attract pleasing insects such as bees and butterflies.
Fruits and hawthorn leaves contain many active ingredients, ranging from many flavonoids, to active principles with sedative, vasodilators, cardiotonic, digestive and anxiolytic effects.
The active principles of hawthorn are the procyanidines of which the most important are the oligomeric procyanides (about 3%), flavonoids (such as vitexin, hyperoside, luteolin, apigenine, luteolina-3,7-diglucoside and quercin), bioflavonoids and flavoglucosides, routine , Terpenic complexes, ascorbic acid, essential oils, tannins, crategin, chlorogenic acid and sapogenine, vitamins C and P.
Hawthorn is used in cardiovascular disorders of nervous origin. It supports and protects cardiac and circulatory functions. In the tendency to high blood pressure. Which relaxing. Generally as protective of the cardiovascular apparatus.
Hawthorn may have a possible synergistic interaction with digital, beta-blocking, and other antihypertensive drugs (generally if you are taking medicines for pressure or circulation, consult your doctor).
Hawthorn, today, a well-known and used plant, has in fact achieved its relatively little success. It was only in the late nineteenth century that some medical research by American physicians followed by French physician Leclerc led to a significant diffusion of the use.
Although modern studies characterize it as primarily indicated in cardiovascular disorders, however, traditional use as a relaxing plant remains one of the best known. Recently, research has also begun to make the first attempts to understand and support this activity.
Among the relaxing plants is obviously the most suitable one in cases where phenomena such as palpitations or a slight increase in blood pressure are caused by a particularly stressful period and for this reason some of them are in fact called the “Valeriana del cuore”.
In addition to this function, hawthorn has properties: diuretics, hypotensive, astringent, antispasmodic, sedative, vasodilating, anti-diarrheal.
The Hawthorn is used to appease the sense of anguish and oppression and anxiety.
The therapeutic use of the plant has been certified since the thirteenth century, but in the old manuals it is treated by the Hawthorn still alongside the digitoids, and this original interpretation has led to confusion: similexigital glycosides or other active ingredients, which compensates for a heart Insufficient, in Hawthorn are not present. Today, however, it is proven that Hawthorn is actually a real medicinal plant for the heart and circulatory disorders.
In Holland and Belgium the fruit pulp was mixed with flour for bread production, while roasted seeds were used as a substitute for coffee during World War II.
Crataegus has been known since antiquity for its cardiotonic abilities. The active substance is derived from flowers, fruits and bark. It also appears to be sedative and is used in herbal medicine and homeopathy.
In popular medicine, fruits were used as a remedy against various diseases, from heart problems to insomnia.
Even in traditional Chinese medicine, fruits of some varieties of hawthorn are used, for their beneficial effects on digestion.
Dried leaves and fruits are often found as herbal teas and syrups, to be used in problems related to insomnia and excitement.
In fact, there are some clinical studies that confirm the usefulness of the hawthorn extract (but only of some species), which give the benefits of problems related to cardiac function, and in particular it seems that hawthorn fruits are able to Adjust your heart rate.
Herbal products based on hawthorn should therefore be used with caution and under the direct control of a physician or a good herbalist.
It is clear that the active principles contained in the plant can have harmful effects, but only if taken in massive amounts, which is very difficult; Jams made with fruits, and herbs containing dried leaves or fruits should not be a concern.
Hawthorn is a shrub known to man since ancient times. Its name Crataegus comes from the Greek “kratos” which means “strength” and refers to both its wood (very robust and required by carpenters), and to the general appearance of the plant that, from the first glance, gives an impression of Great resistance.
Some archeological sites dating back to Neolithic have found seeds of the Hawthorn fruits, which suggests they were consumed as food.
In ancient Greece and Rome, Hawthorn was considered a highly symbolic plant linked to the ideas of hope, marriage and fertility. The Romans dedicated him to Maia, the goddess of May and chastity.
The brides of Greek brides adorned with Hawthorns and the brides wore a twig in her hand. The Romans laid the leaves in the children’s cribs to get rid of evil spirits. Several customs are related to the Hawthorn as the one dating back to the pre-Christian era to go to the calendering party and to choose a queen. In the pagan times the king and queen of May were killed at the end of the growing season; From here, perhaps, the present ambiguity that the Hawthorn sees as a symbol of hope, or as a pretext of death, has arisen.
