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Hawthorn: the autumn feast

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Hawthorn: the autumn feast

I think the first hedgerow fruits I became aware of were as a result of our infant school teacher, Mrs Neal, bringing in a selection she had picked on her way in to school; in those days children never left the school premises for field trips! The first ones she showed us were hips and haws and that has stuck with me ever since. The hips were rose hips and haws, of course, the fruit of the hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).

In some ways they are just another kind of berry on a hedgerow shrub but actually they are quite distinctive and not really difficult to identify. In late summer they turn from green to bright red and by autumn they have deepened in colour before they start to whither away.

The hawthorn is common across Dorset, and can be seen almost anywhere from town parks to heathland fringes. The red berries we know as 'haws' are probably one of the most abundant fruits to be found as each tree is usually heavily laden with these deep red berries providing an autumn feast for many creatures being especially popular with redwing, fieldfare and the thrush family in general. Haws are an important winter food source for our wildlife and it is a shame the hedgerows are often trimmed before these birds can take full advantage of them. Haws are also suitable for consumption by humans and they were (are) commonly made in to jellies, jams and syrups as well as being used for home-made wines and to add flavour to brandy! They have medicinal uses to being especially useful for heart conditions.

There is the odd belief that a good crop of haws means its going to be hard a winter when what it really means is we had a good spring and lots of the flowers were pollinated!


 

If you would like to see the complete series that this post is part of click here ---->
This nature note was written by ----> Peter Orchard
This nature nore was written ----> 2 years 8 months ago

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