Given the Washington Hawthorn’s delightful display of spring flowers and vivid bronze-red fall colors, it’s a national favorite as an ornamental wildlife tree. Its characteristic features—including its blossoms, berries, thorns, and lush leaves—are emblematic of its sprawling rugged beauty, which in turn complements this species’ resilience and low-maintenance requisites. The Washington Hawthorn, unlike many other types of hawthorns, is furthermore resistant against fireblight (a disease capable of wiping out an entire orchard of trees within one growing season).
A beloved tree of songbirds, the Washington Hawthorn is sure to grace your lawn with the sweet warbling of birds along with its showcase of warm-weather flowers or autumnal foliage. It is in fact deemed the most decorative of all the hawthorns, although you could just as easily consider it the femme fatale of its botanical family (Rosaeae); it is distinguished by the extremely sharp thorns—often growing 2-3 inches long (and to which half of the tree’s name pays tribute)—that line its branches, adding a perilous trick to this lovely treat. Scientifically classified as Crataegus Phaenopyrum, the Washington Hawthorn was thus named in 1883 when it was introduced to Pennsylvania from Washington.
Appreciated across the majority of the United States, the Washington Hawthorn has a 3-8 hardiness zone rating and succeeds best in medium, well-drained soils. Ideal conditions include full sun to partial shade. A mature Washington Hawthorn can grow up to 25-30 ft. with a respective span and it develops into an oval or rounded structure. In the spring, its burgeoning leaves are graced with a reddish-purple tint that turns a dusky green in the summer before transforming to pigments of rich scarlet, auburn, and purple in the autumn. The Washington Hawthorn’s white June flowers are bright and have a distinctive scent. After its deciduous leaves are shed, the Washington Hawthorn’s copper-red berries linger throughout most of the winter, a stunning visual contrast to the backdrop of the tree’s grayish-brown bark and a landscape of winter snows.
The Washington Hawthorn will tolerate compact, dry, or poor soil, and is resilient against the leaf-spotting fungus that terrorizes older cultivars of English Hawthorn. Due to its beauty, hardiness, and minimal maintenance, the Washington Hawthorn is commonly planted as a hedge, specimen plant, street tree, or landscape border. Just watch out for those thorns!
“And every shepherd tells his tale, under the hawthorn in the dale.” –John Milton
Photos Copyright © Horticopia, Inc. 2017
This Tree's Zone: 3 to 8
Your Growing Zone:
|Fall Foliage||Red or purple|
|Shape||Oval to round|
|Sun||Full sun to part shade|
|Size||25 to 30 feet|
|Spread||25 to 30 feet|