A hawthorn tree in Crabtree Fields is starting to blossom, yet it is only the first week of January. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) also known as the May tree after the month it normally blooms is a common sight in the hedgerows outside London. When in bloom it is usually at a time when spring is turning into summer. But due to the exceptionally mild (and wet) winter so far the fragrant flowers are already unfurling under the winter sun.
“Even with global warming and an early season, hawthorn is unlikely to flower before the end of the first week of May,” noted gardener Monty Don.
Hawthorn is very important to wildlife and 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,” says The Woodland Trust.
“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.”
A mature hawthorn tree or a hedge with its dense, thorny foliage makes it and excellent nesting shelter for many species of bird.