Christianity transformed the symbology associated with this plant; Supposedly the crown of thorns of Christ was of Hawthorn, consequently the plant became a symbol of death and adversity. The Hawthorn / Death Association was reinforced by the unpleasant smell of the flowers of some European species. These trees are being pollinated by insects that feed on carrots and attract flowers to an unpleasant odor similar to that of rotten meat.
He wants a legend that Giuseppe d’Arimatea (an important member of the Sanhedrin who together with Nicodemus baptized Jesus), going to Great Britain to spread the word of Christ, landing at Glastonbury, planted a stick on the ground, immediately the stick became a plant of Hawthorn. Next to the plant was the first Catholic Church of England, the chapel of St. Mary, and then a grandiose medieval abbey, laid on the ground in 1539 after the schism that saw Henry VIII becoming head of the Church of England. From the landing of St. Joseph of Arimathea for centuries Biancospini originated from his stick flourished twice a year: in spring and Christmas Eve, when a twig was brought to the gift of the sovereigns of Britain.
The hawthorn is characterized by its intense red berries and white white flowers. The flower, according to ancient legends, would be able to move away the spirits of evil: in fact, the term hawthorn comes from the Greek “kratos” or force, “oxus” which means acuminate and “anthos” flower. On weddings or other important ceremonies, gifting hawthorn is a much appreciated gesture as it is a symbol of protection and support. Also, like all white-colored flowers, it is a symbol of purity, sweet hope, candor and fertility. According to ancient legends, the terrains where the hawthorn grew were places of encounter of hunger and good spirits. For this reason, collecting twigs of hawthorn exclusively for pure aesthetic pleasure would bring misfortune to the alleged plunderer.
Plant showing the month of May according to the Celtic Calendar of trees.
During the French Revolution the Hawthorn was called a “tree of freedom” and during those years in France more than 60,000 were planted.
Among the bushes of Biancospino grows an excellent edible spring fungus Calocybe gambosa (Fr.) Donk, commonly called Prugnolo.
In some Italian regions, if we are looking for a hawthorn in a nursery, it is very likely that they offer us a spirea, which is completely free from thorns, but which produces a blooming candida just in the period when the hawthorns blossom.
The spruces are rosacea originating in Asia, which give rise to small or medium shrubs, with rounded portions and arched branches, which in spring fill with small white star flowers.
Over the last twenty years they have been particularly widespread in the cultivation of spirea varieties derived from Spiraea japonica, a botanical species with rose flower; In particular the new varieties have colorful flowers and are very small in size. For this reason we can go to the nursery to look for a crataegus, and ask for a hawthorn to be presented with a tiny pink flower shrub.
Methods of Preparation –
In the kitchen, hawthorn fruits are used for fermented beverages and to make a mildly astringent marmalade, while in the cosmetic field the hawthorn bath is appreciated for its relaxing properties; Leaves and flowers have normalizing and astringent action on fatty skins.
The reddish, very hard and compact wood is used for lathe work and for the production of very good charcoal.
For the preparation of the hawthorn jar, you must collect a good amount of hawthorn berries, red, large and damp. These should be washed in cold water to remove dust, then put them in a steel pot, cover with water and bake them with moderate flame.
When the berries become soft, remove them from the fire and pour them into the sieve.
Weigh the pulp, pour it into the pan and put it back on the fire.
Then add the vanilla pod and a sugar ratio of 900 grams per Kg of pulp.
Another practical use of hawthorn is that of Tisana in Biancsopino. This is used in herbal medicine as a medium to help the heart, as in the fruits of hawthorn, as mentioned, there are numerous active ingredients that have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system.
The ingredients are:
• 1 teaspoon of crushed hawthorn berries,
• 1 teaspoon of chopped hawthorn leaves and flowers,
• a cup of boiling water,
• 3 drops of lemon juice.
Preparation: After boiling the water, turn off the fire and infuse the ingredients for a few minutes. Sweeten with honey as you like.
Usage: Ideal a cup in the evening before going to sleep. Properties: cardiotonic, rebalance, calming.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health of the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and Experiences with Medicinal Herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (eds.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and surgical uses are indicated for information purposes only; they do not represent any prescription of a medical type; Therefore, no responsibility for their use for any curative, aesthetic or food use is considered.