Hawthorn hedge plants (Crataegus monogyna) are a deciduous native hedge with thorny branches and mid-green lobed leaves. In the spring, Hawthorn produces masses of creamy white, fragranced flowers, followed by shiny, red fruit, known as haws in the autumn months.
Hawthorn is listed as a Woody Species in Schedule 3 of the Hedgerows Regulations 1997, a fundamental criteria for determining “Important” hedgerows. The criteria relate to the value of the hedgerows from an archaeological, historical, landscape or wildlife perspective. Hedgerows of at least 30 years old, containing Hawthorn are protected under The Hedgerows Regulations 1997, meaning that their removal or any act leading to their destruction is prohibited without reference to the Local Planning Authority
Research referenced by Hedgelink suggests that, nationally, over 70% of hedgerows are estimated to be ‘important’ if assessed according to the criteria in the Regulations.
The word hawthorn traces back to the Old English word hagathorn, a combination of “haga” (“hedge”) and “thorn” (same meaning as the modern “thorn” or “thornbush”).
Sometimes called May tree, after the month it blooms, the pale green leaves are often the first to appear in spring, with an explosion of pretty pale-pink blossom in May, marking the point that spring starts to turn into summer.
The Hawthorn is abound with wildlife from bugs to birds. Common hawthorn can support more than 300 insects. It is the foodplant for caterpillars of moths, including the hawthorn, orchard ermine, pear leaf blister, rhomboid tortrix, light emerald, lackey, vapourer, fruitlet-mining tortrix, small eggar and lappet moths. Its flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. The haws are rich in antioxidants and are eaten by migrating birds, such as redwings, fieldfares and thrushes, as well as small mammals. The dense, thorny foliage makes fantastic nesting shelter for many species of bird.
The young leaves, flower buds and young flowers are all edible to humans. They can be added to green salads and grated root salads. The developing flower buds are particularly good. The haws can be eaten raw but may cause mild stomach upset. They are most commonly used to make jellies, wines and ketchups.
In Celtic mythology Hawthorn is one of the most sacred trees and symbolises love and protection. It is also known as the Fairy Tree, as fairies live under the Hawthorn as its guardians, and so was treated with great respect and care
To try to understand the significance of hedgerows, compare them to humanity. Each individual person has a finite lifetime, but their contribution during their lifetime continues to contribute to humanity beyond their lifetime. In the same way, a hedgerow is much more than a series of individual plants, each of which contributes to the ecosystem, the benefits of which are evident beyond the lifespan of any individual plant as each plant builds on the contribution of those before it
When thinking in these terms, it is clear to see that a new hedgerow cannot replace the benefits of an established one